Category Archives: creativity

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge—Writing examples

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) is one way in which teachers can develop deeper thinking skills in students.  Bloom’s six cognitive skills start with easier thinking skills and move to more difficult, “higher order” thinking skills.

Bloom’s Level objective
knowing remembering facts
understanding showing understanding of facts
applying apply knowledge to new situations
analyzing examining information for component parts
synthesizing* creating something new from diverse elements
evaluating making judgments based on evidence or criteria

*Synthesizing is now called “creating,” and it has become the sixth, not fifth, level.

About 40 years after Bloom’s Taxonomy became known, a refinement of Bloom’s taxonomy called Webb’s Depth of Knowledge was developed (1997).  It has four levels.

DOK Level title of Level
1 recall and reproduction
2 skills and concepts
3 short-term strategic thinking
4 extended thinking


For teachers wanting to demand deeper thinking of their students, both Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK Levels can be used to design lesson plans.  Below are some writing assignments based on Webb’s Levels.




Level 1  Identify a list of important characters from the first Harry Potter novel.  Explain their relationship to Harry.

Level 2  Compare Harry’s, Ron’s and Hermione’s personalities.

Level 3  Explain how the opening scene in the first Harry Potter book lures readers into that book.

Level 4  Show how the authors of the first Harry Potter book and the first Percy Jackson book used a similar plot sequence to begin those books.


Social Studies


Level 1  Match famous quotes with 20th century American leaders.

Level 2  Create a set of ten cards with a quote by a famous 20th century leader on one side and the leader’s name on the other side.

Level 3  Using the set of cards created for Level 2, create a set of three clues for each quote, one easy, one difficult and one in between.

Level 4  Describe how specific references such as Stone Mountain and MLK, Jr.’s little children can be understood as metaphors for other concepts in MLK, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.




Level 1  Define given vocabulary words relating to circles (radius, diameter, circumference, ray, arc, pi, center point).

Level 2   Explain why pi is approximately and not exactly 3.14.

Level 3  Describe three real life situations in which understanding pi can be useful to solve problems.

Level 4  Write an essay on the history of pi, citing sources.




Level 1  Define a fossil.

Level 2  Identify the sequence of events in the forming of a fossil.

Level 3  Explain why a fossil from an earlier time is found in a lower layer of rock than a fossil from a later time.

Level 4  From the school library take three books about fossils appropriate for a certain grade level.  Critique each book, explaining its strengths and weaknesses for that grade level.

Why write sonnets? To inspire creativity

I often have wondered why poets lock themselves into the constraints of certain poetic forms, particulary sonnets.  They are so hard to write, yet the best poets have done so, from Shakespeare to Robert Frost.  Consider the difficulties imposed by the Shakespearean sonnet:

  • The sonnet must have 14 lines.
  • Those 14 lines must be divided into two or three parts: the first part is always 8 lines and the second part is either 6 lines or a combination of 4 lines plus a final couplet.
  • A sonnet must follow a rigorous rhyme pattern: a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g.
  • Each line of the sonnet must have ten beats.
  • For each of line, the second, fourth, sixth, eighth and tenth beat must be stressed (iambic pentameter).
  • In the first 8 lines the poet states a problem or a situation; in the second four lines the poet offers a solution or a different perspective; and in the final couplet, if there is one, the poet offers a surprise.

Phew!  Why would any writer box himself in to such a strict format?

It has to do with creativity.  Research has shown that real breakthroughs in creativity occur right after the poet / thinker is stumped and gives up.  It’s too hard!  I can’t do this!  I give up.  And then the poet sleeps on it or drinks on it or walks his dog and voila!  Out of nowhere (it seems) comes the solution, and not just any solution but the perfect solution.  This is that lightbulb moment depicted in cartoons.

Problem leads to frustration leads to giving up leads to subconscious making connections leads to eureka.

With a devilish form like the sonnet, the poet is forced to turn his brains inside and out, churning outrageous ideas before the answer sneaks up, seemingly out of the blue.  Without the difficulty of the sonnet form, the mastery of language, rhythm, rhyme and idea would not fuse into a gorgeous whole.

And that is why poets write sonnets.