Historical Performance Tasks

Historical Performance Tasks

A performance task is any learning activity or assessment that asks students to perform to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks yield a tangible product and/or performance that serve as evidence of learning.

It is an alternative assessment to the traditional, multiple choice test. Recently, our team created our own performance tasks in a shared Google Doc. Each of us created and uploaded samples we could use with our students using the GRASPS model.

See characteristics of a performance task by Jay McTighe.

We were able to write comments and give constructive feedback to one another about the quality and design of our assessments. I chose to create two assessments that could be used in our “Freedom and Conflict” courses in Grades 7 & 8.

My first performance task puts students in the role of assistant to the Mexican ambassador. Upon receipt of the infamous Zimmerman Telegram, students must decide what to do with a document that played a significant role in the United States’ decision to enter World War I.Performance Task Performance Task Performance Task Performance Task

3 Major Initiatives in Middle School


1:1 Chromebook Program
A Chromebook is a personal computer running Chrome OS as its operating system. The devices are designed to be used while connected to the Internet, though there are a variety of apps that can be run offline. All the data is stored in the “cloud” accessed by an internet connection.
What is a Chromebook?
Kentucky Country Day’s 1:1 CB Program
Everything You Need to Know About Chromebooks

Understanding by Design (UbD – Backwards Unit Design)
UbD is a way of thinking purposefully about curricular planning and school reform. It offers a 3-stage design process, a set of helpful design tools, and design standards — not a rigid program or prescriptive recipe. The primary goal of UbD is student understanding: the ability to make meaning of “big ideas” and transfer their learning.
Jay McTigue’s Blog – UbD in a Nutshell
UbD Template


An e-portfolio is a living and changing collection and showcase that reflects your learning, accomplishments, skills, experiences, passions, and discoveries. The demonstrations of learning that you incorporate into your portfolio can serve as great opportunities for self-reflection, as well as feedback from peers, teachers, and external experts. It can greatly reflect on your abilities as an individual as well as become a useful tool in marketing yourself to colleges and universities, as well as future employers and corporations.
7 Ways to Create e-Portfolios
5 Benefits of Creating an e-Portfolio
The Importance of a Portfolio

eportfolio process

Feedback from Performance Task (UbD Stage 2) and iPlan17

What was your biggest takeaway about performance tasks? What questions do you still have about performance tasks? How relevant was the focus of the professional learning on Jan 6 for your classroom practice? What new insights did you gain about the connection between “the initiatives we have launched” and the “why” behind them? In Wednesday’s faculty meeting, what was your biggest takeaway from giving and receiving feedback with vertical teams on your performance task designs? How familiar are you with the details of “Design and Demonstrate” in the Strategic iPlan17? To what degree do you plan to utilize GRASPS as a criteria for shaping the quality of the performance tasks you will design moving forward? To what degree do you think the Middle School team as a whole is embracing UbD Stages 1 & 2?
Making them real-world applicable, hands-on & meaningful How to assess them 10 I still think we are trying to do too much; it would be far more beneficial to focus intently on a few rather than trying to spread ourselves (teachers) so thin loved working with my vertical team! We wish we had more time to collaborate. We all greatly benefited from sharing our ideas & receiving feedback. 5 10 7
how unique and valuable they can be how to assess 7 I like hearing the ideas 4 8
collaborating with others from my vertical team how fast are they expected to be produced and used in our classrooms? 8 That even though we have so many launched at once, we all take on a different aspect of them that we treasure, utilize, and learn from the most Getting better ideas for the PRODUCT portion of my GRASPS 3 8 5
GRASPS The timing of PT in the series of formative and summative assessments 10 The Strategic Plan is guiding us, and we need to review this more to best understand the importance of our new initiatives That I am not alone – many other GREAT teachers are learning this too, and collaboration really helps! 5 10 5
I loved the fact that I was given insight how to include the Unsung Hero Project into the everyday teaching on ancient civilizations. none at the moment. Some will probably arise as I work on completing one. 10 answered in number 1 question. 1 8 8
Collaborating with others None 10 I love the WHY Opinions from different perspectives (age, gender, parent vs. not) 6 10 9
An actual performance task “Situation” 10 Love the bridge between the whys and the initiatives–it all made sense when Chip wrote it on the board I received a more detailed, a more relevant task 5 8 10
That they do not have to occur only at the end of a unit. Also, they are much easier to form and use if you craft them using the GRASPS format. How do you adequately assess them? How will rubrics fit in to this discussion,, and what are the most effective ways to create and use rubrics? 10 I made relevant connections with our initiatives and our strategic plan. It became more apparent that we aren’t just launching new initiatives to launch them. There are distinct purposes and reasons why, and it all revolves around the strategic plan. Collaboration is key with performance tasks. So many insights are gained for consulting with your peers. You gain new ideas and give new ideas. 5 10 4
How important the setting is What is an exemplar rubric for a performance task 10 The purpose behind our initiatives Student choice 3 10 8
The process of working backwards from the goal. No real questions. I’m still working through developing it, but will get there eventually. 9 They are all new insights for me as I’m fairly new to this whole process. The helpful suggestions from team members. 2 8 9
They are a good way of assessing real world application capability. What is the best way to create/grade transdisciplinary transfer tasks? 9 5 8 7
how applicable they are none right now 10 that there is a reason for everything. that we really need to be helping each other because some teachers still don;t understand performance tasks and even if they do we need honest feedback and more ideas. 3 10 7
How I can take lessons that I already teach and adjust them to performance tasks How to assess the assessments! 8 I could see the connection more readily. I gt some good ideas to extend the direction in which I was going. 6 9 8

