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In this section, participants will learn how to create meaningful, leveled activities by planning for discussion questions, thinking prompts, and tiered lessons.


Quality questions are one of the most important tools in a Depth and Complexity teacher’s toolkit. Open-ended questions invite students to think critically, discover new insights, and share ideas. At times, crafting quality questions can be an overwhelming task for teachers and take a large amount of planning time. Leveraging the iconic prompts of Depth and Complexity and the Content Imperatives help educators to focus students on the content using specific lenses.

The following video provides teachers with easy-to-implement questioning strategies for a variety of classroom uses.

Tiered Lessons and Activities

Master teachers understand the need for planning lessons and activities using a tiered approach in order to provide each student with meaningful, intellectually stimulating, differentiated learning experiences.

The best place to start planning the tiered lesson or activity is with a Differentiated Task Statement for three levels of learners. The task statements set the stage for the framework of the lesson or activity. There are several questions that help teachers review the differentiated task statements:

  • Does the task make sense to both the teacher and the learner?
  • Is the task teachable given the time constraints, resources, prior knowledge, etc?
  • Is this task feasible to learn by students?
  • Is this task going to contribute significantly to the student’s understanding of the topic?
  • Will the student have the tools necessary to be in the “driver’s seat” and guide their own learning?

Next, teachers can look to the task statement to begin to establish checkpoints or benchmarks for students to use in assessing their own progress. Some checkpoints to consider including are:

✔for accuracy

✔ for creativity

✔for understanding of the terms

✔for thoroughness or comprehensiveness

A great planning template for a tiered lesson or activity is the Tiered Lesson Framework. This template allows the teacher to plan for a unit or lesson. There is space to identify the standard or standards covered in the unit or lesson. Teachers then determine the content, thinking skill, Depth and Complexity and/or Content Imperative, Resources/Process, and Product. This framework is very similar to the task statement with one main deviation: The teacher lays out the process steps and focuses on planning across multiple class periods or days.

The following document is an example of a tiered lesson. A differentiated lesson does not mean that the experience is entirely different for every learner. Instead, thoughtful teachers focus on changing one or two elements to meet student needs. This saves teacher planning time and offers students the opportunity to participate in similar learning surrounding the same content.