8 Higher-order Thinking Examples For The Classroom (Blog Image)

8 Higher-order thinking examples for the classroom

A common goal of educators is to appeal to students’ high-order thinking skills. What are some examples of higher-order thinking? These are critical thinking skills that go beyond what can be merely observed or memorized; instead, higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) require students to put into practice all those nuanced active verbs we teachers pepper into our learning objectives: experiment, question, investigate, develop, and design. We try to ask higher-order thinking questions throughout our instruction to spiral beyond lower-order thinking skills (LOTS), in order to help students make deeper connections across disciplines and contexts and to incite lifelong learning.

When it comes to higher-order thinking skills, most educators lean on Benjamin S. Bloom’s 1956 framework, Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (developed in collaboration with Max Englehart, Edward Furst, Walter Hill, and David Krathwohl). What has since become known more familiarly as “Bloom’s Taxonomy” consists of six skills and abilities that build in difficulty from the simplistic to the more complex and from the concrete to the more abstract.

In 2001, Lorin Anderson—a former student of Bloom’s—and a group of researchers, including psychologists and theorists, reworked the original framework into A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, with a couple of key differences. First, they modified the six categories to be active verbs to represent the dynamic nature of the framework. Second, they changed “Comprehension” to “Understanding,” and then flipped the top two layers so that “Synthesis” became the new apex designated as “Create.” Throughout the decades, however, the high-order thinking framework of Bloom’s Taxonomy has guided educators in crafting higher-order thinking questions that lead to truly meaningful and more personalized learning experiences.

Bloom's Taxonomy higher-order thinking activities on Flocabulary

Flocabulary is a rich multimedia platform that motivates students to meet the rigors of challenging curricula. Using Flocabulary’s contagious beat of hip-hop music and original lyrics, teachers can immerse students in a multidimensional learning experience that supports and challenges their academic development. Flocabulary’s lesson sequence guides students to higher-order thinking skills, as outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

You can appeal to students’ basic comprehension by introducing the video and key vocabulary. But you can also quickly “ladder up” by challenging them to apply their understanding in new contexts and in their own words while analyzing evidence to support their thinking and perspectives. They can continue to evolve their comprehension by sharing and defending their perspectives and opinions until ultimately showcasing their mastery through an authentic assessment task or project.

Here’s an example of the type of engaging videos you can find on Flocabulary!

New to Flocabulary? Teachers can sign up for a trial to access our lesson videos and assessment activities. Administrators can get in touch with us to learn more about unlocking the full power of Flocabulary through Flocabulary Plus.

While it can be enticing to jump right into fun activities, if you lean on Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design framework, you know that backward design means you start with the learning goals first, then construct the assessment methods, and lastly design the instructional activities. Therefore, you want to establish sound learning objectives that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely). You can try using the SWBAT framing (Students will be able to…) and intentionally choose specific action verbs. There are many fantastic visuals, and even classroom posters, that align action verbs with Bloom’s Taxonomy, making it easier for you to judiciously choose action verbs to craft meaningful learning objectives. After you have your learning goals in mind, then you can filter by standards in Flocabulary’s library to find aligned content that is appropriate for your grade. Use the dropdown menu to search for Flocabulary units and lessons that are aligned to all state and national standards, filter by subject (ELA, math, science, social studies, health, and physical education) and grade, or use an advanced option like a search term.

Standards aligned filter page on Flocabulary

Bloom’s Taxonomy was built on the notion that a base of knowledge—now remembering and understanding—is foundational to diving deeper. Therefore, you could and should play Flocabulary’s lesson videos and still create activities that check students’ comprehension when it comes to basic memorization and recall skills such as defining, identifying, and reciting. Continue to build by asking students to push beyond rote memorization and explain their thinking in their own words by describing, discussing, and summarizing. In Flocabulary, you can use the video, the printed lyrics, and the Vocab Cards to construct a base of common understanding, but then prepare to ignite students’ engagement by helping them unpack what they have watched or read.

The Scarlet Letter Vocab Cards

In the Gradual Release of Responsibility model (GRR), the responsibility shifts from the teacher imparting or modeling in a focused lesson to students independently practicing and taking the reins: I do, we do, you do. In conjunction with Bloom’s, students can move into guided, collaborative, and independent practice by transitioning from lower- to higher-order thinking skills. Consider activities that allow for questions, interpretations, demonstrations, examinations, assessments, and critiques. With Flocabulary, you can share a video with the whole group or target your instruction and share differentiated content. After watching the video, students can deconstruct what they saw through activities like Break It Down, Read & Respond, and Quiz, which can encourage students to reflect on their own knowledge gain. They may choose to rewatch or revisit the activities to help solidify their deeper learning.

Break it Down activity

With any good teaching, students become inspired to put their own stamp on showing what they know. The highest tier of higher-order thinking is about giving students not only the opportunity to express themselves, but the agency to decide by which means.

Encourage students to generate original ideas and solve problems through a step-by-step thought process. This method not only aids in teaching and learning but also ensures that students understand complex concepts more deeply. For example, ask students to compare and contrast different theories or perspectives to develop critical thinking skills.