Teacher Feedback from PL Day on UbD Stage 1

What was the most helpful part of the meeting on Stage I of Understanding by Design? What was your biggest takeaway? Since Friday’s meeting, how do you feel as though your understanding of UBD has changed? What questions do you still have about Stage I of Understanding By Design? What other feedback you would like to share regarding Friday’s meeting?
Everyone participating, asking questions Getting ideas from others much better I think it helps working in groups and sharing ideas and suggestions with others.
Having to work on our own unit plans. A much better understanding of Phase I I feel a lot more comfortable with big ideas, and transfer goals. I feel very comfortable identifying and writing good EQ’s I would like some feedback on my stage I UBD that I have written so far, but I think I just need more practice. The meeting was great! I learned a ton, thank you for all of the effort and time you put into planning the meeting!
brainstorming and writing understanding enduring understandings I feel like I had a relatively good understanding of UBD, but now it’s even better. none about that but one about why are supposed to turn one in in Dec when we are really just getting deeper into it none
learning all together and sharing what we knew Starting broader, even broader than essential questions… Definitely, YES! I feel a lot more confident about Stage I. no. not right now Relevant. Interesting. Well presented.
I enjoyed the chance to discuss the ‘big ideas’ with my coworkers, and work through the essential questions and understandings That the UbD has many entry points (and we still start with the activities!) I now have a better filter to assess my EQ I would have liked more time to work with my team on a specific UbD.
I liked that each section was thoroughly discussed before an attempt was made at practicing each step. I especially liked that one part easily flowed into another part. The biggest impact made was with the Big Idea Concept! I was making it too specific. Ubd is much easier to design with the Big Idea being more of a general idea. Lots!! No questions at this time…I know that I just need to continue to practice the information I have learned so that it remains fresh in my mind. Nothing at the moment.
The discussion around big ideas. I realized I was thinking of this the wrong way, and this discussion clarified for me and allowed me to gain greater clarity with stage 1. The clarification around big ideas was my biggest take away. I felt comfortable with enduring understandings and essential questions, but I needed extra help with big ideas. Yes. I still have more to learn, but it has gotten stronger. What template or layout is the best to use? Several use their own templates, and the book gives several ideas. It makes me wonder if there is one that is better, or if it really is up to personal needs? Moving forward, I think there needs to be time set aside to have teachers work in their rooms and plan around UbD. Many teachers expressed on Friday that they really wanted alone time in their classrooms to plan and work on their own upcoming UbD units. Maybe we can review and learn about it/phases in the first hour or two of PD, and then reserve the rest of the time for individual planning time with a built in reflection/feedback component at the end.
The packet of sample big ideas and EQs That collaboration leads to bigger ideas and makes planning easier I realize that UbD is a perfect format for creating very natural inter/trans disciplinary units None- Good job 🙂 I think more to work would have been better because the information and process was so fresh in our mind.
Actually going through the steps becuase I have never actully done that. The process of getting started. I feel more comfortable, still have to process. No questions, just need to have time to absorb. Personally, it was a lot to take in after a hectic morning, but I still learned a lot.
beginning to get a clearer understanding of Big Ideas How to write better EQs the meeting helped to clarify some of the essential components of Stage 1 I think many teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the volume of initiatives we are undertaking in addition to our already full workload
Taking it slow and going step by step instead of looking at it all at once My biggest takeaway was going back to our current lesson we are working on and making sure the checklists given match what we are doing and planning My understanding has moved even higher (like a 7.5 or 8ish) on a 10 point scale None at this time Maybe aiming to get out earlier. Hard to do and take making a Friday afternoon really long



