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Aug 142012
 

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy with stories to help children develop cognitive skills

I heard about Bloom’s Taxonomy a while ago and I decided to look into it to see how I could apply it to reading stories with my daughter and try to devise ways of helping her develop her cognitive skills.

I am hoping that this article will give you an insight into what Bloom’s Taxonomy is and provide some simple ways you can use it when reading children’s stories with your kids. Essentially, I’m hoping that by the end of this article you will :

  • Have an idea of what Bloom’s taxonomy is and why it is useful
  • Have some ideas on how you can help your kids build their cognitive skills by using some simple questions when sharing a children’s story together.
As a parent, I want my daughter to be able to think for herself, form and defend opinion and forge her own path in life. Understanding what is involved in performing that kind of attitude and thinking and knowing how to help her develop those abilities is another way I reckon I can do my best as her Dad.

What is Bloom’s Taxonomy?

Bloom’s Taxonomy is one of the most widely used references in education and, over the years, has even been translated into 22 different languages and is in use around the world.

Psychologist Benjamin S. Bloom was known for contemplating and extensively studying the process of how things worked and this included the process of “thinking”.

He believed that there was specific behaviours that could be noticed and were important in the in the process of learning and in 1956, Bloom’s Taxonomy was created.

There are actually three different domains that make up Bloom’s Taxonomy:

  • Cognitive – Mental skills and Flexibility (Knowledge);
  • Affective – Growth in Feelings or Emotional capacity (Attitude)
  • Psychomotor – Manual or Physical skills (Skills).

Each domain is then segmented into different levels for educational goals and objectives.

The Cognitive Domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy

The “Cognitive” domain is what is focused on when helping children learn how to read and think and this is what teachers put a lot of emphasis on in schools.

It is also the focus of this article and, if people would like to know more, I might follow up with the other domains in separate articles (so please do let me know in the comments).

Bloom’s Cognitive domain focuses on the knowledge, comprehension and critical thinking that a child uses or displays during reading time.

Bloom created six different levels of cognitive learning and suggested that each level must be mastered before the child can move onto the next level.

In the 1990’s, a former student of Bloom’s revised the Taxonomy which brought it into the 21st century and it was again updated in 2001.

The only thing altered in the revision is the names of the levels which now look like this:

Reading childrens stories is an ideal opportunity to explore the concepts and cognitive skills they'll need to develop. Using Bloom's Taxonomy, you can easily structure this development

Every child’s critical and cognitive thinking starts with the lowest level and gradually works up to the highest level

There are definite signs that a child shows when they have mastered each level and there are specific questions that you can ask of your kids which will encourage the mental stimulation needed to obtain the next level.

Here is a quick guide for each level that shows the signs a child might exhibit when they have mastered it and example questions that can be asked to encourage mental growth.

By noticing the child’s reactions and answers you will be able to tell when the child has reached a new level in learning and reward accordingly.

To give us a children’s story base line, I am using Little Red Riding Hood as the example book we’re reading. It is important to note that this applies throughout childhood and adolescence and arguably, we never stop developing these levels, so if you have a 4yr old, a 10yr old or even a stroppy teenager, you can and should still apply all of these idea.

Bloom’s First Level : Remembering

In this level the child will be able to recall basic facts about the book through memorising and be able to answer general questions about the book or objects that are in the book.

Help your kids master the remembering level by asking questions like :

  • Who is Red Riding Hood going to see?
  • What is little Red Riding Hood wearing?
  • What did she have in her basket?

If you were reading the Gruffalo for example, you could encourage them to remember the rhythm and rhyme of the story.

Bloom’s Second Level : Understanding

At this level, our kids will be able to understand the main idea of the book, recognise characters and organise the facts.

Ask questions such as :

  • Why was Little Red Riding Hood walking through the woods?
  • Why did the wolf put on Grandma’s clothes?

These questions will help your child master understanding of the situation and concepts in the book.

Bloom’s Third Level : Applying

At this level, our kids should be able to show that they can use the knowledge and facts acquired from the book and apply it to other situations.

Ask questions such as :

  • Besides going through the woods, how could Little Red Riding Hood have made it to Grandma’s house?
  • Why is it dark in the woods?
  • What would happen if Red Riding hood had gone with a friend?

