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

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.