Idea-ology – The Learning Ladder

Idea-ology – The Learning Ladder

Recently I was involved in a discussion about when you should end an activity in class; when the first person finishes, the last person, about half? Lots of valuable points were given for all arguments but the consensus was it should be when the first person finishes – you can’t leave learners with nothing to do – that’s when disengagement creeps in and disruption can occur.

Slide1From this I moved the discussion on to talking about how to ensure that those more able learners don’t ‘finish first‘ and have extension exercises, differentiated tasks and follow up activities to support their learning and enthusiasm for education. This must be an issue for all classroom teachers, from primary level to sixth form that teachers have to consider when planning.

This year I have been using the outstanding Thinking Ladder from Charlotte Russell at Built on the ideas of Bloom’s Taxonomy (the new domain taxonomy with create at the top) students can select a task (see below) from each of the six stages when a classroom task is complete to extend their knowledge, understanding and develop their higher level skills.

Not only does this help with extending students’ knowledge but it also encourages metacognition and allows the learner to think about their learning and the skills that are required for different levels of questioning. This is introduced at the beginning of the year and reinforced throughout by the task instructions:

Every lesson you will have a set of learning objectives which are designed to help you move up the thinking ladder. The thinking ladder helps you to learn by developing your skills. You start at the bottom and as your learning progresses you will gradually make your way towards the top.

The skills at the bottom (REMEMBERING, UNDERSTANDING & APPLYING) are the basic skills you need to pass. As you move upwards you access the harder skills (ANALYSING, EVALUATING & CREATING). It is these skills which will help you to access the higher grades!

Slide6Students are encouraged to complete more tasks to complete a tracker sheet which can be rewarded however you see fit as a teacher. The task also allows the student to consider how confident they are on any given subject and choose (or be directed to) an appropriate level of extension exercise.

2013-09-21 19.38.47Not only does this cover you for most, if not all situations, where a student may complete a task, but is an excellent resource to have in class for students who need inspiration on additional revision or review tasks to consolidate their knowledge. This has engaged my students, added a little competition to task completion, and initiated some really interesting debates about the different skills required for different questions in examinations.

If you haven’t already, get over to and download your own learning ladder and learning ladder tasks. I can’t see why this can’t be used at every level in every subject – although some of the tasks may need to be altered to be more appropriate for learners lower down the key stages. If you do design new tasks consider sharing them on or post them in the comments. Also, with a little felt and a spare piece of cotton (and someone who can use a sewing machine – thank you Helen) you can make a great wall display for holding all the tasks.

Thanks to Charlotte for sharing such an excellent resource.

2 Comments Idea-ology – The Learning Ladder

  1. Colin jenkins

    Hi Jamie,
    Really like the thinking skill ladder and Charlottes approach.
    Do you have anymore examples of the questions / ladders used in the classroom as I am hoping to role out at my school in Powys Mid Wales.
    Thanks for sharing this.
    Colin Jenkins Headteacher at Buttington Trewern CP school


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