These kind of how and why and what if questions will encourage your kids to apply what they have learned from other aspects in life equipping them with the ability to do it at any time.

Bloom’s Fourth Level : Analysing

This level encourages the mind of the child to examine the facts of the book, distinguish differences and gather evidence to support what they think.

Questions around the ideas of :

  • Why is walking through the woods alone dangerous
  • If you were Little Red Riding Hood what would you do?

These kind of questions make your child concentrate on the scenario to gather important facts which will lead to a conclusion.

Classroom debates at school are specifically designed to develop this analysis and reasoning ability and having constructive discussions from different positions on a topic is a skill that’s well worth encouraging.

Make a game of it and challenge your kids to argue a counter position to an opinion they hold dear – Why Pop music is a bad influence, or why mobile phones should be banned from use at school for example. Make it fun and tongue-in-cheek (this is very important).

One of the many anti-bullying techniques used in schools in the uk is to have kids arguefroth for and against the motivations of a fictious classroom bully.

Bloom’s Fifth Level : Evaluating

In this level the child will learn how to evaluate the evidence that they use to draw their conclusion and justify or defend their opinion on the story.

To encourage the development of this cognitive skill, ask opinion questions such as :

  • Do you think it was wrong for the wolf to try to trick Little Red Riding Hood?
  • Do you think it what the wolf tried to do was fair?

Get your kids to justify their opinion by asking them why they think it was wrong or fair etc.

For older or moore developed kids: ask them whether they think there were any mistakes or assumptions made by the author (or screen writer if discussing a film). Where there any inconsistencies in the opinions or actions of the characters or story?

For those at exam age, these kinds of critical evaluative discussions often take the form of English or Science homework.

Bloom’s Sixth Level : Creating

In my opinion, this is perhaps the most fun level and because of that I think it’s actually easier than some of the earlier ones.

At this level, our children will be able to gather the information they have learned and create an alternative ending or construct a new scenario for the story.

Encourage the child to write a poem or song from the story or maybe have Little Red Riding Hood on the moon.

It is up to the child’s imagination what they develop from the story because the basis has already been set up through the original story.

I just want to point out that while there are 6 levels, it is in fact a sliding scale and kids will develop different skills at different levels at different times, and you will also notice how each level stacks on top: requiring our children to use the skills developed at the lower levels in order to be able to develop the new ones.

Other bonuses of asking questions about a children’s story you’re reading together

As my daughter and I have discovered, there are all sorts of other bonuses from making this part of story time!

We have great little games where I ask question after question until she makes a big dramatic show and goes “Daddy, enough questions!”.

We make up alternative stories from scratch which leads to all sorts of adventures and games. It also gives me a chance to guide the story to deliver other morals or lessons.

Boring books and stories suddenly become more interesting as you explore possible made up back stories to the characters’ and situations and believe me : your kids will come up with some weird and wacky ideas!

A good Google session will reveal all sorts of articles and resources on this, but don’t get bogged down with trying to learn all there is to know. The best thing you can do for your kids is to learn a little bit and give it a go with them. If you want a quick reference guide, then chthout this PDF which gives both hints at the kinds of words to be using as well as suggested questions and outcomes to aim for when following the taxonomy.

Whatever you do, enjoy story time. It should be fun and not “work” or a chore or else our kids won’t enjoy it. They’ll soon tell you they’ve had enough!

May 162012
 

Story Telling Vs Reading Stories

There is more to telling stories than meets the eye.

I spend a good deal of time and effort finding and recommending books for you guys to read with your kids and parents and teachers around the world are likewise encouraged to read stories to their children and classrooms to enrich the imagination and introduce literacy.

However…

There is so much more to explore through storytelling than simply reading the words aloud off the page of a good book!

Of course, reading is essential to literacy development but storytelling delights and encourages children to listen to the music of words in different ways.

There is more to storytelling technique than might at first meet the eye

Why Tell a story as opposed to Reading one?

 

Both reading and telling are great ways to communicate stories to children but the differences between the two are quite considerable for both the parent/teacher and the children listening.

When reading stories, the reader must always be focused on the printed words while occasionally looking at the audience.

In contrast, telling a story gives the teller freedom to speak directly to the children, remaining in eye contact while having the opportunity to watch for their reactions to the story.

