Saturday, May 30, 2015

Differentiated Instruction & Learning Menus

Learning menus are a great way to differentiate instruction for all levels of student readiness.  They offer students voice and choice in showing off what they know and can do with the content.  While learning menus take a little bit of time to create, keep in mind they usually require anywhere from 2-5 days for students to complete.  Here are a few helpful tips:

Learning Menus for ALL Learners:  Learning menus should embed activities to meet each student and his or her own level of readiness by providing a variety of levels from Depth of Knowledge or Bloom's Taxonomy.  Try to offer at least 3 levels of learning choices for students to choose from such as:
  • basic (lower level DOK/taxonomy)
  • proficient (mid level DOK/taxonomy)
  • mastery (upper level DOK/taxonomy)
  • advanced (upper levels that challenge advanced learners)
Learning Menus for Learning Styles:  Learning menus should provide activities that embrace a variety of learning styles from auditory to visual to kinesthetic.  Digital activities/projects are a great way to incorporate multiple learning styles.  Also consider offering a space within your classroom that allows students to work with manipulatives to reinforce learning objectives.  Maker spaces are another fun way for students to show off what they know and can do with the content.

Learning Menus FOR Learning:  Learning menus should be FOR learning, NOT for the accumulation of points
  • Are you encouraging point chasing?
  • Are you fostering knowledge seeking?
  • Are you providing feedback for impact?
*If you feel compelled to make a learning menu worth points that is OK!  However, these points should not be about assigning more points for the more challenging activities.  It should be about each student choosing activities to guide their learning thus evening the point playing field for all learners.  Consider each student's Zone of Proximal Development.  Did each student show growth for his/her own ZPD?  If this is the focus then learning, regardless the level of taxonomy, becomes an appropriate challenge for each learner.

Learning Menus for Student Voice & Choice:  Learning menus foster student voice and choice in how they learn and in showing what they know and can do.  In addition, they offer opportunities for the student and teacher to dialogue about student choice FOR learning.  With the removal of points and encouragement from student/teacher dialogues, students feel empowered to choose learning that will appropriately challenge them.  While learning menus offer multiple pathways for student learning, the teacher should remain open to other ideas students my have for showing off what they know and can do.

Types of Learning Menus:  Remember regardless the learning menu you choose, the menu should be structured in such a way for students to experience learning from basic to advanced.
  • Tic Tac Toe 
    • Think Tac Toe offers 9 activities for students to choose 3 in a row
  • Stoplight 
    • Red, Yellow & Green Zones expose students to various levels of learning
  • Sample Platter 
    • Students piece together activities to build foundational knowledge
  • Main Course 
    • Value Meal v Supersize Meal
  • Sides 
    • Dollar Menu v Premium Menu
  • Desserts 
    • Don't forget to add some fun while learning

The presentation below offers visuals of each type of learning menu from above. Please join #DI4all chats the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month at 7CDT for topics on Differentiated Instruction!