Reading Menu Projects

This year I’ve had the opportunity to work with a fifth grade reading group. My day consists of almost all math instruction, so having a reading enrichment group is something different. I appreciate the different subject matter as I tend to look at most content through a math lens. The group meets every day for about 30 minutes. This is my third year teaching this  group and I’ve become more familiar with the resources every year.

I find that each year brings new ideas and this year is no different. I always tend to ask question about making relevant connections to the content that I teach. This year my students are studying Hamlet. They’re not delving too deep into the original text. In fact, we’re reading this book and have been exploring Hamlet for the past month. It’s been an exciting journey. Along with reviewing the play, the class used a character map, learned about Will, and viewed clips from a contemporary portrayal of Hamlet with David Tennant.

The class is now in the final stretch of our Hamlet unit. So, for the last unit I decided to try something different. Ideally, I’d like to have students remember Hamlet when they encounter it again in a few years. I decided to use a menu board approach.  Each student picked one project below.

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The class then reviewed a criteria for success rubric. Honestly, the rubric seems quite intense at first. But in all fairness, I needed to have a rubric that actually encompassed all of the menu items.

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I made sure to have the students review the part on the left side. In that past, I’ve found that sometimes students might pick a project that is less challenging. I was hoping to be proven wrong with this project.


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Students “signed-off” on the project and were committed.  I find value in having students actual write that they agree to the criteria.  I think it adds an ownership element that isn’t always there.  It also reminds me what resources to pick up before next class.

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I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of the menu items were picked – some more than others.

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Students were then given the remainder of that Monday to work on the projects. Near the end of class I told the students the plan for the rest of the week.  They had the next four days to complete their menu item. My job was to gather materials and the technology that was needed. I had to find more technology since my school isn’t 1:1. I begged and borrowed from the other teachers in my building to get enough Chromebooks and iPads to make the projects feasible. Priority for iPad and Chromebook use was given to the stop-motion-video and board game creators. I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of my kids wanted to create a video game using Scratch.  One of my favorites was a duel between Hamlet and Laertes, where Hamlet always wins.

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Near the end of the week most students were finished, although a few voluntarily came in during their recess to finish up the project. The next Monday was designed for feedback.

Over the weekend I created a Google Form for student feedback. Students scanned the code when they entered the class.  Each student filled out the feedback form and reviewed another student’s project.

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You can view the sheet here. Currently, the class is halfway through giving feedback because we’ve had a slight interruption because of Parcc testing. Tomorrow the class will be giving additional feedback. My plan is to print out the feedback and give the responses (without the names) to each student. The authors will then have an opportunity to analyze the feedback and give responses as needed.

The student engagement for this project was top notch and I was impressed with the quality of work produced.  This reading menu has me wondering how a menu system could be applied in the math classroom.  So far, I haven’t had as much success with a menu in the math classroom.  I’ve used choice boards, but they haven’ been anything spectacular. Anyone have success with this?  This topic is something to ponder before heading off into spring break next week.

Project Options for Hamlet

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This year I’ve had the opportunity to work with a reading enrichment group.  It’s different for me, as I’m used to working with math students for most of my day.  The class has been exploring a few different novel studies this year and just finished a unit on Hamlet.  We spent about two months discussing the characters in Hamlet and the play in general.  They read this book to initially get an overview.  We also watched portions of RSC’s rendition of the play.  Students enjoyed this so much.  They kept on asking to see the next part of David Tennant’s dialogue. I’ll admit it, its been challenging for the students, but there’s been so much growth.  Looking back, I’m impressed with how well the students have persevered while learning about the play.

Introducing new content and then reviewing that content with some sort of project has been a good recipe for this Hamlet unit.  It’s a complicated subject and reviewing content periodically has helped students remember Hamlet a bit better.  We had two projects and one writing prompt that seemed to help improve the students’ understanding of the play.


Students used Storyboardthat for one of the Hamlet projects.  I actually stumbled across the site when someone mentioned it at a local edcamp.  Student teams were assigned particular pages to complete with the rubric below.


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Students worked in groups of two to complete each storyboards.  The majority of student teams used Chromebooks to complete their boards. The boards were put together to make one complete storyboard.

Character Map

The second activity related to creating a character map.  Students were asked to create a character map on large paper or in a digital form.  Students needed to include the character name, relationships, cause of death, significance to plot and a hashtag that summarized the role.  The kids enjoyed putting together the map and loved the hashtag piece.


I’m in the process of laminating the posters and will be hanging them up in the room in the next week or so.  You can find the character map activity here.

Writing Prompt

The third activity emphasized the writing component of the class.  I believe in giving students a choice in their assignments.  Sometimes that’s possible, and other times it’s not.  Students are asked to reflect on the play and answer one of the three questions.


Students were given a rubric and asked to give evidence from the text to support their reason.  Every student finished the writing prompt in two sessions.  The next day I was able to review the assignment with the kids.  Some had to revisit and redo, but the majority met the expectations.  The prompt and rubric are available here.

I’m hoping the activities above helped students become more aware of the fascinating play and world of Hamlet.  Hopefully they’ll remember these experiences when they encounter Hamlet again at some point in their life.

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