3 Activities for applying Bloom’s taxonomy to your CLIL lesson

April 13, 2021


When I asked about Bloom’s taxonomy in the CLIL Community on Facebook, quite a few teachers replied that it was more of a ‘teacher training’ thing rather than a practical thing to apply. And if they did, it was challenging. That was my cue: Here are three practical ideass for applying Bloom’s taxonomy in your CLIL Classroom!

Estimated time to read this article: 7 minutes

Applying Bloom's taxonomy to motivate learning

As I went through all of my notes and research I used when preparing the module on the thinking skills for the CLIL roadmap, I found a link to an interesting Ted Talk.

Here it is, in case you are interested:

The teacher in this TED talk describes how gifted students are triggered to learn more when they are focusing less on the content and more on the process of learning itself. In other words: The Higher Order Thinking Skills (or HOTS for short).

She also makes a point I am really happy about. That this is not just a great thing to do for gifted students, but can increase motivation for every student. Gifted or not.

I am happy she makes that point, as I completely agree with that.

However, …

...she continues to discuss all kinds of different projects in a primary classroom setting that sound really interesting, but maybe a little bit less realistic when it comes to the practical application.

In my opinion, applying HOTS does not need to involve all kinds of (complicated) projects. These kinds of projects often cause more work for teachers. Or at least it did for me, but maybe I did something wrong...


As I said: applying Bloom's taxonomy does NOT have to be complicated.

But before I discuss three practical ways to implement Bloom’s taxonomy, I would like to discuss its link to CLIL.

Key Take Away

Applying Bloom's taxonomy can help every student, not just the gifted ones.

Why use Bloom’s taxonomy in a CLIL lesson?

I would actually answer that question with another question:

Why not?

Bloom's taxonomy originates from the 50’s and is still often used and referred to.

If something is still so popular, I would argue that is because it works. Or at least because a lot of people agree that it works in some way or another.

As CLIL is about making sure students are engaged with a second language, would it not make sense to make use of every tool to ensure that engagement?

One way to do that is applying Bloom’s taxonomy.

By making sure you set effective tasks and implement engaging activities, students do not just learn more about the content, but also about the language used.

And that is what CLIL is about.

Yes, that means that a lot of things that work in ‘regular’ education also work in CLIL education.

But I don’t see that as a bad thing.

Personally, I would prefer using things that work and apply those effective over having to figure out everything on my own.

What about you? Do you like to figure out everything on your own?

If the answer is yes, then you can stop reading now.

If the answer is no, please continue reading as I will share three ways I implement Bloom’s taxonomy in my CLIL lessons.

Key Take Away

The ideas of Bloom work in all classrooms, including CLIL classrooms. Implementing these ideas can greatly benefit learners

Three CLIL activities for applying of Bloom’s taxonomy

Without further ado, let’s discuss the activities:

1. Problem of the day

This activity has actually been discussed in a lot more detail before in another blog post.

But let me provide you with a quick recap:

At the beginning of the lesson I ask students to answer three questions

Question 1 is a ‘knowing’ or an ‘understanding’ question

For example: “Explain in your own words what vertebrae are”

Question 2 is an ‘understanding’ or an ‘applying’ question

For example: “Put these events in the correct chronological order and write an explanation of 10 to 30 words about why you choose this order”

Question 3 is a question related to one of the HOTS

For example: “Create an equation that has the answer x=3 and includes at least 2 terms on both sides of the = sign”

  • Prior knowledge was activated. Instead of diving into the new topics I allowed students to remember what we did before.
  • Students got some alone thinking time. Active learning does not mean: ‘run around the classroom’. Having moments of silence in a CLIL lesson can also have a great impact on students.
  • I would have 5-10 minutes to do the administrative work every teacher needs to do. That also included choosing a couple of students randomly to check if they did their homework (for example with ClassDojo)
  • Asking students to explain things in their own words motivated language output, which is obviously CLIL, so this activity got them into the CLIL-mindset right at the start of the lesson.
  • By implementing the HOTS – question, I would also challenge the students who might find question 1 and 2 to be quite easy.

More information on this activity can be found in the blog post I specifically wrote about this activity.

2. True/False (or Agree/Disagree)

Formulating an opinion on something or deciding whether something is true or false requires both knowledge, a certain level of understanding and the capacity to make up your own mind.

In other words: some level of evaluating is involved. Which is a Higher Order Thinking Skill.

For example, you can ask students to decide which statements regarding the topic you are discussing are true and which ones are false.

Be aware though: if you really want to make sure students start using their evaluative thinking skills, make sure the question is a little bit more difficult that just stating what is true and what is false.

You could for example ask students to come up with arguments why something is true or not, or even assign a student to defend the statement and a partner to argue against it and allow this discussion for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, you can ask which one they think is true or not.

3. What is the question?

If you really want to go creative-mode, this activity can be a really nice one for variation’s sake. If you have never done it before, you might need to implement some scaffolding to make sure students know what steps to take. It does involve quite a lot of ‘freedom’ and not every student can work with that in the same way.

The activity itself is quite simple: you write down an answer and students have to come up with a question that results in that answer.

The trick is: this must be the only answer to the question. If someone can think of another answer that also answer the question it does not count.

Of course, there can be multiple questions that are correct.

I have used this for in my mathematics lessons for proving geometrical theories, giving them the answer and asking them the question (and of course the explanation) to get to this answer.

But it can also easily be adapted to other situations.

For example: What questions will result in ‘A wind turbine that generates enough energy for 1500 EU households”

Key Take Away

Implementing the ideas of Bloom's taxonomy can be done with CLIL activities that require little time to prepare.

Applying it yourself

What do you think?

Can you implement one of these activities to your CLIL lesson and implement Bloom’s taxonomy in a practical way?

Let me know in the comments blow!

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