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  Thinking Skills

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Our Approach to Higher Order Thinking

As we move firmly into the information age, it is not enough for students to display only low levels of comprehension and rote memory of what they read. Instead, today's students must develop the higher order reading and comprehension skills increasingly needed in the 21st Century. A variety of powerful approaches and concepts relevant to higher order thinking have been developed. These include Lauren Resnick's (1987) examination of the characteristics of higher order thinking, the types of thinking described in Robert Sternberg's (1996) triadic theory of knowledge, David Perkins' (1992) concept of teaching for understanding and the Critical Thinking Consortium Web site. We invite you to investigate these further in the links provided.

Here, however, we focus on one particular approach, Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl's Taxonomy for Learning and Assessing (2001), a substantially revised and updated version of The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives first published by Benjamin Bloom in 1956. Anderson and Krathwohl's revision encompasses an entire book, which we recommend highly. We will not, however, attempt to summarize the book here. Instead, what we describe here are seven of the types of thinking examined in the revised taxonomy that we find particularly useful in working with SREs. The definitions of the first six types are taken nearly verbatim from Anderson and Krathwohl. The last definition reflects a mixture of their thinking and our own.

  • Remembering—Retrieving relevant knowledge from long-term memory
  • Understanding—Constructing meaning from instructional messages, including oral, written, and graphic communications
  • Applying—Carrying out or using a procedure in a given situation
  • Analyzing—Breaking material into its constituent parts and determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose
  • Evaluating—Making judgments based on criteria and standards
  • Creating—Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole, reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure (p. 31)
  • Being metacognitive—Being aware of one's own comprehension and being able and willing to repair comprehension breakdowns when they occur

In each SRE on the site, we list the higher order reading and comprehension objectives addressed—the Anderson and Krathwohl levels beyond Remembering—in a separate section.

To illustrate these seven types of questions, we present examples of each type for Shakespeare's Hamlet and for the tale of The Three Little Pigs. We deliberately chose these two very different texts to show that you can pose various levels of questions with both sophisticated and simple texts.

Sample Questions on Hamlet
Sample Questions on The Three Little Pigs


Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Bloom, B. S., Englehart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. 1956). The taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay.

Perkins, D. (1992). Smart schools: From training memories to educating minds. New York: The Free Press.

Resnick, L. G. (1987). Education and Learning to Think. Washington, D. C.: National Academy Press.

Sternberg, R. J., & Sperling, L. S. (1996). Teaching for thinking. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association


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