Professional Development

Videos designed for teachers rather than students.

Depth and Complexity – An Introduction for Teachers

Depth and Complexity is a powerful, but often misunderstood, framework for teaching students to think more like experts.

Writing Differentiated Lesson Objectives

My early lessons didn't even have objectives, let alone good objectives! Here's how to build four-part, differentiated lesson objectives.

Differentiate with Low Floors and High Ceilings

Start with high expectations and scaffold down.

Asking Questions That Make Students Think

Part 1 of Better Questions

How can we ask questions that make students think rather than just remember?

Difficult vs Complex Tasks

What separates difficulty from complexity? And why do complex tasks lead to much more natural differentiation?

Creating Sequences of Questions

Part 2 of Better Questions

Research has been surprisingly unclear about whether high-level questions are actually effective. Wait. What? The key is that high-level questions on their own aren't enough. We must create sequences of questions!

Why I Don’t Use “Create”

Why I don't use the word "Create" when writing objectives.

Why “Challenging” May Not Be The Right Goal

So many of us say, "I want to challenge my students!" But, that's probably not the best place to start.

Improving Wait Time

Part 4 of Better Questions

How much time do students get to think? How much time do students need to think? How can we bring those into alignment?

Lesson Makeover Event – Keynote

After looking at dozens of lessons folks sent in, I came up with three big ideas to address.

New Uses for Everyday Things

Here's how Joelle Trayers gets even her youngest students ready to think in unexpected ways.

Universal Themes

Universal Themes are an easy way to connect lessons, units, and content areas, even going across grade levels, and into students' personal interests.

Inductively Analyze Website Reliability

Rather than giving students rules to apply to websites, let them analyze websites to create rules.

Climbing Blooms with Depth and Complexity

Combine higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy with the prompts of Depth and Complexity!

An Inductive Exploration Of Geometry

With inductive thinking, students will work from parts to whole, discovering big ideas along the way!

Analyzing Conflict with the Content Imperatives

How to go deep into conflict using the Content Imperatives.

Multipotentiality: Excellent at Many Things

Why being good at many things can be a bit of a burden.

Teaching Criticism

Ask students to go beyond "I don't like it" and form critical opinions based on a set of criteria. Students can produce written arguments or turn their opinion into oral presentations.

Building Creative Confidence with the Torrance Tests

Here are a bunch of ways to quickly practice creativity with your students for zero dollars.

Students and Personality Types

How can our students be so different? And how can we help them to understand themselves and each other better.

Running A Group Investigation Lesson

Part 4 of Models of Instruction

Learn to lead a lesson that is built entirely on student curiosity.

Complex Task: Academic Tournaments

Who would win in the Tournament of Most Honorable Presidents or Least Useful Geometric Shapes or Bravest Shakespearean Characters? Create an academic tournament and watch your students' brains sweat!

Developing Questions that Prompt Thinking in Math

Part 3 of Better Questions

Math is a particularly tricky subject for asking higher-level questions. Here are a couple of techniques I've used to prompt students to think, not merely calculate.

Writing Concept Attainment Lessons

Part 2 of Models of Instruction

In a Concept Attainment lesson, we give students examples and non-examples of a concept -- without telling them what that concept is!

Content Imperatives

Learn to use the Content Imperatives, a set of five additional tools that work with Depth and Complexity.

Introduction to Puzzlements

The thinking behind my weekly Puzzlements mailer.

Brain Needs or Heart Needs

We think of gifted kids as only having academic needs, but - in their own words - they also have many needs of the heart.

Unexpected Intensities

Do you know a student who's a little bit… intense?

Building “Not Like The Others” Tasks

A delightfully ambiguous framework that is quick to prepare, but can last forever!

Complex Task: Subjective Graphs

What would it be like if students graphed characters from stories? Historic leaders? Elements from the period table? Objects in space?

The Curse of Knowledge and Checking for Understanding

How knowing your material well easily becomes a curse… and what to do about it!

Creativity Beyond The Fluff

Just because a task is "creative" doesn't mean students are at the top of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Explain Concepts with the Frayer Model

Giving a definition just doesn't cut it! Use the Frayer Model to explain (and assess!) vocabulary.

Who Asks The Questions? And Who Answers?

Part 5 of Better Questions

What would the pie chart look like for these three situations: the teacher asks the students, a student asks the teacher, or a student asks another student a question? I can tell you my pie chart would have been very lopsided.

Addressing Disorganization

Know any kids who, despite their brilliant minds, have a bit of a hard time keeping things in order, turning things in on time, or remembering to put their names on their papers?

