Menus: Providing Choice in the Classroom Increases Engagement

Article by Jennifer Stadtmiller

Keeping students engaged in a lesson is a great challenge for many teachers. According to Marzano in his book, The Highly Engaged Classroom, “If students are not engaged, there is little, if any, chance that they will learn what is being addressed in class. … Student engagement happens as a result of a teacher’s careful planning and execution of specific strategies.”

Marzano has several different strategies to assist with student engagement, but my favorite is simple: choice. Allowing students some control to choose what they want to produce engages the students in the material they learn. According to Marzano:

Choices of task, reporting format, or learning goal allow students to take control of their learning and make decisions that ensure personal interest in their assignments. To provide a choice of task to students, a teacher can provide multiple task options on an assessment and ask students to respond to the one that interests them most. Similarly, a teacher can provide students with the option to choose their own reporting format. The two most common reporting formats are written and oral reports, as they can be used with most subjects. However, students may also choose to present information through debates, video reports, demonstrations, or dramatic presentations. To give students a particularly powerful choice, a teacher can ask students to create their own learning goals. When giving students the option to design their own learning goals, a teacher should hold students accountable for both their self-identified learning goal as well as teacher-identified learning goals for that unit.

When I was teaching, I found choice menus the greatest ways to provide choice and increase engagement in my classroom. Choice menus can be created or found for any topics in across all content areas. For example, here is a Tic-Tac-Toe menu for Fraction, Decimals and Percents:

Menus come in all different forms. Some emulate an actual food menu. Here is an example of a Photosynthesis menu:

Both of these menus were found free online at Dare to Differentiate, but there are books that provide menus as well. Prufrock Press has a series of Differentiating Instruction with Menus books in all four content areas, including some books targeted for inclusive classrooms.

Students love the opportunity to choose what they are doing in the classroom and the ability to be creative! The most amazing projects came from choice menus, including games, videos and songs students created that I kept and shared with new students for several years after.

Heflebower, T., Marzano, R., Pickering, D. (2011). The Highly Engaged Classroom: The Classroom Strategies Series. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research Library.


  1. Marie Earnhart says:

    Menus work great in the classroom. Students like having choices.

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