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Why I Love Authentic Performance Tasks

Years and years ago, I learned about creating authentic performance tasks for my students. As I learned more about them, I was like, Wow! These are fun to create and came to find out, my students LOVED completing them. Creating authentic performance tasks allow teachers to be creative and students a chance to stretch their little brains. You may be thinking, Oh, I know what a performance task is....well, an authentic performance task is a little different. Many people think a performance task is when a student makes something, say, you ask a student to create a graph based on a survey. Well, yes, that is a performance task. But it is missing important components of an authentic performance task....well, what is that you ask?


GRASPS what? GRASPS is the model that I like to use to create my authentic performance tasks or assessments. GRASPS is an acronym that helps me make sure I have included all the components. You can Google GRASPS performance task and find many links. Where did it come from? Well, I love some Wiggins and McTighe. Here is a link that you can check out briefly.
Goal- This is what you want your students to be able to accomplish. 
Role- What real world role will your students have? This is where I love to get creative...will they be a zoo keeper? An artist? A fashion designer? A journalist? Choose a role that will make sense to the task.
Audience- Who will students be addressing or presenting their project to? A city planning committee? The mayor? First grade students? Again, have fun and make sure it makes sense to the task and role the students will take on.
Scenario/situation- What is the context in which the task will take place? Here's the kicker, must be REAL WORLD connected. That's right, you need to give your kids a real world situation or scenario. 
Product/project- What is it that students are creating? Be specific, but also allow for variations or student choice.
Scoring rubric- How will you assess student work? Here I create a standards specific rubric describing exactly what students need to include in their project so they know exactly what I expect of them.

Example Please!

These tasks are a great way to ensure engagement of your students and not just compliance. I have yet to have a student not want to complete a performance task...are they easy for students? Well, I think they are challenging as the ones I design are usually cross-curricular, so students have to draw on knowledge from a variety of sources. 

Need an engaging idea for comparing and ordering decimals?  Have your boys design a dream baseball roster. Give them a printout of some of the best pro baseball players and have them select the players they want on their dream team. Include all positions and stats, and your boys can go through batting average, slugging average, ERA, saves, and so on and so forth. They can then write and explain their choices. Of course they will have to include knowledge of decimals. Or you could have a baseball draft instead! How much fun would that be?

Or maybe you want to assess your students on their knowledge of lines of latitude and longitude...instead of giving them a worksheet that has them write a the name of a city at a given set of coordinates, why not give them coordinates of past hurricanes so they can be meteorologists tracking a hurricane's path? I did this with our 3rd graders, and they really had a blast! I gave them a world map that had the lines of latitude and longitude, let them choose which hurricane to track, and let them have at it. Yep, it took some work on my part, but it was well worth it.

One thing I have come to learn, though, is that to create an engaging, authentic performance task takes leg work. Sometimes you have to have things made for students (like in the baseball example will need to have some stats ready). But the upside is that if they are standards-based, you can refine them for the following year. I definitely either keep a few exemplars or take pictures so my students the following year can see real examples. 

Here is an example from my Measuring Length Circus Animal Cage performance task. Students researched an animal and then created a traveling cage using measurements that would result in a roomy, comfy cage. Students then gave actual measurements of different features of their cage. 

Different Outcomes

At first I tried to control how the performance tasks would turn out....HUGE mistake! Now I sit back and watch. I have seen some of the most impressive projects as a result. With an authentic performance task, there is more than one way to complete a project, and no two projects will be alike. Sometimes I give our students a choice of roles they can take on. Here are some examples of when some students chose to be a landscape, fashion designer, or architect designing a monument. They were to measure lengths and compare measurements focusing on Washington, D.C. Click <here> to see this product in my TpT store.

This student chose to be a landscaper and added a new outdoor space. She added a garden, fruit orchard, a Snack Shack for hungry guests, a pond, and other items.

This student chose to be an architect and designed a new monument for Teddy Roosevelt. He felt like Teddy had great accomplishments with securing national parks for nature conservation.

This student chose to be a fashion designer. She not only included articles of clothing but also accessories. 

This student chose to be a fashion designer and created outfits for the First Family and included their pet dog. She measured pieces of the outfits in inches and centimeters.

