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Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in the ESL/EFL Classroom

Bloom’s taxonomy in the ESL/EFL classroom

As you sort through your ESL class materials, do you sometimes find yourself asking questions like, “Will these flashcards work with beginners?” or “Which activities can I use to teach grammar tenses?” When it comes to designing classes and checking student progress, Bloom’s taxonomy is a tool that you can use to give your lesson planning skills a boost. Let’s dive in to the benefits of Bloom’s taxonomy in the ESL/EFL classroom and how you can use it to teach English more effectively.

For even more information on this topic, watch a recent BridgeUniverse Expert Series webinar, Guiding Your Students From LOTS to HOTS: Bloom’s Taxonomy in the ESL Classroom.

What is Bloom’s taxonomy? 

Bloom’s taxonomy is a system that classifies cognitive skills and educational learning objectives. Created by psychologist Benjamin Bloom in 1956, this model arranges six levels of thinking into a hierarchy, from the lowest to the highest level.

Lower-order thinking skills (LOTS) 

Level 1: Remembering refers to the ability to recall information. For instance, students can memorize and define vocabulary words they learned in class.

Level 2: Understanding manifests when students are able to explain ideas or concepts. An example of this is when they can answer questions based on a text they’ve read.

Level 3: Applying happens when students can use facts or concepts in a different context, such as when they can talk about a variety of situations using a grammar tense they’ve been taught.

Learn how to create ESL lesson plans and get tips for finding free plans online.

Higher-order thinking skills (HOTS)

Level 4: Analyzing means being able to break down information into separate parts, then examine and create connections between these different parts. For instance, learners can compare and contrast the characteristics of two objects.

Level 5: Evaluating refers to the ability to form and express one’s opinion. One way students do this is by supporting and defending their views during a class discussion.

Level 6: Creating is the highest level of thinking, wherein students can show proof of their learning by producing something new or original. Students at this stage, for instance, can make a presentation out of the vocabulary, ideas, and concepts they’ve learned.

Watch a clip from a recent BridgeUniverse Expert Series webinar to hear more about what Bloom’s taxonomy is and why it’s important:

Why is Bloom’s taxonomy important in the ESL/EFL classroom?

Initially developed to promote certain forms of educational thinking, there are many benefits of using Bloom’s taxonomy in the classroom.  

It defines and organizes learning objectives and classifies human cognition

What would you like your learners to achieve by the end of the lesson? This is the first question ESL teachers need to answer. Aside from helping you understand the specific skills your students should develop, the Bloom’s taxonomy model can also provide the framework for setting concrete goals for every lesson. When you teach the present perfect tense, for instance, your lesson’s goal can be as specific as your students being able to use and interpret this grammar structure by talking about their life experiences.

In addition, the hierarchy of cognitive skills helps you determine what your students should do and develop next. Being able to remember the numbers in English, for example, could mean that you can prepare learners for telling time next. When you already understand your students’ abilities, you’ll also be able to choose the complexity of their next task to help them get to higher thinking levels.

Watch a video from the BridgeUniverse Expert Series webinar on Bloom’s Taxonomy to learn more about setting measurable objectives in the classroom:

It helps teachers design lessons in line with learning objectives

Are you struggling with looking for worksheets or games suitable for your next class? By aligning the goals of your lesson to the learning stages in Bloom’s taxonomy, you can stage your lessons accordingly. With your objectives in mind, you can easily decide which materials or activities work best for your learners, the order in which you want to use them in class, and the assessment tools you’ll use afterward.

Learn more about using objectives in ESL lesson planning.

It provides evidence of student progress in concrete/measurable ways

While students can say they were happy about your class, how can you tell if they have actually learned something? In order to determine how effective your lessons are, you need to have measurable learning objectives. Based on the thinking skills you want your students to develop, you can then form your lesson activity, whether it’s a simple task like memorizing words or a complex one like having students write their own news stories.

These objectives can also help you come up with the evaluation tools to check your students’ progress more effectively. For instance, you can make use of photographs to check your students’ understanding of a concept or have them write an essay based on a topic you’ve discussed in class.

The following infographic, from the Bridge Specialized Certification in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) courses, sums up how to take your students from lower-order to higher-order thinking skills:

How do you use Bloom’s taxonomy in the ESL/EFL classroom?

Although the cognitive skills in Bloom’s taxonomy build off of each other, the goal of English teachers is to get students to develop higher-order thinking skills (HOTS). Let’s take a look at the different ways you can apply Bloom’s taxonomy in language learning.

Let’s say you’re going to teach different modes of transportation using a video. Here are some activities that you can incorporate in line with each thinking skill in Bloom’s taxonomy.

1. Remembering

Introduce words related to transportation using pictures. This way, students can easily recall the vocabulary and will be able to recognize them in the video.

2. Understanding

Students watch the video, and then the teacher can check their understanding of the video by asking comprehension questions.

3. Applying

Afterward, students use the vocabulary and concepts they’ve learned to talk about the transportation options in their city or those in other countries.

4. Analyzing

The class then examines and discusses the pros and cons of different types of transportation.

5. Evaluating

Students can then hold a discussion on how transportation can be improved in their city.

6. Creating

Based on the previous task, students can write a proposal on improving the transportation system in the city where they live.

By classifying the different levels of cognitive ability, Bloom’s taxonomy in teaching English can help you set clear class goals, find the right approach to different types of lessons, and choose the best ways to gauge how your learners have advanced in the language. Through this model, you will also encourage your students to continue progressing and give their best to produce good results.

If you’re new to teaching, you’ll want to get initial training and qualification with a TEFL certificate. You can explore our online TEFL courses to get started!

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.