language has nothing to do with her or
his ability to think abstractly.
If we expect Preproduction-stage students to work only at the
Knowledge level, we will be holding
them accountable for only the lowest
levels of thinking—and learning.
Rather, we should design learning
tasks for ELLs at the Preproduction
and Early Production stages that
require the same levels of critical
thinking we expect of other students.
So how does a teacher engage students in all levels of critical thinking?
Consider a secondary science teacher
who wants her Preproduction stu-
dents to practice, review, and apply
what they’ve been learning about
parts of plants and their functions and
what types of plants grow in different
biomes. Figure 2 illustrates examples
of tasks Preproduction students might
do at all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Teachers must teach higher-order
thinking skills while using language
that is appropriate to their students’
levels of English acquisition. The
newer a student is to English, the
more comprehensible input he or she
will need. Teachers can provide such
input by slowing down their rate of
speech, limiting sentence complexity,
and adding as many gestures, pictures,
objects, and actions as possible to
accompany the words.
For instance, for the Evaluation-
level task in Figure 2, “Assess
correctness of a moveable biome
model,” the teacher might start by
placing a picture of a cactus into the
desert biome and saying, “The cactus
belongs in the desert” while giving a
thumbs-up sign. Next, he would add
a picture of an oak tree to the desert
biome and say, “The oak tree belongs
in the desert” while giving a thumbs-
down. After using the same sentence
frame with one more thumbs-down
picture (such as a pine tree) and one
more thumbs-up picture (a palm
tree), the teacher would show another
picture, use the same sentence frame,
and then gesture for the student to
decide whether that plant belongs and
to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
As another example, in math, if
native English speakers working at
the Analysis level are required to
write real-world problems involving
adding and subtracting fractions, Pre-
production students can also work at
this level by using newspaper ads to
create real-world problems with pic-
tures and numbers.
And in a secondary language arts
class where students are focusing
on narrative text and working at the
Application level, if native English
speakers are writing about how the
theme and conflict of a novel the class
is reading applies to another novel or
to their own life, Preproduction stu-
dents could draw a scene from another
Evaluation Assess correctness of a moveable biome model. Show
understanding by rearranging parts as necessary.
Synthesis Plan and construct dioramas or collages to show seasons
in a forest biome.
Analysis Categorize types of plants found in desert and alpine
tundra biomes using pictures and labels.
Application Graph how tall plants get under specific conditions.
Comprehension Match parts of the plant to their function.
Knowledge Label and order the steps of the plant cycle. Respond to
teacher’s request to point to, gesture for, draw, or match
icons for steps of plant cycle.
FIGURE 2. Sample Tasks at All Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy
for Preproduction-Stage ELLs
Source: From Using Classroom Instruction That Works with English Language Learners (2nd ed.) (p. 18)
by J. D. Hill and K. B. Miller, 2013, Alexandria, VA: ASCD © 2013 by McREL. Adapted with permission.
It’s important for
teachers to separate
language ability from