Strategy: Student Interest Survey

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What if a student needs a topic for a project but can’t think of one or the teacher wants to develop authentic relationships by learning more about their students? An interest survey can be very helpful!

Interest surveys allow teachers to learn things about students that may not typically come to their attention. Besides providing insights into the kinds of things students may want to study in depth, the survey can help motivate reluctant learners. Raymond Wlodkowski, an educational psychologist and expert on motivation, has found that one of the quickest ways to motivate students is to discover what they are interested in outside of school, then spend a short time each day talking with them about their interests. You may wish to survey all of your students at the beginning of the school year, but interest surveys can be used at any time as a way to engage your students.

There are multiple purposes for using interest surveys with students. The student information gleaned from interest surveys can help you develop more authentic relationships by providing you with conversation starters. It can also help you bring student interests into the classroom. For example, you might include the name of a student’s favorite super hero in a mathematics word problem or you can suggest a topic that you know a student is interested in when she has trouble deciding on a topic for an assigned project.
How Student Interest Surveys Connect to CARES
Remember that authentic relationships refers to the genuine respect and care that a teacher demonstrates for each one of their students. This encompasses how well a teacher knows each student personally and academically. Interest surveys allow teachers to enhance a positive relationship or strengthen a challenging relationship by learning more about a student’s likes and dislikes beyond just academics.
Some key elements for effectively using student interest surveys:
1) It is important to create or find an interest survey that is relevant, developmentally appropriate, and engaging. Students should enjoy completing the interest survey, as they are able to write about their likes and dislikes.
2) Planning how and when the students will complete the survey is also important. If they are completing it in class, make sure they have enough time. Also consider when it would be most effective to use the survey. Some teachers like to use it at the beginning of the school year, but you can use it to gather information and build rapport at any point during the school year. You may also assign it as a low-stress homework assignment for older students to complete independently. Parents can help younger children complete it at home.
3) Review the interest surveys and note patterns in students’ likes and dislikes as you think about how to incorporate them into the classroom. Mention students’ interests during informal contexts such as lunch or recess and in more formal contexts as appropriate. When a relationship feels challenging, revisit the survey for help connecting or reconnecting with a student based on their self-identified interests.

How To

How to Use Student Interest Surveys

There are many different ways interest surveys can be used.

1) Pick or create an interest survey based on your desired outcomes and students’ developmental level (see example below). You may want to know about students’ favorite foods and games if you want to make celebrations and flexible time in the classroom more fun. If you want to make classroom content more engaging, you might ask about students’ favorite books, subjects, etc. Younger students may need to draw their responses or circle yes/no or smiley face/sad face response options. Older students can write out their responses.

2) Administer the survey in class or assign it as homework.

3) Review the responses and use the information in conversations with students and while delivering instruction.

Example Interest Survey:

Note: This sample interest survey is aimed at collecting a lot of information from each student. You may want to just choose a portion of the questions to first provide to your students. You can always edit and modify interest surveys so that they make sense to you, and you can always provide them to students more than just one time during the year.

  1. What kind of books to you like to read?
  2. How do you get the news? What parts of the newspaper do you look at regularly?
  3. What are your favorite magazines or Web sites?
  4. What types of TV programs do you prefer? Why?
  5. What is your favorite activity or subject at school? Your least favorite? Why?
  6. What is your first choice about what to do when you have free time at home?
  7. What kinds of things have you collected? What do you do with things you collect?
  8. If you could talk to any person currently living, who would it be? Why? Think of 3 questions you would ask the person.
  9. If you could talk to any person from history, who would it be? Why? Think of 3 questions you would ask the person.
  10. What are your hobbies? How much time do you spend on your hobbies?
  11. If you could have anything you want, regardless of money or natural ability, what would you choose? Why?
  12. What careers(s) do you think might be suitable for you when you are an adult?
  13. If you could spend a week job-shadowing any adult in any career, which would you choose and why?
  14. Tell about your favorite games.
  15. What kind of movies do you prefer? Why?
  16. Imagine that someday you will write a book. What do you think it will be about?
  17. Describe 10 things that would be present in a perfect world. Describe an invention you would create to make the world a better place.
  18. What places in the world would you most like to visit? Why? Tell about your favorite vacation—one you’ve taken or wish you could take.
  19. Imagine that you’re going to take a trip to another planet or solar system. You’ll be gone for 15 years. List 10 things you will take with you to do in your spare time.
  20. What questions do you think should be on this survey that are not already on it?
Source: Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom by Susan Winebrenner. Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.

