Today we are going to revisit an oldie, but goodie – Interest Surveys. You may be thinking, “Oh, sure. I can do that in a normal year. But this year? When there is so much learning to get done? I don’t really have time for that.” Or, maybe you are thinking, “Well, I have this curriculum that my district requires, so the kids don’t really choose books, so why waste time finding out what they like? They still have to read the required books, whether they like them or not!”
Well, both of those are fair points. This year, especially, with the disrupted learning due to Covid, we have so much catching up to do. And, if your district requires certain books, kids’ choices may not seem relevant.
My question back to you is this. “Is building relationships with your students important to you?” If you answered yes, read on! This is a great strategy for you! This strategy is a Getting to Know Your Readers strategy, and you will be amazed at how it moves the relationship with certain students. Just the fact that you want to get to know your kids as readers and writers will be important for some students. For some, that is not an identity that they own. For some students, this might be the first time anyone has given them that label – and that can be powerful. To say to a student, “I want to get to know you as a reader and writer,” is to give them that identity. What a gift!
If you have a curriculum that doesn’t allow student choice, you still need to know what your students enjoy reading and writing about. You can bring in read alouds that match their preferences, and buy new books for your classroom library according to their taste. You can tweak writing assignments to be more student friendly and to fit students’ writing territories (be sure to download this FREE lesson plan about discovering your students’ writing territories!) And you can bring in picture books and integrate with Science and Social Studies in ways that match your students’ interests.
I use the Readers’ and Writers’ Interest Surveys differently, so let’s start with Writing. For me, the purpose of the Writing Interest Survey is to get kids writing. My resource on TPT includes two versions of the survey. I generally give one about the second week of school. The first week of school kids usually have lots to write about because of the kooky way I give them their writing journals and because of the Writing Territories lesson. But, but Week 2, some kids have run out of ideas. That’s where the Interest Survey comes in.
As you can see in this portion of the Interest Survey, students simply connect with their emotions about different topics. There are two different surveys, and each includes 11 topics, so you find out what your students think about 22 different topics. When students connect with emotions, their writing becomes more powerful!
It takes students no more than 10 minutes to read through the topics and make their choices. But what you do next makes a huge difference! Don’t collect them. Instead, ask the students to put them in their writing binder or journal. When you have your first Writing Conference with your student, start by asking them to show you their Interest Survey and the writing they’ve been doing about the topics on the Survey. It will be the easiest conference you’ve ever had!
The second Writing Interest Survey is great to whip out mid-year, or whenever you notice that several students are running low on ides. Another great way I use these is to have students interview each other about each topic and find out what other students feel about specific topics. It can create some great connections and bonds in your classroom.
The last page of the Writer’s Survey is great for the end of the first week. I like to give these on Friday and spend the weekend reading through them. I get so much great information from these, and it helps me know my students’ strengths and weaknesses right away.
The Reader’s Interest Survey uses the same cute graphics to ask students to record their feelings about specific genre, and also asks students questions about their life as a reader. This is double-sided, and students generally need 15 – 20 minutes because of the fill-in-the-blank. But, the extra few minutes is worth it because of how well you will get to know your readers!
I collect the Readers’ Surveys and take them home to read through them. Then, I meet with each student to talk to them about their responses and learn more about them as readers. It is so much fun to spend that time with them in the beginning of the year. I start this the first week of school, and I usually conference with 4-5 students a day during those first few weeks.
So, there are two easy to use strategies that will help you Get to Know Your Readers. Be sure to check out the other blog posts in our series so far, and watch the video for more insights on using surveys in your classroom.