How to Teach Multiple Grades (without Losing Your Sanity!) – Using Bloom’s Taxonomy at Home

Editor’s note: Today’s post is from Catherine Hood, Torrey Academy Director. Here, she applies Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives to help illuminate how you can teach the same material to multiple grades at home. Find this helpful? Pass the post along!

How do I juggle teaching multiple subjects to my second grader, fourth grader, and seventh grader, all at the same time? This is one of the most common questions among homeschool parents. But there are ways of helping all your children learn while still keeping your sanity!

One approach to try is to teach the same concepts to all your children at once, using Bloom’s Taxonomy to teach each concept on different levels. While states have their standards for which grades should be learning which concepts, that order is not required. As long as you cover all the necessary concepts by the end of that learning stage (elementary, jr. high, or high school), you can teach those concepts in any order you like.

The Structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a structure showing the levels of learning. We all begin by simply recalling facts and basic concepts, then we progress to understanding those concepts and then applying that information. After that we move further into analyzing and evaluating that information, and finally we can use what we learned to produce new work.

This structure can also be used to understand the primary abilities of each stage of a child’s intellectual development. The youngest children are excellent at recalling facts and quickly progress to explaining those concepts. Upper elementary and junior high students become stronger in their application and analysis skills, and grow into their evaluation skills. High school students excel at synthesizing all they have learned to create new or original work.* These skills are certainly not tied to age, but we can see that different ages are often stronger in different areas.Diagram of Bloom's Taxonomy in pyramid form

Bloom’s Taxonomy in Practice

Using this structure, you can have all your children interact with the same concepts on the level that fits their knowledge and development. For example, when teaching a unit on the American Revolution, you can ask your second grader to memorize dates, places, and people’s names. This will give her a strong foundation as she learns more about this time period in future years. While teaching the same concepts, you can ask your fourth grader to retell the story of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, requiring him to not only recall facts, but to explain those facts in an clear and accurate way. For your seventh grader, you can have her choose a revolutionary side to defend, pushing her into the analysis and evaluation stages.

What if you were teaching the same literature book to different ages? Read the book aloud to your younger children, and ask your older children to read it on their own. Have your youngest children recall facts about the story: What is the setting? Who are the main characters? What happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the story? Ask your older children to compare and contrast characters, describe a main theme of the story, and explain any symbols in the story. For more suggestions on different levels of questions to ask of a story, see Center for Lit. I would highly recommend their Teaching the Classics syllabus.

Approaching Different Grade Levels

This approach can apply to any subject. The approach that seems to be the most effective for any subject is to find a curriculum that is in the middle of your children’s levels, and creating ways to simplify and/or bring complexity to that middle approach. So next time your fourth grade science curriculum has you teach how our eyes process colors, how can you modify it for your third and eighth graders as well?

*Note: These stages of development can also be clearly seen in the classical approach to education.