Developing Thinking Skills

Teachers are always asking questions! With a little bit of practice, we can use our questions to help children develop their thinking skills. How we word our questions is very important.

The use of critical thinking is one of the most valuable skills we can pass on to our students. Certain types of questions require us to use different kinds or levels of thinking. According to Bloom's Taxonomy, a well-known classification system, thinking skills or levels of learning can be placed in six categories.

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
Thinking Skills
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation
Thinking Skills

Knowledge: remembering previously learned material

  • Asking the Right Questions:
    Some words and phrases such as: name, recall, how many, when, where, list, define, tell, describe, identify, who is ..., what is ..., when did ...
  • Sample questions:
    * How many inches in a foot?
    * Who is the President of the United States?
    * Which animals have stripes?

Comprehension: understanding the meaning of remembered material

  • Asking the Right Questions:
    Some words such as: describe, predict, identify, differentiate, review, explain, estimate
  • Sample questions:
    * Explain how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
    * What information can we tell from this diagram?

Application: use information in a new way

  • Asking the Right Questions:
    Some words to use are: demonstrate, apply, illustrate, show, solve, examine
  • Sample questions:
    * How would the story have ended if Grandma had company when the wolf arrived?
    * How would our country be different if the flow of settlement had been from west to east instead of east to west?

Analysis: involves breaking down information into parts, and/or examining the parts.

  • Asking the Right Questions:
    Some words and phrases to use are: what are the differences, analyze, explain, compare, separate, classify, arrange
  • Sample questions:
    * What is one difference between eggs laid by a turtle and a robin?
    * Compare and contrast the story elements in Cinderella and Mufaro's Beautiful Daughter.

Synthesis: involves putting parts together to form a new whole

  • Asking the Right Questions:
    Some words and phrases to use are: combine, rearrange, substitute, create, design, invent, what if?
  • Sample questions:
    * Now that you have read Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, what might happen if it became cloudy and toys fell from the sky?
    * What if Abe Lincoln lived today? What problem might he solve?

Evaluation: involves forming and presenting an opinion backed up by sound reasoning

  • Asking the Right Questions:
    Some words to use are: assess, decide, measure, select, explain, conclude, compare, summarize
  • Sample questions:
    * Do you think we should abolish traffic lights? Why?
    * Is the 18th Amendment is a good law? Explain.