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Bloom’s Taxonomy: A Parent’s Guide to Higher-Level Thinking Skills

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March 7, 2018

In the world of education, there is an ever-evolving concept called Bloom’s Taxonomy. This concept addresses the increasing level of cognitive thought and understanding needed in students as they move through education.

Bloom’s breaks the progression of concept development into six levels of objectives:

  • Remember
  • Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Evaluate
  • Create (formally called Synthesize)

These six steps show how knowledge can be expanded and deepened. The lower levels are needed before students can reach the higher-level concepts, but it should be noted that things in learning or in life are rarely that clearly divided!


This first level refers to basic recall and knowledge needed before moving on to anything else. It requires memorizing and direct question/answer with a focus on the most basic of principles. What sound does an “A” make? What number comes after three?

Remember does translate to higher levels of education as well. “What is the capital of South Dakota?” “What is photosynthesis?” Or the question above, “Where does the main character live?”

In this category, you will see words like: list, define, match, repeat, label, how many, or name the …


Once the child remembers the information, he or she needs to do something with it in order to show an understanding of the facts, rather than just a basic retention.

At this level, you will see words like: describe, recognize discuss, summarize, predict, or explain.


In contrast to the previous level, apply implies that students are using their information to do something new or make new information. You might see tasks like “Draw a map of the characters’ hometown.” Or “What would you have done if you were in the art gallery?”

In Apply, you will see words like: solve, sketch, show how, interpret, or make a model of.


Students need to break down information, identify parts, and be able to relate how the pieces are organized. This moves the information from the concrete into the theoretical. You will see questions like “How is this similar to what happened in another book?” Or “What is the theme of this book?” In Math, “How should we build this 2,400 square foot house?” or “Make a graph with this information.”

You will see words like: categorize, investigate, evaluate, or illustrate.


This step asks students to use all of the ability and depth of knowledge they have built to judge the true value of a product. It requires all of the previous steps to be able to adequately back up an opinion at this level. Questions might be “Defend the author’s position on the art world.” Or “Would there have been a better way to do this? Why?”

Common words might be: rate, debate, support, defend, or judge.


This step is frequently swapped to come before Evaluate, most likely because both require the foundation of all of the other levels of knowledge, even though they flex slightly different academic muscles. Students here will use what they have learned to create something completely unique to them. A prompt might ask them to “Write a poem, book, or commercial.” Or “Paint a portrait.

Words used at this level will be more varied such as: compose, invent, build, write, or design.

While the idea of Bloom’s Taxonomy goes back to the 1960’s, it is especially relevant today in the discussion of Common Core. While many disagree with the method schools are using to address the needs in Common Core, most would probably agree that its objectives are valuable. We want our kids to understand concepts deeply, at the high end of this taxonomy. We want schools to find a way to dig past the automated responses from Remember and Understand into the more challenging and enriching areas of Analyze and Create. The ultimate question of how to do this still remains unanswered.

In the meantime, you can use this basic understanding to make sure your student dives deeper into their learning.

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