Flocabulary is renowned for helping students become highly engaged thanks to the power of hip-hop music, visual art, storytelling, humor, drama, and poetry in each and every video. Flocabulary places students in the ultimate role of the creator while building comprehension and key vocabulary through Lyric Lab. Lyric Lab combines vocabulary acquisition and enhancement of writing skills, all while promoting ownership of learning. Flocabulary blends project-based learning, cultural responsiveness, and the use of music in the classroom.

Lyric Lab example

When it comes to quality educational experiences, concepts spiral and are scaffolded for deeper learning—whether across a unit or within the same lesson. Through Benjamin Bloom’s model, guide students through the remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create stages. Concepts can be retaught or emphasized in multiple ways. Author Zig Ziglar once said, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” Choose a skill or behavior and then think about how you use higher-order questioning to guide students from remembering all the way to creating—within a single lesson. Additionally, requiring students to create concept maps can significantly enhance learning outcomes and foster these skills. The following example models this to teach and learn using the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

  1. Remember: Describe where Goldilocks lived.
  2. Understand: Summarize what the Goldilocks story was about.
  3. Apply: Construct a theory as to why Goldilocks went into the house.
  4. Analyze: Differentiate between how Goldilocks reacted and how you would react in each story event.
  5. Evaluate: Assess whether or not you think this really happened to Goldilocks.
  6. Create: Compose a song, skit, poem, or rap to convey the Goldilocks story in a new form. [Forehand, 2011]

When helping students learn about analyzing, evaluating, and creating, use this video to teach students to identify the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why, which provides a great launching point for creative and targeted instruction around higher-order thinking strategies and prompts.

Who, What, When, Where, Why (5W) video lesson

Speaking of scaffolding, when it comes to viewing experiences, you may want to take a three-phased approach to viewing the lesson videos. Repeat viewings are meaningful if there are concrete and differentiated objectives for each viewing experience that complement different higher-order thinking activities:

  • To start, you may want to hook into students’ prior knowledge by posing some remembering and understanding questions about the topic. Students can make cross-curricular connections and lean on their real-world experiences. You may want to use a graphic organizer or make it more interactive by using Flocabulary’s Vocab Cards, which follow the K-W-L Chart, to capture what they already know.
  • During viewing, you can expand into more active view strategies by asking students to continue using graphic organizers to take notes, but also analyze and evaluate the content they are watching. Use Flocabulary’s Discuss Mode to encourage small groups of students to pause and chat as they view, for meaningful conversations and reflections. 
  • Post-viewing, challenge students to synthesize what they’ve learned by creating a learning artifact that highlights their personal and deep understanding of the skill. For a tech-rich approach, challenge them to use the Lyric Lab for some authentic assessment.
Ratios Discuss Mode video lesson

While striving to develop high-order thinking skills, remember to speak to all learning styles, which means keeping differentiation at the top of your mind. Especially when you’re involving technology, consider the ways to make the learning accessible to all. With Flocabulary, you can turn on Microsoft’s Immersive Reader to aid those with visual or auditory differences. Immersive Reader can even support all learners who simply need a boost when it comes to vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, or focus and attention. Plus, it can be used for second-language learners as well. Bloom’s reminds us to keep our expectations high when it comes to learning and to challenge each student to give their best.

Immersive Reader on Flocabulary

Long ago, Henry David Thoreau warned that “Men have become the tools of their tools.” In the classroom, we must make sure that our instructional tools don’t dictate how something is learned or what is being learned. Back in 2015, Allan Carrington created the Padagogy Wheel to illustrate that learning is about the pedagogy, not the apps or tools themselves. You can find many colorful graphics online that align Bloom’s lower- and higher-order thinking skills to active verbs, as well as activity types and even digital resources. Rich multimedia platforms such as Flocabulary that marry content with meaningful learning activities have the flexibility to be used across Bloom’s framework in a myriad of ways.

Many teachers become masters at weaving questions to encourage higher-order thinking skills into their daily instructional practices. Flocabulary’s lessons are intentionally designed to meet Bloom’s Taxonomy higher-order thinking skills. So, think of those nuanced and dynamic action verbs that students can exemplify in order to showcase their learning, and keep them at the forefront when designing experiences for all students. By learning from the greats of yesteryear like Bloom, we can help support the learners of today and the leaders of tomorrow.

New to Flocabulary? Teachers can sign up for a trial to access our lesson videos and assessment activities. Administrators can get in touch with us to learn more about unlocking the full power of Flocabulary through Flocabulary Plus.

Darri Stephens

Darri Stephens is a dedicated LX (learning experience) designer, passionate about creating quality content and programs for kids, families, and educators. With MAs in Education from both Harvard and Stanford, and work experience at best-in-class ed tech organizations including Wonder Workshop, Nickelodeon, and Common Sense Education, she is steeped in the design thinking process and committed to agile and iterative project management, which has resulted in multi-award-winning programs and products.