What are EQs?

Essential questions point to and highlight the big ideas. They serve as doorways through which learners explore the key concepts, themes, theories, issues, and problems that reside within the content. Essential questions push learners to the heart of things—the essence.

Essential Questions in Middle School This Month

September 24, 2013

Dear Middle School Families,

Reflecting back on the first six weeks of school, I am amazed at all that our students have accomplished. I am proud of the content they are learning, as well as the ways they are approaching the learning process. In my weekly observations of classrooms, online grade books, and conversations with parents, I have seen solid academic rigor, as well as innovative strategies. I have observed teachers spending late hours conducting research and collaboration on how to best serve our students. Our dedicated faculty work tirelessly to guide students to an understanding of not only basic fundamental knowledge in core subject areas, but also to create units, lessons, and assessments that challenge them to use higher order thinking skills and develop the mindsets they will need to be successful in a complex and challenging world.

As I read each teacher’s postings in Schoology, I am struck by the thoughtful and engaging construction of their classroom environments. During learning walks I have the distinct privilege of seeing their creativity and hard work come together. Here are some of the essential questions teachers are posing and students are answering. You may have seen these, too

5th Grade:
How does an adverb change a sentence?
What is the impact of having a compound part of speech in a sentence?
How does place value impact how we live? Comparing and ordering decimals?
Is there a relationship between the digits in a number?
How does technology improve our lives?
How can you solve an engineering problem?
How to perform a controlled experiment? What are some science tools?
How might we analyze writing for fact and opinion? In studying a text, how do we
ask questions on context clues, as well as, make predictions and inferences?
How does the development of customs and traditions help to define a culture and a people?
What is the impact of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on the social order and political order in the Middle East?

6th Grade:
In what parts of life do we use proper fractions, improper fractions, and Mixed Numbers?
How might we explain our set-up of certain situations involving factors?
How might we show our knowledge of factors within a certain time limit?
How might we use conjecture to broaden our math knowledge?
How might we decide which operations are needed to solve the problem?
How might we explain our method for solving a mathematical problem?
What are the benefits and challenges of working as an archaeologist?
How might outlining information aid in organization?
Why does conflict still develop?
How do new ideas change the way people live?
What is a primary source?
How Might We use word webs to enhance our written language, partnered with strong helping verbs, in order to support our writing?
What does Patriotism mean? How Might We understand what Patriotism means to me?
What is the Best Way to Find the Truth?
What do Folk Tales tell us about ourselves?
What’s the Story with Johnny Appleseed?
What is the language of science?
What is a system? How do systems interact?

7th grade
What does patriotism mean to me?  (from Veterans of Foreign Wars writing contest)
How is the American Revolution a demonstration of the need for human freedom?
How are revolutions and wars alike/different?
How do we learn to become better readers? What skills are involved? What does research tell us?
How do individual cells make up a system?
Why are cells small?
How might we connect/read in a way that impacts our empathy towards others?
Why do we need negative numbers?
How can you use a model to represent an equation with integers?
How are numbers related on a number line?
How might we create original stories in Spanish?
How do we use nouns and verbs in Latin to write sentences?

8th grade
What are the differences and similarities between civil wars and revolutions?
How can countries avoid the kind of bloodshed and devastation we experienced during our Civil War?
What is inductive reasoning?
What are the long terms goals that are achieved with solving multi-step equations?
What are the qualifications of a hero?
How do devices in our home utilize energy conversion?
How might we create a device that prevents energy transfer and keeps a popsicle cold?
How is heat transferred?
Why does a writer’s point of view matter in literature?
How might we share our writing with others and offer constructive feedback in order to become stronger writers?
How might we analyze the development of the main character and note the changes that take place from his youth to his adulthood?

