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Authentic interest is generated when students are given the opportunity to delve into an interesting idea.Kelly Gallagher


Inquiry projects, themes and other learning activities that "hook" students are often centered around their interests. By engaging their curiosity and attention in this way, students are more likely to invest time and energy in their work.

Ways to Spark Interest

Content, process and product can all be differentiated according to student interest.

For example :

  • All students can be working on key or essential understandings and skills i.e. content, while reading and writing about topics that are of genuine interest to them.
  • During the learning process, cooperative strategies such as jigsaw or group investigation can be used to allow teams to focus on one facet of a larger project that is particularly interesting or intriguing to them.
  • Offer students a variety of ways to express what has been learned through the final product. There can be elements of the product that must be completed by everyone, and students can be encouraged to design or select other elements that reflect their interests.
  • Share your own passions and interests with students as this can trigger new interests.
  • Encourage students to try new forms of expression, e.g. using photography with poetry or personal writing, using graphic/ comic elements, incorporating technoloqy, etc.
  • Whenever possible, connect learning to real-world issues that are relevant to the students.


Build in Choice


Following a mini-lesson on graphic novel conventions, Secondary III students get a chance to read and explore a variety of graphic memoirs. They form literature circle groups based on the book they are most interested in and engage in lively discussions with others who have have read the book. Student engagement increases when there is a wide variety of texts to choose from.



Encourage Exploration


Secondary II students are developing a deeper understanding of the way texts are constructed and how they work by sharing their discoveries with a small group of peers.



Connect to Students’ Lives


Working with popular media texts, specifically spoken word pieces, students select poetry that piques their interest. They use the models to guide their exploration of how the texts work to construct meaning. Students develop and share their own spoken word pieces to demonstrate their learning.



Share your Passion

  Teacher, Andrew Adams shares his interest and enthusiasm about a book with his students. Sharing new authors, genres, etc. through readalouds and thinkalouds can help students find new interests.



Make Learning Authentic

  Writer’s workshop is an excellent example of authentic learning that supports differentiation. During the drafting process the focus is on the content rather than on the mechanics of writing. All students, regardless of writing competency, are able to participate and experience continuous learning. Engagement and interest are high as students choose their own topics and text types to suit their purpose. Respectful tasks allow all students to participate in activities that are equally engaging and challenging.



Ways to Discover your Students’ Interests

  • Dialogue
  • Journals
  • Interviews
  • Opportunities for students to choose their own topics of interest, texts, projects, etc.
  • Interest Surveys and Questionnaires


Additional Resources

The New Zealand Ministry of Education offers information on using students’ interests in planning for teaching.