Performance Tasks – Open up the Learning Possibilities for your Students at Home!

If you’re reading this, you probably already know that AAC has a collection of performance tasks on our website, designed for teachers to use with their students in class. Maybe you’ve even used some of them in the past. Some tasks are available only to AAC members, but there are others, particularly in middle grades social studies and high school mathematics that have been developed through Alberta Education grant funding that are available to the public.

In our ‘new normal’ of distance learning, performance tasks are a great way to provide your students with something a little different to do at home, that still keeps them focused on important learning. You’ll likely want to make some adjustments, but you can make performance tasks work for your students at home!

First of all, if you haven’t already, you might want to start by reading a recent Assessment Talking Point about performance assessment: What’s all the fuss about performance assessment? Many of the tips in that post will be important to remember now.

A good performance task is open-ended, providing entry points for students at all levels. It focuses on big ideas and important learning, but for now at least, step away from the rubric! There is no need to grade these tasks in any way. Instead, look for ways in which your students can share their learning with you, their classmates, and any other audiences you can envision. It’s not about the grade. In fact, it should never have been about the grade, but that’s a topic for another day!

So… here are the new Top Ten Things to Consider when using performance tasks through at-home learning.


Find a task you think might be appropriate for your students and doable with materials likely to be available at home. Don’t feel constrained by grade level, particularly in English Language Arts. Many of the AAC ELA tasks can be transported to other grade levels with some minor adjustments for grade-level outcomes. A few tasks are listed at the end of this post that might provide a starting point for your explorations. 


Simplify the chosen task as much as is reasonable. A short, simple task will be much more likely to succeed than something complicated and involved. All the tasks and support materials download as word documents, so you can modify them as needed. 


Take a look at the rubric. The assessment criteria will give you a good idea of the learning focus of the task. But don’t even think of sending the rubric home to families! Instead, think of how you might turn it into a tool for student self-reflection. For example, you could remove the four levels, provide descriptions that unpack the assessment criteria, and then ask students to identify where their work is strong, and what they might do next to improve it. 


Think about which parts of the task are most likely to cause challenges for your students. Many of the tasks come with scaffolding tools that help break down complex thinking skills. In other cases, you might be able to create an organizer or some purposeful questions to help your kids. Anticipate problems, and do your best to get ahead of them. 


Set a flexible time frame for the task, and if possible, provide students with some platform through which to share their work and thinking along the way, with you, as well as their peers. Is it possible to provide opportunities for your students to receive feedback, either from you, their peers, or someone at home? The scaffolding tools with many of the tasks have been designed for exactly that purpose.


Hmm…we keep mentioning scaffolding tools! You can tell that we value them a lot! Sometimes we call them formative assessment tools. If you haven’t spent much time with scaffolding tools before, this is definitely the time to do so! There are scaffolding templates available to AAC members on the website. If you are not from an AAC member jurisdiction, many of the tasks in middle grades social studies are in the public section and have scaffolding tools that you can adapt for any subject and grade level.


Provide a way for parents, guardians, and care-providers to contact you if they have questions. 


Encourage students to share their finished projects – audio recordings, photographs, videos, and written work. Celebrate  each student’s contributions, finished or not! Celebrate the parents, guardians, and care-providers for their support and guidance!


Normally, we like to see performance tasks that are completely the child’s own work. That’s why we recommend they are done in school. But in this new normal, parents working with children on an engaging learning challenge will yield so much more than a product! Positive parent-child relationships focused on completing a learning challenge will create memories that will last for years. And like we said – it’s not about the grade!


We have modified the AAC Terms of Use to allow teachers to post student materials to their electronic classroom portal. This new permission is for individual teachers, not jurisdictions (see pp. 2-3 of the pdf document for details). This is a great time to spread the word within your jurisdiction and take another look at all the great things AAC has available to support effective assessment and learning – especially during this time.

Here are a few performance tasks from the AAC website to get you started. Search by subject and grade at this link. If you are an AAC member, login in first to make your browsing experience easier!

Remember that many of the tasks can easily be adapted to other grade levels, and there are over 250 tasks to explore, from Kindergarten to Grade 12!

  • My Dragon is Lost (Kindergarten ELA): Create a poster for your missing dragon.
  • Lights, Camera, Action! (Grade 1 ELA): Prepare a video preview of a book you’ve read.
  • Animal Sanctuary (Grade 1 Science): Construct a model of a safe place for a rescued animal to live.
  • The Snowman Shop (Grade 2 Math): Make and measure hats, noses, and arms for your shop, and then create snowmen.
  • Fairy Tale Festival (Grade 3 ELA): Create a diorama, comic strip, or illustration representing your favourite part of a fairy tale.
  • EcoCar Challenge (Grade 4 Science): Design, construct, and test a model for a wind-powered vehicle.
  • The Petting Zoo (Grade 5 Math): Create a layout for a petting zoo, with 3 rectangular enclosures.
  • Coming Soon – Class Election (Grade 6 ELA): Gather information about a famous person you would like to nominate as class president.

If you decide to use a performance task with your students, we’d love to hear about the experience. Please feel free to contact AAC anytime. And please, stay safe and connected ‘by a distance’ out there. We are all in this together!

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