Building Relationships: Re-thinking Surveys [Part 1]

While writing What Are You Grouping For?, Grades 3-8: How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers—Not the Book, we knew that finding out about students’ interests, passions, inquiries, and habits was a must-do if we wanted to serve their individual and collective needs. In collaboration with Barry Hoonan —my colleague, friend, and co-author—we worked to re-design new ways of surveying kiddos so that we could plan instruction and learning opportunities in unique ways.

Learning about others in our learning community not only helps us create meaningful experiences, it also helps us build relationships. Surveying students and giving them opportunities to share about themselves with others is a great way to create a positive classroom culture. It’s also a perfect opportunity to host small, flexible groups. #whatareyougroupingfor


  1. Give students a copy of the A Little Bit About…template.

  2. Explain that students should read the question stems and write one or more answers for each question.

  3. Give students 5-10 minutes to jot down their answers. Nudge: While students are filling out their surveys, fill one out about yourself too.

  4. To lift the learning across the classroom, share a few ideas from your survey with the whole class. This gives students an opportunity to get to know you AND serves as a model for how the survey answers can be shared.

  5. Give students an opportunity to share their survey answers with others. Break students into small groups of 3 or 4 OR try a share out using Speed Dating. Note: For speed dating to be successful, students need to understand the purpose. Depending on your students’ age/level of maturity, decide if you need to have a quick conversation about this protocol and its big intended take-aways.

  6. As students share, listen in [or kidwatch] so that you get to know students as they are getting to know their peers.

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If you come up with unique sentence stems for your surveys, we hope you’ll share them with us because that’s what makes this work so much fun!