It is the teller who makes the story come to life through the sound of their voice and personality combined.

The storytelling becomes almost a personal experience for all involved.

 

3 Basic rules of children’s stories

  1. There are three essential elements involved in storytelling;
    • the story
    • the storyteller
    • the audience
  2. The story itself should be a narrative short enough to be told in one sitting.
  3. It can be a fiction or non-fiction but more importantly something that the teller is interested in and enjoys.

There really are no limits to what type of story can be told.

Before the written word, storytelling was the only way a person could relate events to other people.

Traditions were passed down from one generation to the next with the use of oral stories.

Even today, libraries are filled with books containing the different folk tales from cultures all over the world.

If it were not for storytelling, these may have been lost and never recorded.

Linking the story to your audience

Linking the story to the audience is up to the storyteller.

The best stories are personal stories because they come from within the teller and I find that my memory (and imaginative additions) is much clearer and provides a wider base for everything from descriptive surroundings to sub-plots and hidden lessons.

However, an experienced teller can learn any story and make it their own (and reading and practicing the tips and hints in the free storytelling technique course will set you on the right path).

The beginner may feel more comfortable with a traditional well known story like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood.

Personal stories however, usually hold the greatest interest for a teller and have the potential to produce the inner most enthusiasm while reciting remembered events – plus : The audience will enjoy the story just as much as the teller enjoys telling it.

Some people are natural born storytellers, but anyone who is willing to practice and devote time and study can become a good one.

In order to become a great children's storyteller, there are various skills you master and attributes you must gain.

There are certain characteristics that a natural storyteller may possess that gives them an advantage.

A creative imagination and a flair for drama will help bring a story to life so the children will be able to visualize in their own minds the characters and setting of the story.

It is also better to be prepared for the sometimes unexpected tidbits the children will want to add to the story themselves.  Including their ideas and engaging with the audience will truly make for a successful storytelling session.

There is clearly more to telling children’s stories than one at first thinks and indeed the same can be said of reading stories, but you have to start somewhere right?

I want you to be able to feel confident to tell stories to your children from your memory or made up from your incredible imagination that speak directly to the third piece of the storytelling : your audience!

The great thing is that generally we know our audience quite well which gets us off to a great start and I hope that in coming weeks you’ll start to gain some ideas and confidence and a structure around how you can formulate and tell your own stories to your kids.

Apr 172012
 

Telling Children’s Stories Using Story Sacks

In this article about story sacks (also known as “storysacks” without a space), we’ll look at what they are, why they help us tell stories, what is in one and how you can make your own!

I don’t think anyone viewing this website will disagree that one of the most important gifts children receive is a love of stories and reading.

Young children often find it easier to relate to stories and concepts if they have something concrete in front of them that help them understand what’s being discussed or told.  This is one reason picture books and books with plenty of simple illustration are so popular for this age group.

Use storysacks to help illustrate the themes and lessons in a children's story and to help get kids to engage in storytelling Continue reading »

Apr 042012
 

Storytelling and Difficult Subjects: Divorce and Separation

With more and more families breaking up with parents separating or divorcing, there is an ever increasing need to help our children understand what is going on and why, should they find themselves in the middle of one. Even if your marriage or relationship is as solid as a rock, you can bet that your child will have friends in their class whose parents’  are (or have) separating/divorcing. Children’s stories and storytelling are great tools for broaching this stressful subject even if only to explain what your child’s best  friend at school is going through.

Divorce and Separation are tough on children. Stories can help them understand and provide you with a conversation starting point

There are many concepts and subjects that can be particularly stressful and even scary to address with our kids, and some which are just a little more difficult to know how to broach with children – which can also be communicated through storytelling techniques.

Using Storytelling to Start Conversations

Some of the subjects covered in contemporary children’s stories are undoubtedly the same that parents of all eras have wrestled with. Others may be unique to contemporary culture. Either way, storytelling techniques can be used as a way to touch on the more difficult lessons children have to learn. They can give you a way to easily bring up the subject with kids and can also be a means of generating additional conversations with your kids on those hard subjects.

