1. Organize your curriculum by Themes: Identify themes by asking yourself what links the knowledge and skills that students are supposed to master.
2. Collect examples of performance tasks at different levels of challenge relating to each theme. Start with the green level – what all students must know and be able to do at the grade level you teach. Then, set your sights on finding the most challenging problems imaginable within the theme and problems at difficulty levels somewhere in between the foundational and super-advanced levels. The wider your spectrum of challenge, the more significant and authentic will be the choices you’re offering to students. You’ll be amazed at what your most advanced students are capable of doing. Frequently, they’re only limited by the challenges teachers are able to devise for them.
3. Develop assessments that will represent the learning targets available for students on the instructional paths you lay out for them. Designing assessments ahead of time will allow you to tier practice assignments as you uncover the essential understandings all students need to learn.
4. Use practice assessments (quizzes) to give students the opportunity to preview what the level of difficulty will look and feel like. This will make students more comfortable when the time comes to select a color for their final summative assessment.
5. Strive to assign practice assignments that have been tiered for challenge. In this way, students are appropriately challenged throughout their learning, working towards their ultimate color choice destination as you move through the unit.
6. Sit back and watch your students rise to the occasion. Avoid pushing students into particular color choices. Maintain a long term perspective. Students will gradually fine-tune their decision making skills as they experience success or failure with the choices they select.
7. Allow students maximum flexibility to make choices and change their minds. For example, you may want to allow students to preview different challenge levels on the day of the final assessment prior to making their final choice. Without this freedom, students are more likely to opt for the conservative route. By remaining flexible, you’ll extend the window of time available for students to opt for the more challenging of the two options they’re considering.
8. After students take their summative assessments, encourage them to reflect on their performance with an eye towards improving their choices and/or work habits in the next unit.