In his overview of guidelines for gifted students, Dr. Levande lists “flexibility in assignments” as a key component in a gifted classroom. One way to build flexibility into your classroom is through extension menus.
Extension menus come in all different shapes and sizes (from tic-tac-toe boards to baseball-themed menu) but all offer students choices in how they demonstrate understanding. Menus can also give students a relevant, go-to assignment when they have independent time.
When To Offer Menus
- To students who have compacted or tested out of a unit or lesson.
- As independent activities for when students “have nothing to do.”
- During universal access.
- As a required part of a unit in any subject.
- As a structured way to delve deeper into content.
What Makes An Extension Menu?
- Students select from a set of possible assignments (3 to 9 choices is common).
- Students may be required to select more than one choice.
- Choices offer differentiated objectives.
- Choices are often grouped by complexity of thinking skill.
- Activities are independent so students have freedom as well as responsibility.
- A variety of options enable students to work in the mode that most interests them.
Establishing clear guidelines is essential in managing a program with extension menus:
- Set a due date (include it on the menu).
- Require the menu to be turned in with work (so you know what options were selected).
- Set a date when students must select their options (if menu is long term).
- Consider how you will handle missing menus.
- How will you grade work from menus?
- Always offer a variety of products – don’t rely solely on what that you personally “like.”
- Always offer assignments at all levels of thinking.
- Always make your directions clear – this is supposed to be independent work.
- Parents may be unfamiliar with menus, so introduce them at back to school or via a letter home.
Where To Get Ideas!?
The most difficult aspect of creating extension menus is thinking of a variety of activities. Consider using:
- The Differentiator, naturally :)
- Use depth and complexity and content imperative thinking tools to create up-leveled objectives.
- Check out Laurie Westphal’s [library of extension menu books](https://amzn.to/2WvBd8M).
- Explore David Chun’s product menu for ideas.
- Your own interests!
Extension menus require upfront work to build, but offer endless options for your gifted students. Make them a part of your classroom culture and you’ll enable students to interact with content in meaningful ways.
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