Like many teachers, I have my students fill out surveys at the start of the year in order to start getting to know them as quickly as possible. When I first started doing this, I simply copied the reading and writing surveys Nancie Atwell included in In the Middle. Since then, my surveys have changed a lot. I still use some of her questions, but I’ve also incorporated questions from Donalyn Miller and Pernille Ripp, and I’ve also added many questions of my own. There’s so much I’d love to ask my students, but I also don’t want to overwhelm them at the start of the year, so I spend a lot of time each summer deciding which questions are the most important to include.
Currently, I use three different surveys, one about reading, one about writing, and one asking for other information about students. I have two big goals for the surveys. One, of course, is to help me get to know them. The second, though, is for these surveys to become a reflection tool later on. Students will complete these same surveys at other times during the year, and they will then compare their responses, noting changes and areas of growth. This is one of the ways I decide what questions to include: Which ones will help them to reflect later in the year?
As I read the surveys, they will help me create stacks of books for every student to preview. They will also help me discover which students are likely to need more assistance or attention early in the year as we choose our first books and start reading. And they will give me insights into conversations I can have with students early in the year. Ultimately, I hope that I can use the responses to help build trust.
This year, we’re filling out the surveys a little differently than before. After reading this blog post and also looking at my schedule for the first couple days, I decided to split up the surveys into parts. We’re filling them out this week according to this schedule:
- Tuesday: Getting to Know You #1-5, Reading #1-10
- Wednesday: Getting to Know You #6-10, Reading #11-end
- Thursday: Writing #1-9
- Friday: Getting to Know You #11-end, Writing #10-13
- Monday (of 2nd week): Writing #14-19
As with my parent letters, I benefited greatly from reading the work of the teachers mentioned at the beginning, so feel free to use any of the questions from my surveys as you create or revisit your own.
There are links to my surveys within this blog post, but here they are in list form: