Sharpening Students' Critical Thinking Skills

Putting Bloom’s Taxonomy to Work in Your Classroom

  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Critical thinking skills have a lot to do with succeeding on standardized tests and in life. That's why many teachers keep Bloom's Taxonomy in mind when developing questions for class discussions, tests, journal prompts, and reader-response essays. Bloom's Taxonomy identifies six levels of cognitive thinking. At the basic level there's knowledge and comprehension. At the higher level, there's evaluation, synthesis, analysis and application. To help you sharpen those higher level, critical thinking skills, keep this word list in mind as you teach and ask questions throughout the day.


Higher Order Thinking Skills

  1. Evaluation—Ask questions that require students to:
    • assess
    • compare
    • criticize
    • justify
    • resolve
    • conclude
  2. Synthesize—Ask questions that require students to:
    • combine
    • create
    • invent
    • plan
    • formulate
    • negotiate
  3. Analysis—Ask questions that require students to:
    • analyze
    • connect
    • infer
    • compare
    • contrast
    • prioritize
  4. Application—Ask questions that require students to:
    • Apply
    • Classify
    • Solve
    • Demonstrate
    • Experiment
    • Determine

Lower Order Thinking Skills

  1. Comprehension—Ask questions that require students to:
    • explain
    • describe
    • interpret
    • discuss
    • differentiate
    • restate
  2. Knowledge—Ask questions that require students to:
    • define
    • describe
    • tell
    • identify
    • list
    • name


  • Subjects:
    Assessment, Decision Making Process, New Teacher Resources

New Teacher Survival Guide

Find practical and easy-to-use tips, solutions, and advice to help make your first year in the classroom a success.