The second semester is an excellent time to re-energize your classroom. Menus are a great way to add some challenge and pizzazz to your everyday mathematics curriculum and can be created for a variety of purposes and include a variety of activities. This month, I will be sharing some of my favorite math menu resources with you.
What is a menu?
A menu is a content-focused set of options from which students choose activities and tasks on which to work. Students receive a menu for a specific time-period, such as a week, for a particular unit of study, or for a grading cycle. It provides instant opportunities for differentiation because students choose which activities they would like to complete based on their own interest and ability levels. For this reason, menus make for a fantastic fast-finisher tool.
When I first started using menus, I read a book as a guide for creating them. The book is called Differentiating Instruction with Menus (click the link to find out more about it). There are several versions of this book for a variety of subjects and grade levels. It has templates for a variety of menu types and many product ideas as well. I typically utilize the book for the menu template ideas and some of the product-types to create activities to reinforce the menu’s included skills. I then tailor the menus to emphasize critical thinking skills and reinforce grade-level content. I may also include a favorite project or task that I do not have time to use during the unit of study.
Now to the fun part! Each week during the month of January, I will present a new menu, provide examples of how to use it, present advantages and disadvantages, and share sample work from past students.
Today’s menu is called a choice board. A sample choice board is shown in the images below.
|This image illustrates the actual choice board.
|This image illustrates the product guidelines and requirements.
How to Use It
To complete this board, students need to complete all of the activities in a column, row, diagonal, or the four corners. For the “Free Choice” space, students submit an idea for approval. The idea can be a task from one of the other spaces as long as it provides the desired level of challenge as determined by the teacher.
The best thing about this menu is the free space. This gives students the opportunity to include a task that is of interest to them. Often times, students select a path that includes the tasks with which they are most comfortable, but there may be another task on a different path that is of interest to them as well. The free space also provides students with the opportunity to infuse some creativity in the task.
The other great thing about the choice board is its simplicity. This board is an easy board to get you started with menus. All you need to do is select eight tasks to include on the board, write the product details, and you’re off. This board is also very visually easy to follow and tends not to intimidate students with its simple completion guidelines.
The most difficult element of this board is task placement. Because students can decide to complete a row, column, diagonal, or the four corners, some students may look for the path with the easiest tasks to complete. For this reason, it is important to think about the placement of the tasks before giving the board to your students. You’ll notice that I have strategically placed the content-specific tasks in specific locations so that each path includes at least one content-specific product. I also consider the difficulty of the tasks so that no path is significantly easier or harder than another path.
On that same note, even though this menu is called a choice board, students actually have less choice than with other menu types. For this reason, I try to include choice within the products themselves. You’ll notice that students get to choose the puzzle they create, Marcy Cook tiling task to do, or content to include with their product.
Student Work Samples
|I Have, Who Has? Cards
|AIMS Blockout Puzzle
|War-style Card Game
Made with the Discovery Education Crossword Puzzle Maker site