Cognitive skills for lifelong learning

In the previous post about cooperative work we mentioned high order thinking skills, also known as HOTS in the education sector, which are often cited in contrast to LOWS, or low order thinking skills. In fact, as we can see in the image, both types of cognitive skills appear in what is known as Bloom's Taxonomy.

The six levels are:
Knowledge: ability to recall and recognise facts, information and skills.
Comprehension: ability to understand, describe and compare facts, information and skills.
Application: ability to use acquired information, knowledge and facts.
Analysis: ability to examine new information.
Evaluation: ability to assess information and ideas.
Creation: ability to generate and design new ideas and concepts.

Why is it important to keep this pyramid in mind when planning any learning experience? Because it represents the key passages that our students would have to experience in order to develop meaningful and, therefore, lifelong learning. To each section of the pyramid correspond some exemplifying verbs that help us in the task of planning and organising the different tasks and activities.

Source: https://www.teachthought.com/learning/what-is-blooms-taxonomy/

In the PYP, when planning cooperatively, we keep this taxonomy in mind in order to accompany our students towards their autonomous learning, step by step, as Vygotsky's scaffolding theory postulates and, for example, if I want to introduce the topic of "historical sources" to my third grade students I would do it using some of these activities in this same order:

Examples of activities at the REMEMBERING level: assessing prior knowledge, learning by heart the definition of 'historical source', remembering the different types of sources and some very important ones for historians, etc.

Examples of activities at the UNDERSTANDING level: organising different historical sources by typology, making an outline of the characteristics of each type, etc.

Examples of activities at the APPLYING level: bring to class different types of historical sources that can show us how our ancestors, as parents, grandparents, etc., lived. Interviewing parents, grandparents and older people within the educational community about specific topics.

Examples of activities at the ANALYZING level: write a description of the parts of one of the sources found, tell how, where and why it was used, whether it was easily reproducible, its cost, and the differences with its current version. Find out if other classmates have brought similar objects and check for differences and commonalities. Design a mind map about the sources and their characteristics.

Examples of activities at EVALUATING level: formulate a judgement about which sources are the most relevant or interpret the meaning of a source in relation to its environment, etc.

Examples of activities at CREATING level: creating a presentation on the historical sources analysed, creating a timeline to illustrate how certain objects have evolved over time, setting up a museum, etc.

As you can imagine, this whole process - which goes hand in hand with the different types of assessment, customisation of learning, etc. - could be applied to any topic of any subject we would like to work on with our students; moreover, the older and more cognitively developed they are, the more complex and exhaustive the planned activities can be. Finally, you will also have noticed how the need to use and develop these skills is closely related to the development of the competences prescribed by the curriculum; indeed, if we define a competence as the complex set of knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions and motivations that each individual puts into action in a specific context to cope with the peculiar demands of each situation, our minds automatically go to the top level of the pyramid.

Therefore, knowing and knowing how to apply Bloom's taxonomy becomes a necessary ability for all teachers and not only for those of us who work in IB schools.


Cooperative learning

Cooperative work has been shown to be a powerful means for learning and developing "high order thinking skills", the thinking skills that lead to meaningful learning. But how can we implement this work methodology in the classroom, without increasing our workload even more?

Here I am to tell you all about it!

Thanks to Vygotsky, we know that the most meaningful learning occurs when there is an interaction, whose main medium is the language, between the learner and an individual who has a certain knowledge about a certain subject; the latter can be the teacher, but also a fellow "expert".

For this reason, in recent years, driven by a competence-based curriculum, teachers have opted for the use of didactic methodologies that favour cooperative learning.

Some Kagan's stuctures

The main characteristics of this type of dynamics are:

- Heterogeneous groups made up of pupils who can contribute with different knowledge and levels of competence, in order to create a final product (not necessarily physical) that is better than what would be generated as a result of an individual work.

- Positive interaction generated by appropriate communication (social and civic competence, communication in mother tongue, or foreign language if in English).

- Individual responsibility demonstrated through a presentation to the class (sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, mother tongue competence, or foreign competence if they are doing it in English, digital competence if they are using the computer to research and present).

- Equal participation through a proportional distribution of the work among the team members.

- Simultaneous interaction of group members, who engage in dialogue to make shared decisions.

- Face-to-face interaction.

As can be seen, there are many competences that can be developed through this work methodology, but... How can it be implemented in the classroom?

The 5 basic structures and the skills 
that learners develop when they use them

Take note of this name: Dr Spencer Kagan. This PhD in psychology was a pioneer in the cooperative learning movement. He has dedicated his life's work to helping educators create more cooperative and interactive lessons that produce smarter, more caring and cooperative learners by designing more than 200 structures that can be incorporated into any lesson without changing a single comma of the work we have already planned. I personally use a few of them, according to my didactic needs and I can corroborate that in addition to facilitating reflection, dialogue and active learning, they are very powerful tools when it comes to motivating and engaging children in whatever subject we decide to deal with in class. As Mr Kagan tells us, there are 5 structures that are most commonly used in the classroom and that we should definitely learn to handle before moving on to the others:

- Rally Robin/table: students take turns in pairs to respond orally/written to a question or problem posed by the teacher.