My Top 5 Depth and Complexity Mistakes

I spent about a decade making some pretty major mistakes in my use of depth and complexity.

Introduction to Differentiation

When differentiating, most teachers simply start in the wrong place!

Complex Task: What Would X Think of Y?

Here's a simple task that will add complexity to any content from any grade level!


In some areas, a student may be shockingly advanced, while in others… surprisingly average. This is asynchrony in action.

Making Depth and Complexity Posters

Why buy premade posters when you can show off your students' thinking about Depth and Complexity?

Running A “Notice, Wonder” Lesson

Part 7 of Better Questions

Use these puzzling images to build a classroom culture that is comfortable with curiosity, ambiguity, and taking intellectual risks.

Meeting Gifted Students’ Social and Emotional Needs

How can you tell if your students' social-emotional needs are being met on your campus?

Depth and Complexity and Graphic Organizers

Let's see a few examples of how Depth and Complexity slides nicely into any graphic organizer.

Thinking Deeply About Famous Structures

Rather than just learning about one structure, let's climb Bloom's and think more deeply.

Start High, Scaffold Down

A high level of thinking also requires the support of thoughtful scaffolding.

Exposing Students to Classics

Some kids are exposed to a wide range of classic art, music, and films at home and others aren't. Let's even the playing field by quickly integrating classics into our lessons.

Updating Old Questions: Conflict and Character Change

Part 1 of Updating Old Questions

I update an old question about conflict and character change in the story Hatchet.

Updating Old Questions: Comparing Two Leaders

Part 4 of Updating Old Questions

How I'd upgrade a dull "which one is better" question.

Rethinking Extension Menus

Is creating nine, two-sentence tasks really an effective way to differentiate?

Models of Instruction: Inquiry Training

Part 3 of Models of Instruction

Want your students to ask better questions? Why not train them to inquire!?

Moving Students from “On-Level” to “Advanced” in Writing

What separates our on-level writers from our advanced writers?

Updating Old Questions: Name That Genre

Part 3 of Updating Old Questions

How I'd improve a low-level question about a story's genre.

From Summary to Synthesis

Here's how you can move from merely "summarizing a text" to a high-level task that culminates in synthesis.

Beyond Identifying a Story’s Problem and Solution

So your students can identify a story's problem and solution. Then what?

All About Pre-Assessment

A collection of helpful tips about differentiating through pre-assessment.

Updating Old Questions: Volcano from Two Perspectives

Part 5 of Updating Old Questions

How I'd break down and rebuild a task about judging a volcano.

Context Clues and Classics

How to use a classic to revamp a study of context clues.

Comparing Fraction Strategies

Comparing fraction strategies? Let's take it even further!

Engagement Isn’t The Goal

While "engagement" is fun, it shouldn't be our main goal.

An Introduction to Models of Instruction

Part 1 of Models of Instruction

As a new teacher, I only knew one model of instruction: Direct Instruction. I was like a chef who only knew how to deep fry!

Updating Old Questions: Pay Raise

Part 2 of Updating Old Questions

How I'd update a low-level, overly engaging math question.

Think Like a Disciplinarian (or an Expert!)

Here's how I got better at using the Think Like An Expert technique.

Graphic Organizers and Higher Order Thinking

A few quick tips on how to better use graphic organizers to support higher-order thinking.

Help Students to Memorize Anything

How to memorize the countries in Africa, the Japanese writing system, or a deck of cards.

Depth and Complexity: Patterns and Quadrilaterals

Why just "identifying patterns" isn't deep enough.

Assessing Differentiation Strategies with Student Products

Student products give an instant glimpse into whether differentiation is happening on your campus.

Assessing Differentiation Strategies With Walkthroughs

How do you know, when you're walking through a class, whether the students are receiving appropriate work?

Planning and Reflecting with Four Lists

Rather than adding more to your plate, think about what you want to stop doing.

Differentiation of the Environment

Lisa explains how Log Cabin Living changed her classroom environment. Sort of.

Improving Evaluative Questions

Part 6 of Better Questions

How to improve questions at the "evaluate" level of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Misconceptions About 🏛️ Big Idea

For too long, I let my students turn in blah Big Ideas. Here's how I fixed it.

Depth and Complexity Walkthroughs

You're implementing Depth and Complexity, but how do you know if you're doing it well? Five things to look for.

Comparing Strengths and Weaknesses

Go beyond merely explaining strengths and weaknesses and get students thinking in interesting ways.

Big Products, Little Thinking: Wax Museum

A big, impressive product doesn't mean that there was big, impressive thinking.