Performance Tasks Tip #2 – Is this too hard, too easy, or just right for my students?

Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 3.33.06 PM

Is this too hard or too easy for my students? 

  • It’s just right! We’ve got tools to adjust and differentiate every Performance Task
  • NextLesson uses Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Chart to build Performance Tasks

How can Performance Tasks be Differentiated?

From year to year, the students in our classrooms can change dramatically. Whew! It can be head-spinning for lesson planning. Their emotional needs and current skill levels affect how they approach learning what we are teaching, and as educators, we want to be in tune with this.  

While we cannot heal trauma and challenges away from school overnight, we can make our classrooms a safe and nurturing place where the teacher understands each individual. To help you meet the needs of all the students in your classroom, we first planned Performance Tasks in levels. 

Two Quick Ways to Get Started with Differentiation

#1 Differentiate the Performance Task Choice

The very first way to differentiate with Performance Tasks is to choose one that is below your grade level for students who have skill gaps. Choose one that matches the readiness for students working above grade level. Students will never see the grade level of any work that is assigned to them. Grade levels are advisory for the teacher and tied to Common Core State Standards, but disappear on student view. 

#2  Assign Portions of the Performance Task to Groups of Students

Performance Tasks are structured to grow in rigor from Level 1 to the Finale. A comparison of Webb’s Depth of Knowledge levels with NextLesson’s Performance Task levels shows how similar the expected rigor will be.

Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 3.42.13 PM

What is your purpose?

  • If your purpose is skill practice only, then assigning Levels 1-2 would be the best. 
  • If your purpose is to apply strategic thinking to a concept, assigning Levels 1-3 is best.  
  • If you have the time for a deeper dive, the entire Performance Task could be assigned.

Assigning a Portion of a Performance Task to Your Group A:

  • Open the Performance Task
  • In the Lesson Settings view, lock sections not being assigned to students.
  • Click the Share icon on the menu tab on the right
  • Select the class or group (create the group in Class Manager first)
  • Click Save

Assigning a Portion of a Performance Task to Your Group B:

  • In upper left Editions drop-down, select Make a Copy.
  • In the Lesson Settings view, lock sections not being assigned to students.
  • Click the Share icon on the menu tab on the right
  • Select the class or group (create the group in Class Manager first)
  • Click Save

Continue assigning like this if needed.

Rank & Reason Tip #2 – How can Rank & Reason help you build a great class discussion?

Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 3.18.46 PM

How can Rank & Reason Help You Build a Great Class Discussion?

  • Driving questions that push thinking
  • Asking students to use qualifiers in their responses
  • Demanding justification and evidence

A Great Class Discussion

We know it when it happens. We know when the students are so engaged in the discussion that they all want to be heard. Or they spend time anticipating the reasoning of others and preparing to passionately refute their classmates’ arguments. We live for these moments and share them with our colleagues in the lunchroom – wishing it was nearly every day.

We’ve got you! The driving questions in each Rank & Reason are designed to generate the rigorous discussion that students need to go beyond the surface and develop a logical argument. We do that by asking students to qualify their choices based on a ranking by significance, influence, or importance.

How important is a driving question?

We love a great question and the thinking it can provoke in students and we know the time investment needed to create one. We also know that you’ll want to change it up a bit in your classroom, so all of our questions are editable!

The best questions for Rank & Reason have more than one answer and more than one perspective. For example:


  • Who is the most influential justice of the Supreme Court?


This question requires students to rank in order of influence which will require that they research the justices and their historical role in swaying any decisions. However, which decision is significant is up to the student to determine and argue. It is their unique perspective, backed up with evidence, that makes a great discussion.

Justifying with Evidence

As students work with a partner and discuss their rankings, you may find yourself with a time crunch. Asking students to justify with evidence for an entire list may take more time than you’ve got, so here’s a quick shortcut. Have students rank first, building consensus with a partner as they work. Then choose one of these options:

  • Students justify their top two and bottom two in the rankings.
  • Delete the red herrings (Yes, sometimes we put one on the list that doesn’t fit because it helps students get started!).
  • Students justify only the middle options – especially if you notice quick agreement on the top and bottom options.
  • Students justify by writing a single powerful sentence brainstormed with their partners.

Comparing Ranking

Use the comparing time to ask students to explain their justifications and invite others to challenge. This all-important step of comparing and explaining thoughts can be influential and may result in students wanting to change their rankings.

Have students reflect after a Rank & Reason – using our questions or your own – to bring closure to the discussion and the empowerment they should feel from being heard and having their ideas respected.

Projects & Activities Tip #2 – Did you know Projects & Activities are 100% customizable?

Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 2.56.32 PM

What? I can edit content from NextLesson?

Our team of educators understands that sometimes you find a really great lesson, download it, but then wish there was a way to edit it so that it matches your exact needs. Each year you have a new class that has its own unique needs. Well, you are in luck because every interactive lesson that you add to My Lessons is 100% customizable. 