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Concentration Areas: Connection to the Curriculum; Authentic Relationships; Reflective Thinking About Cultural, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Differences; Effective Communication; Sensitivity to Students’ Culture

What is CARES?

CARES is an acronym for the five domains that research has found to be successful in engaging students of culturally diverse backgrounds at school. Each letter refers to a significant element of interaction within the classroom. Applying all five domains of CARES works because it promotes a better understanding of students and ourselves by using strategies that deepen those relationships every day.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All five CARES domains, together with the Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, support one another and need to be applied in the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

Research has shown that each of the five CARES domains has a significant impact on students and their behavior when used regularly and over time. Students who are known and understood by their teachers as individuals in the classroom report deeper connections academically and to their school. When teachers understand their own cultural heritage, they better understand the differences between themselves and their students and report higher levels of mutual respect with students. This also helps teachers to recognize the similarities they share with their students as well as recognize ways in which they are different. Students are more connected and engaged in classrooms where teachers welcome exploration; invite, acknowledge, and celebrate cultural differences; make relevant connections to the curriculum; listen attentively to understand how each student is approaching the concepts; and use humor and other effective communication tools.

CARES Overview

Greeting Students at the Door

Using Journals to Build Relationships

Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom

Using Social and Emotional Coaching

Using Behavior-specific Praise

Using Active Supervision

Using Group Contingencies

Using Precorrection

Teaching Behavior Expectations

Providing Academic Feedback

Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Developing and Using Clear Academic Objectives

Posting and Using a Schedule

Coaching Process – Menu of Options

Coaching Process – Providing Feedback

Coaching Process – Introduction and Overview

Observation Practice 4

Observation Practice 3

Observation Practice 2

Observation Practice 1

Using an Attention Signal

Teaching Classroom Routines

Physical Classroom Structure

Values Card Sort – Example

Card Sort Introduction

Coaching – Interview Guide

Opening the Meeting

Defining and Teaching Classroom Rules

Mrs. James

Miss Faber

Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate

Concentration Areas: Smooth Transitions, Pacing of Instruction, Student Engagement, Clear Expectations, Use of Praise, Use of Reprimands, Level of Disruptive Behavior

What is Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate?

Positive Behavior Supports refers to the proactive ways that teachers work with their students, as well as the ways that teachers respond to challenging situations with students. The focus is on recognizing and affirming student strengths rather than punishing them or taking something away from them. A positive approach to the classroom will promote a classroom climate that is welcoming to all students and is a place where students want to engage with the teacher, each other, and the curriculum. All individuals, students and teachers, and the interactions between and amongst all classroom members play a role in the climate.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, together with the CARES domains, support one another and need to be applied to the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

In a classroom climate that is positive and welcoming to all members, the classroom becomes a safe place where culture and diversity can be openly discussed. A supportive climate is one that promotes student engagement and success. Students feel supported and motivated to be an active member of the classroom community. The teacher taking a positive and proactive approach creates a climate of care and respect and promotes desired student behaviors. This classroom is also a place that provides consistency to students, which is especially important for students who may experience stress and uncertainty outside of the school building. Teachers who have positive and proactive classrooms report fewer disruptive behaviors from their students, an increase in student achievement, and better overall perceptions of school climate.

Double Check Classroom Check-Up Overview