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Menus for the Classroom

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

Why is EVERYONE Jumping on Board With These?

One of the things I like to do in my classroom is to create a ‘menu’ of things for my students to accomplish at their own pace. I’m not the only one either. There is a TON of other educators constantly posting, tweeting, and writing about how these ‘menus’ or sets of assignments are making their classrooms more productive, improving test scores, and engaging students in a whole new way.

My students are not waiting on me at any point in the class, because they can move on to the next assignment. By having these assignments already set for them, they can move from one assignment to another with little to no guidance from me.

This takes lots of planning and preparation. I can find a number of articles to give my students using websites like commonlit.org, newsela.com, biography.com, and so many other wonderful websites that put out literature or texts for students. For more information on some of these articles check out are article Review of CommonLit.org: How to Use This Awesome Reasours in the Classroom and Most Successful programs for an ELA Classroom

These digital resources come in handy when setting up this menu. To give an example, each week, I can give students one specific text from our textbook. This text would have an assortment of assignments for them to complete as they finish reading it, including annotation or close reading activities, comprehension checks, and then analysis assignments where students work on more rigorous concepts such as theme development, structure of a text, or character development. This part of the ‘menu’ is the “meat” or “main course” where students have less choice.

But what do students do when they are stuck and need to ask questions, but I am already working with another student?

These moments are great times for students to pull out vocabulary sheets, grammar practice, or even independent articles to read and write about. These would be considered the “side dishes” or “desert” of the menu. This is where students get more voice and choice in what they do- so long as they do something.

Again, it would be impossible to allow students to look at anything, so I like to give them a short list of possible options. These can be either digital, or printed and kept in a specific location in the classroom.

Procedures and Expectations

The hardest part of this set up is teaching the kids to pull these assignments out when they are either finished with a set task, or when they are stuck. This takes a little time for them to understand when they can work on these things. I also stress the importance for students to complete these things in class and not do them for homework, but again, this is their choice. I have one major policy and that is, students are not allowed to ever do nothing in class.

These menus allow students to take agency in their education. This way they are the ones who are managing their time, and have more of a choice in what assignments to complete at any given time in class.

The Drawbacks

When setting up the class this way, it makes whole class discussion difficult, because students may be working on different things at any given point during the class. This can mess up your opportunities in which to deliver whole class instruction. I deal with this by setting due dates within the menu. They may have all week to complete the assignments as a whole, but they all need to get the main text read and assignments complete by Wednesday, which will be our review day. Before going over the text and discussion it, I may go around with 2 different colored pens and mark their papers as complete or incomplete, this way I know who finished the assignments on time, and who did not.

Another way to work around this, is to set up your menus per class, not per week. This way students know that by the end of class they need to have completed the main text, one secondary assignment, and four vocabulary term sheets.

I have also done this ‘menu’ with only a few days planned out; so instead of getting a whole week, or just one day, they may get three days to complete a set of assignments, and then I would have review on Thursday, and a quiz on Friday.

The best thing about these menu options is that it gives you time to focus attention to students who need more help, while not constricting your students who understand the basics and want to work ahead. There is no wrong way of setting up your menus, so long as it works for you!

Coming Next Week

Have you ever wondered about a better way to help your struggling students without having to devote yourself to them each class? Check out my article next week on how to set up video lessons to help students understand concepts in class. Record it once, and use as many times as you need!

If you like our suggestions, tips, tricks and so forth, please comment below, share our articles, and subscribe! You can follow us on twitter @kroppKjolly02 and @jessica_senesac or on Facebook Chalk It Up Communities

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