To edit NextLesson Interactive lessons:

  • Go to My Lessons and open the lesson you wish to edit.
  • On the top right of the lesson, make sure editing is turned on and green by clicking the button.
  • Click on any text to edit, add, or remove. Clicking outside of the text box will confirm the changes.
  • Add additional content by clicking on the + icon on the right side toolbar. You can add steps, Rank & Reason, text, media (images, links, videos), questions or tables.
  • Click on the trash can icon on lesson items to delete them from the lesson.
  • Additional editing abilities can be found in the gears to the left of every item within the lesson.
  • Save Your Changes: Once you have edited the lesson to meet your needs you will need to click the save button on the upper left side of the lesson. Autosave will happen periodically, but it is always best practice to click save before moving away from the page. 

There are many reasons a teacher might want to edit a lesson:

  • Adjust the vocabulary or numbers to be more appropriate for the level of their students
  • Include a resource they have used in the past
  • Change the language to be more consistent with what they are already using in their classroom
  • Add additional sections to elaborate on portions of the lesson
  • Remove sections of the lesson that may not be applicable to this group
  • Swap out references for ones already used with students
  • Add further directions or clarification
  • Add a link to a site, example, or reference you want to include
  • Bold text for emphasis
  • Add teacher notes as reminders for this use and future ones
  • Insert checks for understanding throughout the lesson
  • Change the order or steps, resources, or text
  • And many more!!!

As always, after lesson content is edited, you can print the updated PDF version of the lesson by clicking on the printer icon on the right side toolbar. To return to the original version of any lesson, simply search for the lesson and choose to “Make Another Copy”. It is always a good idea to rename each copy so that you can tell them apart.

Skill Builders Tip #1 – Engagement & Application

unnamedSkill Builders Engage Students in Application & Practice of Learning

We’re classroom vets and we know that students need those opportunities to hone their learning with a meaningful application and yes, practice. We also know that engaging students in practice can be challenging, so we dreamed up relevant and real-world applications of skills for them. Meet Skill Builders!

A huge plus for classroom teachers is that most Skill Builders will be completely auto-graded for you. 

Choosing Skill Builders for Your Students

Each of the lessons has a real-world inspired focus on the practice of a key skill. They vary in type and length based on grade level and are only created for Math and ELA. To find Skill Builders:

  • Select the orange Browse All Lessons button in the middle of your dashboard 
  • Narrow your search by selecting Type on the left (click More Option to see all)
  • Select Skill Builders and your grade level at the top to see all available
  • Select the Skill Builder to add to your My Lessons library

How to Assign a Skill Builder to Students

  • Be sure that you have created a class in Class Manager
  • Open the Skill Builder to assign to students
  • Click on the Share icon on the right-hand menu tab
  • Select the class to receive this assignment
  • Click on SAVE (scroll down if you have many groups and classes)
  • Students will find the Skill Builder in their My Lessons library

Skill Builder Types


Students answer questions and undertake tasks in a real-world scenario or relating to a real-world topic. The focus is on repeated practice of a skill.

Available in Math grades K-3 and ELA grades K-6. Check them out!

Choose Your Own Adventure

Students answer questions focused on a skill in math. After each result, they gain a piece of information to help them determine the location of a mystery country.

Available in Math grades 6-12. Check them out!

Crime Scene Decoders – Whodunnit

Students answer questions focused on a skill in order to piece together clues and solve a crime.

Available in Math grades 3-12 and ELA grades 7-12. Check them out!

Crime Scene Decoders

Students answer challenging questions built around a traditional unit of content. After solving each crime scene, they are able to determine who committed the crime.

Available in Math grades 3-12. Check them out!

Person Puzzles

Students answer questions focused on a skill in order to gather information about an important and influential person.

Available in Math grades 3-12. Check them out!


Students encounter a single real-world challenge in which they have to make a decision or recommendation after an analysis of the evidence.

Available in Math grades 9-12. Check them out!

Check out all Skill Builders on NextLesson!

Rank & Reason Tip #1 – Rank, Justify, Discuss

unnamed-1The Power of the Rank & Reason Discussion Tool

The power of a great academic discussion in our classrooms can be such an exciting inspiration when students are passionate, prepared, and justify their thinking with evidence. WOW! These are the moments that remind us why we love teaching.

We’re on a mission to help classroom teachers develop deeper academic discussions and critical thinking with our Rank & Reason discussion tool. To that end, you’ll find Rank & Reason discussions embedded in our Projects and Activities and also as just stand-alone short lessons.

When Rank & Reason academic discussions lead with a thought-provoking question – one with no right answer – we do also want to provide you with a writing prompt or a follow-up activity.   Be sure to look for them.

Getting Started with Rank & Reason 

  • Assign the lesson to the class and have them work side by side with a partner.
  • Best practice tip: Have students use one shared device and project the Rank and Reason challenge for all to see.
  • Ask students to discuss and agree on ranking the list based on the criteria in the lesson.
  • A great strategy to start is to ask them to choose the top 1-2 and bottom 1-2 first. The center of the ranking will generate the richest discussion as items to rank may be more similar.
  • When ranking is complete: ask students to use the speech bubbles to justify their ranking, agreeing as a partnership.
  • Students then submit their results and can view the comparison of their ranking with the ranking of their classmates.
  • Continue your discussion as a class and ask partners who may not agree with the class to share their justifications – or simply share their speech bubble.  
  • What to expect:
      • Rankings in the middle of a list may be similar, but not exact.
      • A good evaluative strategy would be to divide the list in half and ask the class if we agree on the top half, and on then on the bottom half.

Check out more Rank & Reasons on NextLesson!