- Timed, pair, share: in pairs, a pupil shares with a partner their knowledge or ideas on a topic announced by the teacher for a pre-set time, while the partner listens. The pairs then switch roles. Finally, each pair shares their ideas with the rest of the class (optional).

- Round Robin/table: students take turns in their teams to respond orally/written to a question or problem posed by the teacher.

- Rally coach: partners take turns solving successive problems: one solves a problem while the other observes, listens, checks, coaches if necessary and praises.

- Stand up, hand up, pair up: students stand up, raise their hand and quickly find a partner to share or discuss a task, given by the teacher, using Rally Robin or Timed, pair, share structures.

My students use them very often and I can assure you that I always get 100% participation and willingness to share with others, which increases attention and helps meaningful learning processes. 

Have no doubt!

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Summer homework? Graded readers, brain teasers, crosswords, and more

Hi there! 

I'd like to share with you in a quick post the summer 'homework' I suggested for my students this year. Besides the classic graded readers to practice reading comprehension, I thought that some puzzle/quizz/riddle book might be, not only entertaining, but also a good way for connecting the different areas of knowledge (English, Natural and Social Sciences, Maths, etc.) in order to enhance significative learning and the 4 language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking).

So... here's some of the books I selected for primary school students starting from National Geographic, which has some good ones:


Then, I thought about brain teasers, which are useful for learning how to think outside the box. They usually come with the age of the children they are designed for. However, since they are for native speakers, I would pick a level below your child's age if yours is not. Also I would choose the paperback version which usually comes with pictures and illustrations.


From Usborne, as suggested by my friend Marine, who is an independent book seller you can get in touch with from her
FB Page Kidibook:




Time flies when... you are busy

Hello y'all!  😁

I'm alive and well, as Katniss would say (from the Hunger Games, of course). Last year, COVID entered our 'normal' lifes and revolutionized them, showing no mercy. In March 2020 I was teaching phonics to my preschoolers, helping kids being more fluent, writing posts about it, enjoying the center of Madrid day and night, literally. At the same time, I was studying this Master degree about bilingualism and international curiculum that was being pretty intense but absolutely woth it. Life was busy, but pleasant, until COVID bursted in and all my routine and future plans changed. 

The studies could 'easily' go on because of the online mode, but my extracurricular classes had to be abruptly interrupted. Moreover, September didn't look bright and, because of this uncertainty, I had to opt for teaching English as a school teacher in order to assure myself and my elder dog (she is 15!!!) a decent lifestyle. After sending CVs to all the International schools in the area, I finally got a call which turned into a job as a homeroom teacher in the immersion line of a private school in Boadilla, where I had the opportunity to teach English almost as a first language. It was pretty cool! 

However, waking up at 6 in the morning every day since the 31st of August until last Thursday, dealing with all the pandemic school issues in addition to the current school duties, and arriving home at 6:15 pm every afternoon has been exhausting and that's why you haven't heard from me for so long. Besides, I had to finish my Master degree and take care of my own life during the pandemic, which also has been a bit stressful. 

Anyway, here we are! Thanks to the vaccination campaign we all feel a bit safer even though this feeling of uncertainty never leaves us really and I wanted to make the most of this summer break for saying hello again, and for letting you know that the many things I've learnt about bilingualism are now published in the 'Mi hijo habla inglés' book. Yes! I used the Easter break to update it. So, even if I haven' had the time for applying the 'Second edition' label to the cover of the book, I can assure you that there's new interesting content that is worth reading both in the digital and the paper version of it.

I wish you a safe and relaxing summer!
Bye for now 


Best Activity Book for the Summer

Summer means holiday and a lot of free time that we know perfectly how to enjoy and make the most of, but...what about our kids?

Many parents and teachers think that this time of the year should be employed by our little ones for reviewing, reinforcing, or at least maintaining a minimum level of fluency and knowledge of everything they've been studying during the school year. Furthermore, this 2020 has seen half of the school population at home dealing with online classes for the lockdown, and, perhaps many of you have this feeling that not enough effort has been put into studying and learning. It is then possible that your first reaction is to look for, apparently, simple grammar tasks and download them from the internet just to realize that our sons and daughters, especially those attending the first grades of primary school, are incapable of doing any of that. 

And the first feeling is... Panic. You think that your kids don't know any English and you don’t know how to help them or at least it looks like that what you’re trying is not working at all (?!?!?!?).

High Five 3! - MacMillan - Sample pages.

Well, first of all, the grammar approach to learning languages, especially at young ages, is an old method no longer in use. 

