Typhani Harris | June 2014

Creating Your Own SBAC Styled Performance Task

With our shift to Common Core, everyone is hustling to prepare for the new assessments. However, like usual, the arts are an after thought (I guess we should be used to this, but it never feels good). We are often pushed aside to make way for tested subjects. Although this is frustrating, these new assessments do offer an opportunity for the arts to get more involved, support the tested subjects, and ultimately endorse the Common Core transition.

Creating Your Own SBAC Styled Performance Task, Education Closet

The new Common Core assessments still involve the traditional multiple choice, but have now added constructed response and a performance task. Innately the arts require students to think beyond the first levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy or Depth of Knowledge (DOK), which is the expectation of the constructed response assessments, but another opportunity we have to support the Common Core assessments is through the production and delivery of performance task assessments. I’m sure we are all feeling the push for informational text, so why not incorporate that into our arts classrooms? Last week I discussed the gist of the SBAC performance task, so now let’s discuss how to create similar tasks for our arts classes. The following is a brief step-by-step guide for designing a performance task modeled after SBAC.

Step 1

Determine a topic. Use your current lessons to inspire writing topics for your performance task. For example, if you are completing a unit on a specific modern technique, make the topic about that technique, or if there is an issue that your students are dealing with (i.e. body image, social media, bullying) you can connect it to your art and build an applicable performance task.

Step 2

Determine the purpose and audience for each part. One characteristic of the SBAC performance task is that the purpose and audience change requiring students to alter their focus and vernacular. Some examples of final products are: Essay, report, story, script, speech with/without graphics, other media. When creating your task, begin with the end in mind. The goal is to get students to demonstrate the ability to think and reason, use higher-order skills, produce fully developed writing, and provide evidence of college and career readiness. So build tasks that involve real-world situations.

Step 3

Address the 4 SBAC claims: read, write, language, and research.


Begin building stimuli for the reading portion. Stimuli can include: Informational Text, Literature, Poetry, Blogs, Video clips, Audio clips, Graphs, Charts, other Visuals, be creative…it’s what we do! Prepare anywhere from 4-7 stimuli for the students to read. Remember, they do not have to read one from each category, but variety is key. Use stimuli that are applicable to the lessons currently presented in your class.


Compose  Part I of the performance task, addressing audience, purpose, and product.
Compose Part II of the performance task, altering audience, purpose, and product. Remember to involve real-world situations.

Finding the Time

The SBAC performance task suggests a 20-minute in class discussion, then 50-70 minutes to work on Part I, and another 50-70 minutes to complete Part II. Often, in the arts classroom, it is difficult to find this much concentrated time when we are also preparing performances, perfecting technique, and practicing theory. Personally, I like to introduce the stimuli (informational text, literature, pictures, graphs, videos) during the semester, as applicable, and then use the performance task as a written final. This way students still participate in a performance task, whereby supporting Common Core, but without deviating from our responsibilities as a performing art.


This is a sample of my students’ semester II final. The stimuli were introduced throughout the semester, and Part I and Part II were completed on different days during the week of finals. This performance task addressed the SBAC claims: read, research, write, language.  You can find more samples like this in our online class, Assessment for Makers – be sure to check it out!

Read/Research: students were introduced to an article, a blog, videos, and pictures throughout the semester and were required to take notes (often on their own time). Students were even taught a little about quantitative and qualitative research and performed their own quantitative/qualitative studies by way of  interviews/surveys on body image and dancers throughout the semester.

Write/Language: students were required to utilize the stimuli and their personal studies to address a real world situation. I have found that the closer to home the problem, the more invested the students. For example, the names, organizations, and situations are real. Students could google the organization, the gala, and the people…and they are all real, which provides a greater investment on the part of the students.

Click here for a sample Body Image Performance Task  feel free to adjust the specifics and use it as your own!

This process allowed me to introduce the stimuli and administer the performance task without taking away from the responsibilities of our dance program. Of course, if I am giving a written final on the day of finals,  the question of where do the movement finals come into play is applicable. When it comes to finals, I actually administer all movement finals the week prior to the traditional finals week. Each day students are tested on a different genre that was practiced throughout the year, thus freeing up the actual finals day(s) for the written component.

Some More :)

I have presented multiple workshops on designing performance tasks this year, but I will be presenting one more at the NDEO national conference in November (www.ndeo.org). However, if you wish to view other samples of performance tasks I have created please visit www.typhaniharris.com and click the Performance Task Samples tab. I will continue to update the site as I build new tasks. If you would like personal help designing your own, please contact me. I would love to help!

Next Week: Teacher Talk

They Lied To You: the truth about becoming a teacher

Most colleges and universities have extensive teacher preparation programs.  But unfortunately….it’s all theory!  Here is the truth about becoming a teacher!

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.