Outside of the academic classroom, our students are learning a great deal, too. In chapel and in Christian education small groups, students are learning about what it means to have authentic faith, why it is important to serve others first, and how to draw lines related to moral boundaries. On Helping Hands Day, we reached out to the local community of Sandy Springs to construct outdoor classrooms, visit with the elderly, and create relationships with those who have special needs. Extending their citizen leadership skills, students ran for Student Council and delivered compelling speeches and presentations as they learned about democracy and the election process.

We have celebrated the accomplishments of our student athletes through the fall sports pep rally, as well as the All- School Homecoming Pep Rally. Our teachers have created and offered countless opportunities for students to explore their interests outside of the classroom starting with the 2nd annual club fair. We have had spirit days and monthly birthday celebrations, and our parents are collaborating with teachers to coordinate social events at Skyzone (Grades 5 & 6) on October 10 and a Fall Dance (Grades 7 & 8) on October 18.

Teachers met with parents on the Glenn Campus in grades 7 & 8 for conferences. Teachers on the Founders Campus in grades 5 & 6 will meet with parents for conferences on October 23 (details forthcoming). Also, teachers have made it a goal to create clear and helpful communication through Schoology, Power School, and Weekly Emails. Teachers are offering weekly tutorials before and after school to assist students in their learning. Tomorrow, team building will take place during retreats on campus (Grades 5-7) and at Camp Winshape (Grade 8).

My goodness. I have worked in several high achieving schools, but never in a school with a more robust and relevant offering for students. How blessed are we? I am proud of our students, our teachers, and our parents. I am proud of our community and its commitment to high standards of excellence. I am proud to be a Mustang!


Chip Houston
Head of Middle School


How Might Teachers Use Their Soft Power?

Soft power is a concept developed by Joseph Nye of Harvard University to describe the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion. Nye coined the term in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. He further developed the concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.

Put another way, soft power is essentially a country’s ability to gain global respect and influence through non-military means such as art, entertainment, product exportation, tourism, education, relief aid, etc. The term is now widely used in international affairs by analysts and statesmen.

Taking a page from the Innovator’s DNA, let’s ‘associate’ the concept of soft power with the classroom.

soft power

If teachers are leaders (I believe they are). And leadership equals influence (according to John Maxwell). Then, how can teachers increase their influence with students?

The answer is greater knowledge and usage of their soft power.

What are the soft powers of a teacher?
Traditionally, when thinking about teacher powers one might rank the power to grade and the power to discipline at the top. I would count these as hard powers. Soft power may be found in the following areas:

– Environment: How might we communicate an expectation non-verbally through the way we organize our desks, decorate our walls, post demonstrations of learning on bulletin boards, or be visible and present in hallways?

– Unit Design: How much influence do we gain or lose with students based on how engaging vs. irrelevant our lesson plans, assessments, and activities are? Do our students get the message of our passion for preparing them for the future vs. just doing a day job each day?

– Behavior Modeling: Want to see kids pick up trash after lunch? Model your expectations. Tired of students talking over each other? Demonstrate by not talking over them. Seeking to develop creative thinkers? Become a creative thinker yourself.

– Personal Connection: Show interest. Love kids. Ask them questions. Sponsor their clubs and coach their sports. Cheer them on.

– Opportunity Creation: Actively seek out or create opportunities for your students. Be their advocate. Let them stand on your shoulders. Advance them and position them for greatness.

– Communication: Be clear and consistent. Demonstrate preparation and thoughtfulness. Respond in time.

Soft Power vs. Hard Power
Soft power takes more time, energy and finesse. It is a skill to be developed and practiced. It is not limited to the items outlined above. In contrast, hard power is often easier and more expedient, but not necessarily as effective. Anyone can assign detention or silent lunch. Thousands of teachers use grades as a means to manage or control classroom behavior. It is the rare and highly skilled teacher who uses soft power to lead his/her students and actually gains the full commitment of their pupils.

How might you make greater use of your soft powers? What soft powers can you add to the list?