Secondly, open any of the the Stuedent’s books that your children are using at school and observe it. What can you see? Pictures, songs, sometimes links to online resources, speaking exercises to refresh what they already know from previous years, and then… more pictures, dialogues, a bit of new grammar in context and more speaking exercises. 

Finally, take a look at the Activity book: you’ll notice that it is full of written tasks and projects where children can practice their writing skills, always, always, always after having previously used and developed their listening, speaking and reading skills with the Student’s book. 

Why so much preparation for writing? Because we know that any brain, for learning anything, needs to relate the new knowledge to the previous one and, all those listening, speaking and reading activities are needed in order to add the new information to the learner’s mental schemes in a significant and persistent way. Moreover, translation is not an aspect they work at school either, (as I mention in my book) so even if the exercise looks amazingly simple to you, they might not be able to make connections between their first language and English yet. 

At this point, you have already understood that your children do know English, it’s just the way they learn it that is different from what you were taught when you were their age, so, to them your grammar exercise doesn’t make any sense because it hasn’t any context from which a primary school child can deduct and create connections.

Does this mean that you must change into a schoolteacher? Well, not really. Just try to look for the right material or activity books so that your child can work out the meaning of what they’re doing by themselves, using all the resources that are already planned together with the activity.

I hope this post was useful, and of course if you have any question, sen me an email at misslucysteachingfun@gmail.com

Also, more information about how children learn English, but any second language really, is available in my book Mi hijo habla inglés, on Amazon and other ebook platforms. 

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Pygmalion in the classroom - My experience

Hello dear teachers and parents!
How's everything going?!?! It seems like life never stops to surprise us these days. 
I haven't been posting over the last 3 months because classes here in Madrid have been interrupted and my primary source of inspiration has run dry.

However, do not think I've spent these last 100 days rubbing my belly! Of course not! Instead, I had lots to do and lots to learn, because I'm enrolled in a master’s degree about bilingualism and international curriculum that is keeping me very busy. One has to work hard if she wants to be an expert for real.

Right now, we are in a sort of a break between the first and the second term, so I tried to get distracted publishing a new e-book about my experience as a practitioner in a primary school here in Madrid.

Perhaps, you might think ‘ok, another bunch of unrealistic ideas that you can think of only if ae a student with a lot of free time’, but, let me say that it’s not my case. First of all because I was working while studying, which means no free time at all, and secondly because the story is about some techniques which can be used worldwide in order to increase your students outcomes without changing a comma of your lesson plans.

What happened is that high expectations, projected thanks to these techniques, made their job properly with my unmotivated and disruptive students, and in so doing increased their marks.

Would you like to know more? Here you go!

You can find my book on Amazon (every country) and, soon, on the other eBook platfoms. Stay tuned!

By the way, there is also a Spanish version of the book, on Amazon, iTunes, etc. which is called Pigmalión en el aula. Una experiencia real. You can read about it here.

I'm looking forward to reading your comments and suggestions!

Stay safe!


Prewriting with flashcards and...a fly swatter

Hello everybody! Long time no see. This is going to be a quick post about a nice activity I came up with the day I bought a fly swatter. As you can see from the picture it's a special one ;)

First thing first, when we came back from the Christmas holiday I used it to help children recall single sounds with the help of phonics cards. What I noticed is that it is better to select a few cards each time, because for some of our young learners it might feel overwhelming to have to choose among too many options.

The other activity I've come up with, after studying some of the most common consonant digraphs, ch, sh, and th, is about writing words which contain these sounds, as you can see. In the first phase I chose words containing short vowel sounds, and in the second one I used vowel digraphs. This way we reviewed and worked a bit more our phonetic awareness.

This second activity is inspired by the Montessori method for teaching reading and writing, but I had to adapt the way of proposing it since I’m working with second language acquisition:

First, on a big surface, in my case made up of 3 double desks, I displayed 3 rows of cards: row number 1 contained simple consonant sounds, row number 2 contained the short vowel sounds and the third row contained consonant digraphs.
Then,  while everyone was busy colouring a sound worksheet, I called 2 children and told them to sit next to me at the big table.

Once sitting, I told them a whole short word containing 3 of the sounds displayed on the table, one from each row. Then, I retold the same word, cutting it into its different sounds and passed the swatter to the kid sat next to me. One sound each, they had to 'write' the word selecting the correct cards with the spanker. Once the 3 chosen cards were selected and placed in the right order in front of them, we read the word out loud again.

Designed this way, this activity will allow every child to concentrate and listen better to what you're saying, making it easier for them to be right, which has a good influence on their self-esteem and self-image. Furthermore, you will be able to spot and correct any difficulty in hearing the different sounds properly. For instance, they might confuse the sound sh with the sound s, the sound th with d, or even the sound ch with t. 

In a second moment I substituted the short vowel sounds with vowel digraphs such as ai, ee, ou, oo.

More about phonics games and activities here

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