I hope that you will give authentic performance tasks a try. The hardest part is getting started, but now I find ourselves driving home thinking of the new task for my students....and I know they love them, too, because anytime I tell them they have a new task, they try to guess what they will do next! Please feel free to contact me at if you need a little help getting started! If you want to check out some of the performance tasks I have in my TpT shop, click here!

Until next time!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Advent Calendar Over at Primary Chalkboard!

It's finally December! And you know what that means???? Aside from crazy students and the never-ending school day? :)

It's time for the Chalkies over at The Primary Chalkboard to do something really special for y'all!
So, what is it, you ask? We decided to put together a fun Advent Calendar! I can't tell you what's hidden behind each door, because, well, it's a surprise! Every day beginning TODAY, yes, you read that right, TODAY, head on over to The Primary Chalkboard to see which Chalkie is  offering what up as a surprise :) Check back EVERY day now until Christmas for a little special goodie! You can only get that special goodie for that one day! We know you are going to love the surprises we have planned :)

You can do it!!!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Bring History to Life For Your Students...and Integrate Reading into Social Studies!

If you recognize the first part of the title of this post, you most likely already know about an AMAZING resource called DocTeach. I have been using this resource for some time, and I feel like I have just barely scratched the surface! Like many of you, I have been teaching an integrated curriculum for many, many years. I have always believed that you teach science and social studies concepts at the same time you teach reading skills. You magically find more time in your day! For example (and I will be brief because this isn't the point of my post), my daily schedule my last year in the classroom allowed me to teach small reading groups and centers for an hour and 40 minutes, 75 minutes of math, 50 minutes of grammar and writing, and 50 minutes of science/social studies. Granted I was lucky because my lunch, recess, and specials all backed up to each other so I had minimal wasted transition time. My admin really wanted to lessen the 10-15 minute loss between grade level things such as recess and specials, so every grade level was fortunate enough to have their lunch, recess, and specials during one chunk of time.

Notice the one thing missing from my schedule? Whole group reading......not that I didn't teach whole group reading, because I did. While I firmly believe in meeting with small reading groups EVERY single day, even in the upper grades (small reading groups shouldn't just be a primary grades kind of thing, and it shouldn't be a "meet with each group once a week" kind of thing, either), I also believe that sometimes you have to meet whole group. I don't want to teach a main idea mini-lesson to each of my groups when I can teach it to the whole class for 15 minutes and be done with it (well, not "done" with it because we do practice that skill in our small groups and that is when I differentiate). But one year, a L.O.N.G. time ago, I realized that many teachers pushed science and social studies to the side because they weren't as "important" as reading, writing, and math. And I do think there are some teachers who still think this, and it is understandable because while science and social studies may be tested on an end of the year state exam, we all know that more emphasis is put on that reading and math score. But I knew, in my heart, that for some children, science and social studies is what they look forward to the most every day. I couldn't take it away from them. Enter integration of reading into the content areas. Something the Common Core encourages teachers to do. Which I love. And I hope more teachers are doing this today than yesterday. If you aren't integrating yet, you aren't sure how to, you are trying but can't quite seem to get it down, or you are but you need some fresh ideas, then keep reading!
I could write forever about how to integrate reading into the content areas, but for this post I will focus on social studies. So, now let's get back to my point of this post. There is this amazing resource called DocTeach. If you haven't checked it out before, I highly suggest you sit down this weekend if you have time, and just browse the site. Like I said earlier, I have been using it for a while, but I feel like there is still so much more I could be doing with it. Using authentic historical documents for teaching social studies isn't a new idea, but it is an idea that can be hard to implement because you have to find those historical documents. And then of course you have to write up the lesson you are going to teach using the authentic document, and then figure out the activity and is where DocsTeach is such a helpful resource. For starters, this site has thousands of historical documents that are easy to search for using parameters. Second, it has already-made lessons to use with specific documents. Third, you can build your own lessons!

Let's say you are currently teaching about the Civil War and you are also teaching the reading skill of differing point of views. You can use the "Comparing Civil War Recruitment Posters" lesson. This lesson includes 2 posters used during the Civil War to recruit African-Americans into either the Union Army or the Confederate Army. Students can compare and contrast the perspectives regarding the role of African-Americans during the Civil War. You just did double-duty of teaching your reading skill and social studies skill at the same time. Woo-hoo!

