Common core State Standards

  • ELA:  English Language Arts
  • RH:  Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • 6-8:  6th through 8th Grades
  • 2: 
    Determine the central ideas or information of a
    primary or secondary source; provide an accurate
    summary of the source distinct from prior
    knowledge or opinions.

Download Common Core State Standards (PDF 1.2 MB)

Differentiating with Learning Menus
Lesson Objective: Learning menus help Ms. Vagenas differentiate for students
Grade 7 / Social Studies / Differentiation

Thought starters

  1. Why is student choice an important part of differentiation?
  2. How does the structure of an assignment (graphic organizer, website, brochure) help students summarize content?
  3. How does Ms. Vagenas assess student learning after each phase of the project?

Great! I really liked the entree options.

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  • I like the idea of the Learning Menu.  Giving students a choice is an important part of differentiation because it allows them to work in a way that they feel they learn best, thus giving them more ownership of their learning.  The structure of an assignment guides students toward understanding how topics in a specific content area are related to each other and the world.  It forces the student to think about specific topics and apply the knowledge that they have just read about.  I think that it truly aids in the synthesis of the material they are trying to learn. Ms. Vagenas checks students learning as they complete assignments by giving quizzes at the end of each part of the "menu."  One of my concerns with the Learning Menu is the time that it would take for students to complete an entire "menu."
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I clicked on this video because I was curious about what a learning menu is and how it supports students' learning. I wished that I had something like this when I was in high school because my friends and I, we all tried to rush through everything to meet the deadlines. The learning menu is a great way to differentiate instruction because it gives students a choice about what they want to work on. Therefore, they will do activities that match their levels. Also, it lets students work at their own pace. Therefore, they have time to process the materials they're learning as well as enjoying the activities, which incorporate several content standards and skills. Overall, the learning menu makes it easier for the students to expand their knowledge, also for the teacher to assess students' learning at each stage. 

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How long did this choice board take the students to complete? How much time did you allot for this to be done? 

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I had the same question. I think it is great that students have choice, but what is your pacing and time allotment for completion?

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Students have different learning styles and differentiation allows for student choice in demonstrating their understanding.  Using structures such as a graphic organizer or a brochure helps students organizie their own understaning of a concept or project.  They can see if they are lacking and go back to do more research, or chose to get whatever grade they want depending on their willingness to do what is expected for each outcome. Using a rubric helps students track their own points and judge their own demonstration of learning.  It makes grading easier for the teacher.

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Student choice is an important part of differentiation because it allows the student the option to go at their own pace.  They are able to do different sections and different choices according to what interest them.  Different literacy skills are addressed during these lessons also.  Graphic organizer and website helps students to summarize in their own words, and this demonstrates how well the student knows the information learned because they have to be able to synthesize or place into their own words.  Ms. Vagenas assesses the students after each project or phase by students having to test out at the end of each lesson.  They cannot move to the next stage if they do not pass the quiz to move on.  Wonderful -- learning menu.  My first time ever hearing of this but I like it.  

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  • 01:00:00 TITLE OPEN
    01:00:04 VAGENAS: My name is Mary Vagenas, I teach seventh grade US History at the Queens School

    01:00:00 TITLE OPEN
    01:00:04 VAGENAS: My name is Mary Vagenas, I teach seventh grade US History at the Queens School of Inquiry in Flushing, New York.
    01:00:09 VAGENAS: All right ladies and gentlemen, I need your undivided attention for a few minutes and then we’re going to continue working on our learning menus.
    01:00:21 VAGENAS: The learning menu is a compilation of different activities specifically differentiating instruction for various different learners while building upon various different literacy skills.
    01:00:31 GIRL 1: I like it because there’s um lots of options and you get to work at your own pace, because a lot of times um, during projects, people often rush you so that you have to finish during a certain time and this is due this time and this is due that time, but right now you get to work at whatever pace you want.
    01:00:50 VAGENAS: Just like on a regular restaurant menu you have different sections, where you get to choose an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert, and so the menu has been designed in exactly the same way.
    01:01:03 VAGENAS: The way that you go about completing a learning menu is that you choose an appetizer, you work on that. There are different literacy skills that are being addressed for these specific activities.
    01:01:12 BOY 1: I did the timeline first.
    VAGENAS: Let me see? Well what else are you doing for section three?
    01:01:17 VAGENAS: Once you’re done with your appetizer you walk over to your teacher, they check it, you receive a grade for your appetizer, you move on to your entrée.
    01:03:30 BOY 1: Um, I’m on, um, section three, uh tr- it’s the outline. I’m making everything like short and in bullet form to make it easier for me.
    01:01:39 VAGENAS: The entrée is pretty much, it provides a deeper understanding of the content. Once they’ve demonstrated that they can do the work and they’ve understand and mastered the content, they then have to quiz out of it.
    01:01:53 VAGENAS: How’s it going?
    01:00:54 VAGENAS: They can’t move on to the next section of the chapter unless they fully complete the quiz.
    01:02:01 VAGENAS: If I want to trade with somebody and there’s desert all around me, is that difficult? So what would make it easy for me to transport goods? Look here. What’s that blue line that’s cutting through?
    GIRL 2: Oh Niger River. They use the Niger River.
    01:02:14 VAGENAS: Once they’re done with all the sections, they then have to work on their desert, which is an overview of the entire chapter.
    01:02:22 GIRL 2: Um the learning menu is very helpful cause I usually skim read and I don’t really pay attention to most of the important parts, so then when I um, when I use the learning menu I get most of the important parts and what I really need to know.
    01:02:35 VAGENAS: As far as the entrées go they have the choice of graphic organizers, brochures, timelines, eulogies.
    01:02:45 GIRL 1: I did a graphic organizer which is this one right here.
    01:02:52 VAGENAS: The graphic organizer distinguishes between relevant and irrelevant information, but at the same time it allows for students to paraphrase the information to demonstrate understanding of the content.
    01:03:03 GIRL 1: And you take the main ideas that you read from the text and you put them all right here in bullet points. This one is about early mezzo-Americans and South American people.
    01:03:13 VAGENAS: Graphic organizers are really there just to structure their writing.
    01:03:21 BOY 2: I was doing African Kingdom website for section three, so I looked on the board to see what I was supposed to do. Over here is going to be the three different, um, the three different West African kingdoms and historical information on all three. Then over here it’s going to be like a whole map of the whole thing.
    01:03:41 VAGENAS: They have to follow the basic structure of a real website. They layout is used to guide their writing.
    01:03:47 GIRL 2; I’m doing the website. When I, um, when I was reading, I like basically summarized the most important parts like their trading and their religion. But I figured out that, um, how um trading was easier cause it was mostly dry so they used the Niger River.
    01:04:04 VAGENAS: The travel brochure required that students persuade people to visit the West African kingdoms. By them using their own words to explain the content, that’s a sign of mastery.
    01:04:17 GIRL 3: I’m making um travel brochures and it’s about ancient African kingdoms. This is the title, um it has all the kingdoms here, and these are the accomplishments and what they did. The most important thing that all the African kingdoms used was trade because they had all the goods and they were able to thrive, the kingdoms.
    01:04:38 VAGENAS: Ultimately, the target goal for this year is that they’re able to read and write and think and speak critically about global topics. And that’s how you complete a learning menu.
    01:04:51 CREDITS

School Details

Queens School Of Inquiry
158-40 76th Road
Queens NY 11366
Population: 552

Data Provided By:



Mary Vagenas


Teaching Practice

All Grades/ All Subjects/ Culture

Teaching Practice

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