Getting Savvy with Surveys

Surveys have much potential in the language classroom because they can provide conversation, reading, and writing practice. You have three basic options: (1) you can create your own survey, (2) you can have students create a survey, (3) you can use a ready-made survey.

1.  A teacher-created survey can targe specific grammar points or target words. You can tailor the content to match the students’ language level. The main drawback is the time you need to invest in designing the survey. However, a good survey can be recycled with other groups of students.

  • MODEL: I once created a 15-item survey titled “How Honest Are You?” I used it to prompt discussion for an advanced conversation class. Looking at it now, I see other possible uses. Questions can be limited to a certain grammar form such as Have you ever…? or If you…, would you…? Example questions: (1) Have you ever pretended to be ill to miss a day of work or school? [a. Often b. Once or twice c. Never] (2) If you found $10 on the street, what would you do? [a. Immediately pick it up and put in in my pocket b. Look around and ask if someone dropped it… and then possibly take it c. Leave it on the ground]
  • RESOURCE: Survey Monkey


2. A student-created survey gives a task to students which requires the use of mutiple skills: speaking, listening, and writing, not to mention academic skills like relating items to a common theme and identifying cause-effect relationships. If you ask students to generate an original set of survey questions, be sure to provide a model and additional prompts for question formation and possible answer choices.


3. A ready-made survey definitely saves prep time and adds authenticity to the lesson. The main catch is finding a survey with appropriate content in terms of theme and langauge level. Some online surveys can be rather long, but lengthy surveys can be shortened by simply identifying ahead of time which items you wish students to discuss. If you have Internet access in the classroom, you’ll also save paper by simply projecting the chosen website for the whole class to view. With personality/ psychology tests*, remind students that the goal of the activity is language practice, not an accurate psychological profile. (The online tests usually have various disclaimers. They are designed for personal use.)


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