Don’t underestimate your kids’ ability to handle these harder subjects. It’s all in how you approach topics with them. They learn from you and the methods you use in communicating about difficult topics can strongly influence how your children respond to these kinds of subjects. Putting good children’s stories to work for you is one of the best ways to broach more uncomfortable subjects with your kids. These books have been specifically designed to help you deal with difficult topics in terms that children can easily understand. Continue reading »

Mar 082012
 

Storytelling and Life Lessons: Teaching Moral Themes with Story Books

All the history books and in every culture around the world, storytelling is and has been used as a technique for teaching children very early on about the importance of morals and ethics.

Bedtime stories for kids have been a way to teach even the youngest of children about acceptable social norms, moral ways of behaving and the association between cause and effect since humans were able to draw on cave walls.

Children's stories with morals is a traditional technique for teaching our kids about life and how to live it

Of course, storytelling serves many other purposes as well.

These can include getting kids interested in literacy and educating children about family and cultural history and beliefs.

Children’s stories with morals then can serve multiple purposes and the life lessons children are able to glean from these tales will stick with them throughout their lives. What kids learn in their formative years have a lasting effect and instilling proper behaviors in beliefs in your children when they are young helps stage them for success later in life.

 Storytelling and Morals

Children’s stories can be very open about the fact that they are teaching an important life lesson. Equally, the moral of the story may be buried in the storyline itself. Books of both varieties can be very useful in teaching life lessons to children and parents often decide to use storytelling techniques which include both styles of writing.

Traditional Life Lessons

Classic life lessons like treating people equally, appreciating what you have, and sharing with others are common themes in classic children’s literature and many contemporary children’s stories. A few examples of newer books which teach kids lasting life lessons include:

Treating people like equals and learning about tollerance through childrens stories with morals

How full is your bucket? by Tom Rath and Maurie Manning. This best selling book focuses around the idea of how what we do, every day, affects those around us and how our behaviours and attitudes can impact the feelings of those around us. Similarly it can also help children understand how the behaviours and attitudes of those around them can influence too. Checkout this article on psychcentral if you’re interested in how and when children develop empathy.

Bullying and the bystander effect can be addressed through good stories for kids

For slightly older kids (I’d say five and upwards) The Juice Box Bully: Empowering Kids to Stand Up For Others by Maria Dismondy is a fantastic story about a new boy at school who’s trying to carve himself a space by being a bit of bully and how the rest of the class take a kind, but firm promise to help him to become a nice and kind member of the class. It takes the issue of bullying and instead of tackling the bully, it’s actually tackling the apathy and bystander effect and helps children learn to help eachother even if they possibly don’t deserve it.

Classic children’s stories which cover themes of central importance to building a strong character never lose their meaning.

Tales like those from Aesop and other fables teach children clear messages about right and wrong, moral or ethical and non-moral behavior, and the consequences of not exhibiting strong ethics and morals at all times and under all circumstances.

The Fables of La Fontaine: A Selection in English is a classic collection of children's stories with morals

These stories teach children in non-threatening ways.

They don’t use scare tactics to get kids to understand the consequences of bad behaviors.

They instead play on the positive aspects of doing the right thing.

Storytelling techniques which are positive in nature have a healthier and more lasting effect on children’s own moral compass development.

New themes in children’s books

While some life lessons which appear in classic and contemporary children’s stories are the same lessons human have been teaching to their children for generations, there are also many relevant moral and ethical themes for today’s society. Parents who wish to use storytelling techniques to educate their kids on environmentalism, multiculturalism, and other similar concepts now have many options available in today’s kids books.

Checkout this list on teachers.net for a long-ish list of evironmentally themed books (though note that some are out of print/only availabe in the US)

Incorporating ethical life lessons on these newer themes has never been easier.

Good bedtime stories can have somewhat complex themes that are broken down into easy to understand tales appropriate for young children. By making stories interesting and by parents employing good storytelling techniques, even complex themes are simple for kids to understand.

Don’t underestimate their ability to comprehend the moral behind the story.

Discussing Themes and Morals Outside of Story Time

Reinforcing life lessons learned during bedtime stories or other storytelling activities is also important.

The good bedtime stories you read to your kids are only the beginning of life lessons.

Use them as the jumping off point for a larger discussion on the topics covered in the stories and the moral or ethical lessons taught in the tales you read.