No Series: Differentiating with Learning Menus


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


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

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?


  • Private message to vanessa mooncotch

I am a big fan of student choice. I feel that allowing students to pick what activity they want to do lets them take control of their learning and it not only is teaching them the school material they need but it is also teaching them descision making skills and how to be confident in that. 

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  • Private message to Tsui-mei Tsai

1. The student choice gives learning ownership back to students. They can choose the countries that interest them to work on their projects. It is their decision not just any assignments from the teacher.

2. The graphic organizer, website, or brochure helps students to itemize the essential information they like to include in their projects. It will guide their writing in a sequential order and help students to grasp the big picture about the subject they write.

3. Ms. Vagenas organized the classroom into different stations. Students could choose the stations they wanted to participate. During the class, she circled around and answered students questions, or acknowedged their writings.

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  • Private message to vanessa mooncotch

I really like how you mentioned ownership when talking about the student choice. I am a big fan of students making their own choices because it makes the student feel like they have a say in their education.

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  • Private message to Grace El-Fishawy

So cool that the students can work at their own pace!


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  • Private message to Revordia Denson

I really liked how the teacher structured the lesson to where students were engaged.  I also liked the learning menu, how it guided the students far as the parts, which assisted the students to stay in sequence to complete the lesson.  

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  • Private message to Cassie Cline

I really like how this teacher structured her learning menu with the graphic organizer, timelines, eulogies, brochures, etc. This type of flexibility really allows students to choose what is best for them! 

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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


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