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Lesson Plan

Cooking Up Descriptive Language: Designing Restaurant Menus

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Cooking Up Descriptive Language: Designing Restaurant Menus

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • review the characteristics of adjectives.

  • analyze the structure, content, and purpose of a variety of restaurant menus.

  • explore how audience and purpose shape their writing.

  • compose restaurant menus with attention to accurate and descriptive word choice.

  • identify appropriate layouts and images that relate to their menus.

  • interact with classmates to give and receive feedback.

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Session One

  1. Ask students to brainstorm the characteristics that they associate with restaurant menus. Record their responses on the board or on chart paper.

  2. When students begin to run out of responses, review the list as a group. Make any additions or revisions.

  3. If desired, group related items on the brainstormed list (e.g., information about the restaurant itself, kinds of foods, menu sections).

  4. Arrange students in small groups, and pass out examples of restaurant menus that you have gathered.

  5. Ask groups to review the example menus and gather additional details of the characteristics of restaurant menus. If the items they notice are already included on their brainstormed list, ask students to add details that describe and explain the characteristics. If they items they notice are new, students should identify the characteristic as well as provide additional details that describe it. Explain that the class is working toward a class list that will guide their own composition of restaurant menus.

  6. Give each group chart paper and a section of the board to post the results of their analysis.

  7. When students have completed their research, gather the class and ask students to identify common characteristics that are included on the class lists.

  8. As the discussion continues, lead students through discussion of the key elements for restaurant menus and how the elements differ depending upon the kind of restaurant and the particular customers. Work toward creating a rubric for your class menus, using the characteristics that students have gathered from their analysis of the menus.

  9. If time allows, demonstrate the Flip Book student interactive and/or share the completed flip book or blank flip book, so that students understand the format they will use for their final drafts.

  10. For homework, ask students to consider kinds of restaurants that they might write their own menus for. Students can begin gathering resources to help them as they begin writing. Possible resources include additional sample menus, cookbooks, and other resources on the particular kind of food or restaurant they have chosen (e.g., a book on Italian food if the student has chosen to create a menu for an Italian restaurant). This activity gives students an opportunity to tap their own family recipes and food traditions as well, so students might ask family members for suggestions as part of their preparation for writing.

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Session Two

  1. Remind students of the characteristics of restaurant menus, established during the previous session.

  2. If desired, students can work in small groups to create one group menu, or students can work individually to create their own menus. If students will work in small groups, arrange groups so that students working on similar menus (e.g., Italian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Coffeehouse) are together.

  3. If you have not done so previously, demonstrate the Flip Book student interactive and/or share the completed flip book or blank flip book, so that students understand the format they will use for their final drafts.

  4. Begin the process of composing the menus by asking students to take a few minutes to freewrite on things that they would like to include on their menus (e.g., specific food items, restaurant details).

  5. After students have had time to gather their preliminary ideas, ask students to discuss the audience for their restaurant and its menu. Ask students to consider how old customers will be, what they will be looking for on a restaurant menu, and the kind of details that will be convincing for these group of customers. Students may have a particular segment of an audience—for instance, they may be creating children's menus for an Italian restaurant. The kind of details that belong on the children's menu will be different from those on the more general menu.

  6. After the class has discussed the role of the audience, have them reread their freewriting and then spend a few more minutes freewriting on things that they will include for their particular audience.

  7. After students have finished writing, pass out copies of the Restaurant Menu Planning Sheet and ask students to work through the sheet to begin the process of creating their menus.

  8. Ask students to take 10 to 15 minutes to work through the planning sheet for their restaurant.

  9. If students are working individually, once they have gathered their preliminary ideas, arrange them in small groups to share their ideas. Encourage students to interact with one another, to share and receive feedback on their plans.

  10. For homework, ask students to begin drafting their menus. Ask that they come to the next session with at least a partial draft of their menu. If students are composing their menus in groups, consider adding a work session for them to gather and draft their ideas.

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Session Three

  1. Remind students of the goals and elements included in this project. Answer any questions students have.

  2. Review the adjective part of speech, using the Capital Community College "Guide to Grammar and Writing" Website or your grammar textbook as a reference.

  3. Display a sample menu using an overhead projector. As a class, read through the example.

  4. Underline the adjectives that are included in the sample menu.

  5. Once the adjectives are identified, ask students to consider how effective the adjectives are. Encourage students to consider whether the adjectives are appropriate and whether they are used in moderation.

  6. Talk about the importance of balance in the use of adjectives, reminding students that using too many adjectives will detract from their usefulness for readers.

  7. After you've considered adjectives on the example menu, look at the overall descriptions for food items on the menu. Ask students to consider the length and depth of detail included in the descriptive phrasing on the menu.

  8. Take a few minutes to compare the sample menu to the rubric that the class created during the first session, to underscore the requirement for students' work.

  9. Answer any questions that students have about the process of analyzing the descriptive language used on the menu.

  10. Ask students to analyze their own menus, underlining all the adjective that they have used to describe the food items on their menus.

  11. Once they've finished, have students work in small groups to discuss the adjectives that they have found. Ask students to consider the kinds of adjectives included on the sample menus and what they have learned about adjectives in general.

  12. Demonstrate how to use online resources such as an Internet dictionary and thesaurus (or show students the thesaurus command in Microsoft Word) to arrive at additional descriptive adjectives for their menus.

  13. After reviewing the adjectives included on the menus, ask students to revise their menus with particular attention to their descriptive phrasing.

  14. While students work, again encourage them to interact with one another.

  15. For homework, students can continue work on their menus. Ask students to come to the next session with a complete, polished draft of their menus.

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Session Four

  1. Remind students of the requirements for the project, using the rubric that the class created during the first session.

  2. Demonstrate the Flip Book student interactive, so that students understand the tool and how it works before they begin publishing their own menus.

  3. Explain the basic organization of the flip book:

    • The first page of the flip book could act as a title page, providing basic information on the restaurant and the foods it serves.

    • For the rest of the flip book, the menu sections are used for the labels (e.g., appetizers, lunch, dinner, beverages, desserts).

    • Type the menu items and their descriptions on the pages, above each label, using the templates of the students' choice.
  4. Allow students time to make last minute additions or revisions then ask them to move to the computer to publish their work.

  5. When the flip book is complete, ask students to print it out, cut away the lower areas as appropriate, and assemble the finished menus.

  6. If desired, students can use markers, colored pencils, and other general supplies to decorate their final drafts before submitting them for evaluation.

  7. Allow time for groups to share their menus with the class.

  8. When the sharing and discussions are complete, assess students' work using the rubric created during the first session.

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  • As an alternative, students can take the school's lunch menus and create new restaurant-quality versions that can be posted in the cafeteria.

  • Use the assignment sheet and rubric included in "Menu Magic," by Susan H. Smith with Bethany Hickey, to structure the assignment and students' work.

  • Complete this activity as a book report alternative, asking students to create menus for restaurants or meals that characters in the books that they have read would eat. Alternately, students can create historical menus that fit a particular time period that they have been exploring in their readings or in other subject areas.

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Observe students for their participation during the exploration and discussion of restaurant menus. In class discussions and conferences, watch for evidence that students are able to describe the layout and format of menus. Monitor students’ progress and process as they conduct their research and complete drafts of their own menus. As students present their menus to the class, take notes and assess their work using the rubric that the class creates during the first session.

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