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How (and Why) to Create an Interest Survey for Your Students
Judi Fenton

Most teachers feel that knowing our students well makes it possible for us to teach them better. But how can we speed up the process of getting to know them? Through an interest survey we can easily collect information that will enable us to differentiate instruction for our students throughout the year.

If you include some questions for the whole family, it can also be a great way to set the tone for family involvement. Depending upon the age of your students you can either expect students to fill out the survey on their own, or you can ask parents to work on it with the students. The survey should be adjusted to the age, the information you are looking for, and/or the subject area. The sample below includes questions that I’ve used.

Sample questions:

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not in school? (Name as many things as you want)
  2. (For younger students: What does your child like to do when he/she is not in school?)
  3. What is something that you are fascinated by? Have you had a chance to study this interest in school? When?
  4. Do you consider yourself to be a reader? Why or why not?
  5. What do you like to read the most? Please give some examples of books you’ve loved.
  6. What’s your favorite subject? Why?
  7. What subject have you disliked in the past? Why?
  8. How do you like to work best in school (alone, with a partner, in a group...)? Why?
  9. Is there anything you would like to share with/teach to our class this year?  What? (For parents)

Now, it’s crucially important that you use the information you gather. Collecting data about your students should always be purposeful. We can use the information we collect from an interest survey in several ways:

To differentiate instruction based on student interest. Once we identify what our students either know a lot about or want to know a lot about, we can structure our classroom activities and topics to both enable students to learn about the things they are fascinated by, and also to give opportunities for students to be “experts” on topics.  We can select materials and find resources based on student interests. For example, we should make available independent reading books on what students are interested in, plan trips based on student interests, plan science and social studies units to incorporate interests, and plan writing units to encourage students to write about their interests.

To differentiate instruction based on ways in which students like to work.  If we ask about prior school experiences and what groupings students prefer to work within, we can begin to structure our classroom to best serve their learning needs.  We should always give students opportunities to work in many different groupings, however, if a student tells us that he works best individually, we can sometimes let him, even if others are working in groups. Or, if a student lets us know that he needs the support of a partner to bounce ideas off of when writing or to think alongside when solving math word problems, we can let him work with another student who says the same.

To involve family members. Asking students to fill out an interest survey with family members is a valid way to engage families. Expect students to talk to their parents (or guardians) about their answers. One of the most interesting homework assignments my older daughter had to do was to write about her goals for the school year and then have a parent respond to what she wrote, and then rewrite those goals.  I learned so much about her from that assignment and I also felt more connected to her classroom life and her teacher. In the survey, you can also ask parents to become involved in the classroom by sharing an area of their expertise with your class.

To push students to know themselves better by reflecting on their learning. Answering the questions requires students to think about their learning. When we ask students to fill out a survey about their interests, what they are good at, and how they best learn, they are given the opportunity to reflect upon what and how they’ve learned.  Reflection solidifies learning and invites students to think deeply about themselves as learners. The survey can be a great start to communicate the expectation of, and set the tone for, reflection throughout the whole year.

Remember, it is so important to make connections with your students and help them make connections with one another. By learning about students through an interest survey, we collect the data that can enable us to make these connections. When you are constructing a survey, keep in mind the ways in which you plan to use the information you gather. Ask questions that get to the information you think will be most helpful to you in crafting a classroom that will meet the needs of all your students.

Do you have a comment about this article? E-mail me!

 

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