Student Choice Menus a very useful way to both differentiate student learning and strengthen rigor in the classroom. Recall that rigor is for ALL students, not just our high performers or our gifted students, so all students can benefit from this model.
Since all students have different ability types, it sometimes becomes difficult to create a project that will force all students to stretch their thinking but not lose or confuse anyone. Student Choice Menus are a viable solution because they can allows student choice yet meet each student where they are. They are great for easing students into STEM projects too because they allow students to “practice” having latitude in projects and “practice” students each working on different things.
Student Choice Menus can be created in a couple of ways:
Students are given a a tic-tac-toe board containing different tasks or explorations in each block. Students will then choose a “path” to complete.
Students are provided a list of choices in each category (Appetizers, Entrees and Desserts). Students are then asked to choose to complete a set number of labs, tasks, etc. in each category. The restaurant menu concept works well for younger students, but you might consider naming the categories differently for older students.
Students are provided with a lists of explorations, experiments, tasks, etc. Each one is assigned a point value based on its difficulty level. Students will choose enough items to meet the point requirement determined by their teacher. (This is a great way to differentiate by assigning different point requirements to students.)
Even though Student Choice Menus are more rigid than how we would normally teach a STEM unit, they are a great introduction to STEM units and projects as they provide a small bit of choice and latitude in comparison to the choice and latitude in a normal STEM unit.