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Use Activity Menus to Differentiate & Maximize Student Engagement

Charity Preston


DI Activity MenusEvery classroom has a wide range of student abilities – even if your class is already ability grouped.  You will likely have those that finish far before the rest, and those that finish last every time.  How do you combat behavior issues that may occur with this “downtime”? 

Activity menus can help keep all students engaged by giving curriculum-relevant choices to fill that time, and in those choices, students are still learning (rather than perhaps pretending to be reading a book or doodling).

Let’s Get Started!

I will break down the three easy steps for how you can make your very own activity menu for students in your classroom!  The best part?  You can reuse the same menu year after year – even if you loop as students may not always pick the same items!

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Step 1: Grab Your Menu Grid

Grab a blank grid template and add your point values across the top.  I like to use to 5, 10, and 20 points, but it can certainly be anything you prefer.  Students will know that by the end of a specific time, they will have to complete “X” amount of point. 

For example, I might assign students to complete 30 points by the end of the week (assigning it on Monday).  Of course, when first starting, start off with low points required and work your way up a little as the students grasp the work effort required.

Step 2: Choose Your Activities

Add some activities to the grid for students to complete. I try to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create ideas so that 5 point activities are in the Knowledge/Comprehension areas, 10 points include Application/Analysis tasks, and the 20 point items are for Evaluation/Synthesis activities. 

Then, I go back to my teacher’s manuals to find those little activities listed for the chapter or story of the week you never seem to get to.  I incorporate reading, science, math, and social studies ideas into my menu for added interest. 

Each activity should take about the time in minutes as the points listed on the grid. For example, a 5 point activity should take about 5 minutes to complete.  Keep those guidelines in mind when choosing activities and when assigning points needed to be completed by the students.

Step 3: Explain Your Activities Menu to Students

Now that you have the grid ready and any supplies needed for each activity out in a prominent location in the classroom, give the students each a plain two-pocket folder and the grid.  Take a few minutes to explain each of the choices and answer any questions now, so you don’t have to revisit the requirements later. 

Students will complete the menu as they have free time while waiting for others to finish or during those times when your lesson is finished up a little earlier than expected.  At the end of the week, students turn in their folders with work and you can either grade it or just mark it for completion.

Differentiation Made Easy

Using menus is any easy way to differentiate some of the ideas you may not have had time for in the regular lesson, and allows for student choice, which is also so important. 


How else can you utilize menus in your classroom? Share in the comments section!

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