Differentiating at the Nonfiction Cafe

It seems that, wherever we go, we are always developing different ways to reach our students in order to help them achieve. In fact, it happened again just the other night when we met for dinner at a local restaurant. The restaurant is known for being quite a culinary experience. It is different from the steak and seafood restaurants our husbands love, and vastly different from the pizza parlors our daughters enjoy.

Once we were seated, we carefully began perusing the menu, looking for the entrée that would satisfy our palates. As we both gave our orders, we felt a sense of pleasant anticipation of what was to come. We had selected different entrées, similar appetizers, and the same beverage. At this point we both realized that, although we recognize the power of choice and decision-making in our personal lives, we rarely offer our students that gift in the classroom setting.

We understand that selecting foods in a restaurant is far different from learning in a classroom, but the idea of “choice” is the same and ultimately empowering to the individual. We would never expect all of our students to choose the same entrée from a menu; however, day after day we give students the exact same activity to complete without taking into consideration their learning styles or preferences. Why is that?

This need for choice led us to develop a learning menu that would be meaningful, flexible and empowering to each learner. Our “Nonfiction Cafe Menu” (see Resources below) can easily be integrated with any nonfiction text.

As indicated on the front of the menu, each student has $50 to spend at the café and must choose a balanced meal (i.e., one item from each category). As students peruse the menu and decide on an activity to complete, they inevitably choose a task that interests them, thus creating a desire to delve into their task with vigor. It is this power of “choice” that awakens the desire for all students to learn and ultimately succeed.


Nonfiction Cafe Menu
This menu can be printed and copied back to back (double-sided) for student use as a post-reading set of differentiated activities. See the directions for more information.

Nonfiction Cafe Directions
Directions for copying and folding the Nonfiction Café Menu.

Two Miles Below
Use the Nonfiction Cafe menu in conjunction with this month’s Feature Story, which explores how robots are helping scientists learn about a mountain range deep under the Arctic Ocean.

Two Miles Below Literacy Set
Everything you need to get started with the Nonfiction Cafe – print and electronic versions of this month’s Feature Story, Two Miles Below, and the directions and menu for the Nonfiction Cafe.

This article was written by Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

Copyright February 2010 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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