Kickstart the School Year with Student Interest Surveys

Understanding your students’ interests from the start can transform your classroom. Student interest surveys are a powerful tool to personalize learning, build relationships, and enhance classroom management. To be honest, those first days of school are SUCH a powerful time to get to know students–and for them to see that you care enough to get to know them.

Using student surveys to build classroom community

Benefits of Student Interest Surveys

1.  Personalized Learning:

One of the great things about using surveys at the beginning of the year is that you can start to get to know your students’ likes, dislikes, hobbies, strengths, and more. In addition to merely helping you get to know them as humans, you can use this information for the rest of the school year!

  • Write math problems using their names and interests
  • Choose read alouds that will pique the interest of students, especially reluctant ones
  • Use the information you learn when modeling writing or picking topics
  • You get the picture!

Build classroom community

2. Building Relationships:

What this does is so powerful.  Students realize you care.  They realize you were listening.  Their engagement in the learning community skyrockets.  How can you continue to build on this all year long?

  • Greet students in the morning by commenting on something you know about them.  “How did your tournament go?” or “Did you get to go fishing this weekend?” really show that you care.
  • When you notice things in the news that relate to your students’ interests–comment!  “I saw the Brewers won their fifth in a row!”
  • When you see something (like a book, an article, etc), you can let students know. “Hey–I saw this new book in the library and it looked like just the type of mystery you like!”
  • Know your students’ families. Being able to ask about their new puppy, or how their brother with the broken arm is doing shows you care.
  • You get the point!

Make connections with students to build trust and community

3.  Classroom Management:

I’ll keep this simple.  When students feel cared about, they are better behaved.  If students are given engaging lessons and activities that meet their needs and likes, they are better behaved.  End of story. I’m not saying that getting to know your students will eliminate behavior issues.  I’ve been in the classroom for more than 30 years.  I’m not a fool.

That being said, I will tell you with 100% certainly that students who trust you, who believe you care, whose basic needs are being met, and who feel a part of the classroom community will be more successful in your classroom.

Using Interest Surveys to Collect Data

Finally, it’s clear that I think we need to be getting to know our students, and some of it can be done super informally.  However, I also think it’s great to do some up-front work in the first weeks of school to get the ball rolling.

I use surveys for that!  I have a number of different surveys that I sprinkle in…all while helping students see that I truly want them to be HONEST with their responses.  If they don’t like math–I want to know.  If reading is a challenge, I want to know.  That culture of being open and honest gets established on the first day of school.

However, GIVING the survey is only part of the process.  As with all classroom “assessment” work, if we collect data and don’t use it, we have wasted our time.  If you choose to do some surveys to start YOUR year, make sure you consider how you will make the most of it.

  • Organize Data: Use spreadsheets, lists, or charts to manage responses.
  • Identify Trends: Look for common interests to group students effectively.
  • Apply Insights: Integrate survey findings into lesson planning with engaging projects and activities.
  • Revisit Findings:  If you learn something noteworthy but need more information, collect it!  If you see something you want to address later, find a way to track it so that information doesn’t disappear.

Here are a few interest surveys that I use!

To begin, I use these digital slide surveys as a part of my “introduction to technology” in the first week of school.  I use this time to talk about our Google Drive, how we access files, how to add text, how to drag items, how to use the shortcuts like “copy past” or “undo”.

I never use ALL the slides in this resource, and I use them a few at a time to collect information and really process on it.  For example, I might use this slide one day:

student interest survey

The next day, I might get into more specifics about academics with a survey like this! student reading survey

I also like to mix in paper and pencil surveys as well, and the next two examples are some of my favorites.  Not only do I get some of the BEST information, it’s a chance for me to get a first look at their writing skills in a super low-stress way.

I also REALLY love the second one where students ask me questions because it’s such a safe way for them to get worries off their chest.

student interest surveys building a classroom culture

So, if you haven’t considered trying something like this, I hope I’ve convinced you to do just that!  Write your own–or, if you want some that are already done, click HERE or the image below and take a peek at mine.

back to school survey

Implementing student interest surveys can significantly impact your classroom dynamics and community. Start the school year by understanding your students better and watch your classroom thrive!

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