We were previously discussing the book series “Differentiating Instruction With Menus” and I have to say, I love this set of books! They have them for LA, Math, Science, and Social Studies for the middle school grades, as well as one for each in grades 3-5. When I have a teacher I am working with that is teaching to the middle (average ability), I try to assist by suggesting pre-assessment (which will verify whether or not any student already has mastery of the upcoming subject material), and then trying to find (or create, if necessary) a corresponding menu that is of the same topic. In this way, the students who have already mastered the required material can still be working on the same concepts and ideas, but at a higher level. This really is a win-win for all because the student will be busy, hopefully engaged, and will be less disruptive to the rest of the class if he or she is not sitting and twiddling thumbs during your very exciting lesson about the American Revolution.
Menus are not hard work to put together, and can actually be used from year to year. Once you have created a menu for a certain topic area, make sure to keep it safe (or print it on cardstock and laminate) and you will have a resource that is even easier to implement the next year!
Menus can found in all sorts of formats, including a tic-tac-toe style, a list style, a choice board, extension menus, and/or learning contracts. When I use the term menus I am referring to all of the preceding. In my opinion, menus offer choices for students to interact with a given topic by varying the content, process, and/or product (which is DI 101). While the format may look different, in essence, they are just a DI lesson plan in a different template. The key with menus is not to force a specific choice, but rather give lots of options so that the student sees this as a learning opportunity, rather than “boring work that we are being forced to do.”
I will elaborate more on different versions of menus and how to create them yourself, but for those who would like a sneak peek at some today, feel free to click on the following images to (maybe) find a free file.
PS – menus are great for ALL students, not just your high functioning! Choice can really be a strong motivator for many children!
How could you use menus in your classroom next year? Sound off in the comments below!