One of the applications of differentiated learning is to make your lessons more engaging by understanding your learners, and personalising lesson content to their needs and interests.

I’ve been lucky to be teaching a small group of Starter students for a while now, which has made it easier to get to know students individually, including what their strengths, weaknesses and interests are.

Recently, I noticed one of my younger students had gone crazy for Spiderman. (I’m figuring his interest was probably spurred after seeing the hit Spiderman movie). In testing out this idea of differentiated learning, I decided to adapt some of the activities for the class, and see how they were received.

One of the activities I modified, was the familiar ‘listen and point’, which others have turned into the EFL game, ‘Ninja’. I adapted listen and point to become spider web shooting. You can use a video like the one above, to set some context for the activity, so the children get the idea. The kids can pretend to be Spiderman, as they shoot imaginary webs out to the flashcards attached to the wall.

For writing practice, I adapted a spiderweb worksheet to become ‘Spiderman’ writing! (With the spiderweb worksheet, you simply practice writing the same word from the outer part of the web to the inner part. If you want, you can use different coloured pens or markers to give the child different choices, and the ability to express some creativity.)

My student loved the activities, and was fully engaged with the writing task, even though functionally, it was just writing the lexis several times. He was also very excited to take the worksheet home to show his parents.

The ideas presented here are not that different than if you teach a unit on stories, and the children make crowns for a craft, a lot of the girls would far rather make an ‘Elsa’ crown, than something generic.

For me, it reinforced to me how the practical application of differentiation (by interest) could add higher engagement to the class, as well as strengthening my relationship with individual students, because it shows that I actually care about each of them. Ultimately, one of the payoffs of that relationship, is fewer behavioural issues in your classes, but more importantly, it just makes your classes much more fun.