I am the type of teacher that likes to make my own lessons. However, the lessons on this site are awesome! For each lesson, you get the author of the historical document, an image of the document you can show on a projector or Smart Board (or if your school is a BYOT school, students can pull it up on their devices), the historical era, the reading skill, the historical thinking skill (for the above activity it is "historical analysis and interpretation"), Bloom's Taxonomy level, a synopsis of the lesson, AND author's notes which usually include higher-level questions to ask before/while/during reading of the historical documents (so for all you Close Reading fans out there, you can do a Close Reading of the historical documents, too!). Even I know that if I were to create a lesson like this, it would take me a LONG time. This is such a time-saver! And the best part is it really is a great activity! I am telling you, when I found this site, it was like hitting a gold mine or winning the lottery. Here is a screen shot of the above activity.
photo credit: 

And if ALL that weren't enough, if you create a free account, you can actually modify the lesson including blacking out part of the document, to make it fit your needs. So if you like the lesson, but feel like it needs something more, you can tweak it. It will then be saved in your account.

Let's say you would rather start from scratch, you can create your own lesson, too. You can choose which historical thinking skill you want and it will narrow down the tools that would be best to use (i.e. sequencing, finding details, compare/contrast). This is a great option for those of you who know a lot about your social studies topics and feel comfortable creating your own integrated lessons from a specific historical document.
photo credit: 

If you are even more adventurous, you might want to check out the National Archives Digital Vaults. I am fairly new to this site and have yet to use this site to create a lesson, but it is pretty cool how you narrow down what you are searching for. If you feel comfortable with just selecting a historical document and creating your own lesson, this site would be great for you. 
photo credit:

I hope I have given you either some starting points or some fresh ideas for integrating reading into social studies. If you already use one of these sites, I would love to hear how you incorporate them or what you think about them! I also love nothing more than helping teachers figure out how to integrate reading into the content areas, so if you would like help, tips, or suggestions, I would be MORE than happy to help you! I loved (and miss) my time as an instructional coach, so I would LOVE to help out! You can leave a comment below with your email, or you can email me at 

Thanks for letting me share one of my favorites with you all!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.
I do have some EXCITING news! I am going to be offering a free LIVE webinar next week! I will offer one training on Wednesday, July 27, and one more on Thursday, July 28. Both will be at 8pm EST. You can sign up {here} or the image below to save your seat. I hope to see you there!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Giveaway at Upper Elementary Snapshots!!!!!

I am SO excited to be helping kick-off a new collaborative blog that I was blessed to be invited to be a part of. Woo hoo! Seeing a need for upper elementary collab blogs, twelve of us decided to come together to contribute to bring you all some of the best ideas and tips we have used over the course of our teaching careers. Upper Elementary Snapshots was born! And to celebrate the beginning of something AWESOME, we all decided to pitch in $10 to each of our TpT stores, so that means one of you will win a $120 shopping spree to our stores. What could be better than that???? Aside from a Caribbean vacay??!!!! And if you are wanting to know just whose store you can shop in, be sure to check our out "Meet the Collaborators" page! While you're there, be sure to follow us on Bloglovin' so you can keep up with our latest posts, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, too, so you will always be in the know! And there is this little site called Pinterest that we are also on ;)

So, I know you are asking, "How do I enter to win this fabulous prize?" It's easy! Just enter using the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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BTS 2014 YouTube Party & Giveaway Bonanza!


I am SERIOUSLY excited (and a little bit nervous) about this post. 

You see, my blogging friends and I at the Primary Chalkboard wanted to do something BIG for back to school for you.

BIG I'm talking, BIG.

We decided to throw a party. Here is a hint.


It is a YouTube Partaaaaay! We are here sharing lots of tips -- organizational, DIY, helpful ideas-- lots of things you can do RIGHT NOW to make your back to school a little easier!

Would anyone like a....

$100 Amazon Gift Card
$100 TeachersPayTeachers Gift Card
A fabulous Michael Kors bag (you know, the one you want but can't justify spending the money for)?

I thought so.

So what do you need to do? 

Did you see that?

You can EVEN gain EXTRA entries in the giveaway by watching our videos and entering our SECRET WORDS into the Rafflecopter (but I know you were going to do that anyway, so... 2 birds, 1 stone).

We will be linking up 5 new videos every day this week... so you can come back, watch, and enter every day!
So, without further adieu, here is my video! I apologize for the camera work…my oldest son was taping me and the top of my head got cut off a couple of times :)