The writing menu has to be one of my most favourite things in the world. I introduced a writing menu in my second year of teaching, borrowing the idea from Mrs. Bainbridge's Class Website. I cannot even express how thankful I am to Mrs. Bainbridge and her website. It has essentially changed how I teach writing forever.
The menu is basically a checklist for me and the students based on the elements/strands of writing. It takes the strands of writing on the rubric and further breaks it down into smaller points. Scroll down for an example that I have from my own class. For example, under the organization strand, all students are required to use transitions (e.g. firstly, secondly, and lastly) when starting their paragraph to ensure the essay or story is well organized. This provides students an idea of what is expected from them, especially when ideating or drafting a piece of writing whether it is a fiction or non-fiction piece. It also serves as a guideline for them to know where to begin when they are confused or lost. That is why I refer to the menu almost every class and even provide them with a copy of their very own menu to use.
The menu does look intimidating at first. However, the trick is to not introduce the whole menu to the students, but rather to introduce different parts of the menu throughout the year. More specifically, teachers can put up a chart in the classroom with the six strands listed out using the writing rubric. Then, the teacher can add different aspects to the menu based on what has been taught and/or what is currently being taught (e.g. when I teach students the focus of using a conclusion, I would add that under the organization column for students to see as a new item on the menu). Although it is probably difficult to go through the whole menu in one year, the writing menu serves as a tool to guide students over the years.
Why Should Teachers Use the Writing Menu?
The most wonderful thing about this menu is that it allows the teacher to work one-on-one or in small groups with students. The teacher then works in conjunction with the student to think about what goals to set. Each point on the menu is a goal. For example, a student could be working on capitalization for a week and then get a new goal when that initial or previous goal is accomplished. It is up to the teacher to figure out how to provide a new goal based on the writing of the student. For more support on setting goals and conferences, please look here.