Student interest surveys create interest

Unless your students are engaged, they’re not learning.

So how do you compete with all the other distractions in your students’ lives and make instruction relevant, meaningful and interesting?

You use the results of student interest surveys to make connections with your students’ prior experiences and preferences. Their answers will help you create engaging lessons that keep students participating actively.

In the beginning

Interest surveys help you learn more about your students. Think of the survey as an inventory that allows you to gain insight into the one topic kids know best – themselves.

Students may be relieved to write down their thoughts rather than announce them publicly in an icebreaker.

Craft revealing questions about students backgrounds, likes, and dislikes by avoiding yes/no questions. For younger students, provide sentence stems. Most middle and high school students can handle open-ended response questions.

Try questions like these:

  • My favorite food is _______.
  • When I am not at school, you will find me _______.
  • The one thing I wish my family knew about me is _______.
  • What allergies do you have?
  • What is the best way to help you learn?
  • How much time do you spend doing homework?

A short interest survey on the first day of class lets your students know that you’re interested in them.

The answers you collect will also help you with planning instruction. Refer to student hobbies and interests when creating classroom activities. For example, write word problems based on pop culture,

Surveying student interest is an ongoing process

If you use a single interest survey at the beginning of the year, you’re doing yourself and your students a disservice.

Continue with interest surveys, particularly before introducing a new unit, but also during or after the instruction. Again, ask open-ended questions designed to help you take the pulse of your classroom

  • How are you alike (or different than) the main character?
  • What is something you know now but didn’t know before?
  • What advice would you give another student wanting to know more about _______?

You can also ask your students to discuss these questions in small groups. By listening in on the group discussions and observing collaborative interactions, you’ll learn more about how your students work together.

Allow for choice

You asked for student input when you distributed the interest surveys.

Instead of assigning topics for students to study or research, allow for individual choice. When you encourage your students to make connections based on their experiences and interests, they may surprise you with what they come up with.

Rather than assign the same research topics every year, ask your students to identify topics based on their interests. By allowing for choice, you’re telling your students that you know them well enough to let them make decisions about their learning.

Most importantly, don’t merely collect the surveys and then ignore the responses. You have to follow through and incorporate the information the students share with you. Doing so shows that you are genuinely interested in them and care about them

The connections you and your students make will create interest in learning.

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