Higher Level Thinking Skills in the Common Core

child thinkingThe common core standards focus more on higher level thinking skills than on basic fact recall.  Benjamin Bloom designed a taxonomy of cognitive or learning skills more than 60 years ago and a revised version of these cognitive skills was created in 2000. Learning these skills is much more difficult for young children and they need a lot of practice.  Students will need their parents support as they focus on these higher level thinking skills.  There are six skill levels in the cognitive domain sequenced in order of learning difficulty:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

Traditionally, education tended to emphasize the lower-order skills of Knowledge and Comprehension.  These skills are critical for any sort of educational achievement but we can’t stop there.  The new common core standards focus more on the higher-order thinking skills of applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating what is read or studied.  It is not enough anymore to simply “know” and understand concepts; we must also be able to apply them to different situations.

Knowledge is recalling relevant information from short and long-term memory and is the foundation for all higher order thinking.  When teaching a child at this level you might have them do some of the following:

who, what, why, when, omit, where, which, choose, find, how, define, label, show, spell, list, match, name, relate, tell, recall, select

Key Verbs:

  • count
  • define
  • describe
  • draw
  • find
  • identify
  • label
  • list
  • match
  • recite
  • sequence
  • tell


• What is…? • Can you select? • Where is…? • When did ____ happen?
• Who were the main…? • Which one…? • Why did…? • How would you describe…?
• When did…? • Can you recall…? • Who was…? • How would you explain…?
• How did ___happen…? • Can you list the three..? • How is…?
• How would you show…?


  • Match character names with pictures of the characters.
  • Match statements with the character who said them.
  • List the main characteristics of one of the main characters in a WANTED poster.
  • Arrange scrambled story pictures and/or scrambled story sentences in sequential order.
  • Recall details about the setting by creating a picture of where a part of the story took place. :


The next skill – comprehension – will be posted soon!


About Lucy Salerno

I have been a resident of Fairfield for over 25 years and have 30 years’ teaching experience in California K – 6 schools. I have been a music teacher, band and choral director, elementary teacher in grades K – 6, a district level technology coordinator teaching, and an elementary school administrator. In 2011, my most recent school, Scandia Elementary, on Travis Air Force Base, was awarded the California Distinguished School Award for work and programs implemented under my watch. Because of my broad educational background, I know and understand what is needed in today's difficult educational environment. I have taught writing to children in numerous grades as a core subject as well as integrating writing into other curricula areas. I retired a few years ago from the Travis Unified School District, I love working with children, and am now dedicating my services and skills in support of your children. Through love and patience, I hope to understand a child's needs, meet them where they are, build self-confidence and develop a life-long love of learning.
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