Building Relationships

Reading Surveys: A Go-To Data Source for Creating a Focus for Instruction

It’s not unusual for teachers to survey students about their reading interests and habits at the beginning of the year. Anytime we ask kiddos their thoughts and ideas about important topics, their answers become a go-to data source for creating a focus for instruction—both in the short term and often across several weeks.

Take a look at this Reading Interest Survey and think about these questions:

  1. What questions stand out to you? How do you anticipate you’d use the data you collect from those questions?

  2. What questions would you revise or eliminate?

TRY THIS

  1. Give students a copy of the Reading Interest Survey template.

  2. Ahead of time, fill out a survey about yourself. 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.

  3. Give students 10-15 minutes to jot down their answers.

  4. Break students into pairs or small groups of 3 or 4 and give them an opportunity to share their survey answers with others.

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

  6. Collect student surveys.

LOOKING ACROSS THE DATA

As you look across student survey results, here are some ways you might consider using the data to guide your planning. You could:

  • Think about who likes to read with a partner and/or who likes to talk to others about what they read. This information could help you create Reading Thinking Partners.

  • Take stock in what genres/types of reading materials students like best. This is a great opportunity to begin curating texts that students might want to read.

  • Give students an opportunity to book talk [shout out or talk about] their favorite book with others by inviting them to share with the whole class or in small groups.

  • Look for patterns and create a list of short text types that students like to read. Check out Chapter 2 if you want to think about launching small groups focused on students’ interests.

  • Pay close attention to what students write [or don’t write] for question #11.

  • Save a copy of students’ surveys. Across the year, re-visit this initial survey and ask students to reflect on their responses. Nudge: Put a note on your calendar to re-survey students a few months into the school year. Students’ interests, passion, and inquiries change across time.

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Building Relationships: Who Are You? Game

Building relationships takes time. Since time across the school day and year typically feels limited, maximizing the time we do have is important. We can start by intentionally using the time we do have to build relationships among and between students and teachers across our learning community. One way to do that is through get-to-know-you games. One that I’ve played oodles of times with classrooms across grades 2-12 is called the Who Are You? game.

TRY THIS

  1. Give students a copy of the Who Are You? Game Template [students].

  2. Explain to students that they will list fun facts, ideas, interesting tidbits about themselves on the lines provided. Explain that line #1 is where they will list their birthday and line #10 is where they will list their name. Note: If age appropriate, you can turn these two lines into a teaching moment by showing students different ways to write their birthdays [August 2, 2009 or 8-2-2009 OR show students how to write first, middle and last names vs. initials.

  3. Remind students that they can write single words or phrases for their responses.

  4. Give students 5-10 minutes to jot down their answers. Roam around the room to provide support if needed.

  5. Nudge: Ahead of time,, fill out one about yourself too.

  6. Once everyone is finished filling out their template, collect all papers and shuffle.

HERE’S HOW TO PLAY

  1. Ask all students to stand up.

  2. Explain that you are going to begin reading some attributes from one person’s paper. If students hear something that is true of themselves [even if they didn’t write it on their paper], they remain standing. If not, they sit down. Once they are seated during this round, they remain seated. Then, move on to another statement on the same person’s paper. If students hear something that is true of themselves [even if they didn’t write it on their paper], they remain standing. If not, they sit down. Once they are seated during this round, they remain seated. Repeat until only one person remains standing.

  3. The goal: Look at all of the things that we have in common while learning specifics things about each person.

  4. Play the game for a few rounds and then stop to debrief with students. You could ask:

    • What are some things we have in common?

    • What unique things did we learn about specific classmates?

  5. Consider playing a few rounds of the game each day [time permitting] and across several days. Make sure everyone gets a chance to be the last person standing.

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SOME TIPS:

  • Once you’ve finished the game and if time permits, create some flexible small groups and give students an opportunity to share a few ideas from his/her list, going more in-depth where applicable. For example, if a student shares that he loves hiking, he could share a hiking story or experience with his small group. For more ideas on small, flexible groups, check out What Are You Grouping For?, Grades 3-8: How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers—Not the Book.

  • If you are an Administrator or Instructional Coach—this works for building relationships with and among colleagues, too. This is great for PLC’s, Team Meetings, Staff Meetings, PD/Workshops, etc. Check out Who Are You? Game Template [adults].

Building Relationships: Re-thinking Surveys [Part 2]

A great place to start when building relationships with students is to find out about their interests, passions, inquiries, and habits. Doing so gives us some the intel to serve students’ individual and collective needs. Some of the ways we get to know students—both in the beginning of the year AND across the year—include:

  • Conferring 1:1 with students

  • Listening in and joining in small group learning opportunities

  • Giving students the opportunity to turn and talk during whole group learning

  • Playing get-to-know-you games and launching activities

Surveying students in ways that give students the opportunity to share about themselves in unique and exciting ways is a high leverage move for building relationships and getting to know students. 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.

TRY THIS

  1. Give students a copy of the Tell Us Your Thoughts About template.

  2. Explain that students should read the question stems and select the response [1-5] that best matches their thoughts and feelings.

  3. Remind students that they can select a response that is in the middle of 2 different responses [Example—marking the line between 5 and 4].

  4. Remind students that if they want to elaborate on their responses, they can use the boxes or space around the outside edges to add additional information.

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

  6. 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.

  7. Give students an opportunity to share their survey answers with others. Break students into pairs or Thought Partners. After pairs or Thought Partners have had a chance to share, turn Thought Partners into Groups of Four to do another round of sharing. For more about Thought Partners to Groups of Four, see pages 60-62 in What Are You Grouping For?, Grades 3-8: How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers—Not the Book.

  8. 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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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

TRY THIS

  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!