August 11, 2012 by Megan
Teaching is a unique job. What other job lets you spend time and get to know hundreds of different people that you will see on a daily basis?
We are lucky. I know that some students can drive you crazy and we all have difficult ones at times. However, there are so many interesting students with unique personalities and exciting dreams. Get to know them!
During the first week – I always set aside a few minutes one day at the end of class for students to fill out a little questionaire. I don’t need (or want) to know everything about my new students right at the beginning, but the more I know the more prepared I am to know how to work with them. I find that students are WAY more likely to tell you something in writing than they are to tell you in front of the class or after class. These questions help me get a feel for my students without trying to read their minds.
This isn’t amazing, but this is what I give them…
Here are my top 7 things to look for…
1.) Have they studied your language before? (AKA - Do they really need to be in this level 1A class?)
If they have had 4 years of Spanish in elementary school, then they probably do not. Nothing is worse than finding out after my first assessment that a student already knows past tense and the subjunctive!
I have also had several students that took the same class the year before and PASSED and were put back in there by mistake. Good to catch ASAP!
Do both their parents speak the language at home? This is a quick flag that reminds me to have a chat them and see if they would be better off in a higher level class or studying another language. I always ask native speakers… “Do you really NEED to learn to count to 30 and introduce yourself and say hello?”
2.) What do they want to learn?
Nothing would demotivate me more than expecting to get to do something and then not getting to do it. Kids come to class with expectations based on something they have heard about language classes or culture. If I know what they are excited to learn about – then I want to try to include it. After all, this is THEIR class, not mine. Typical answers – fiestas, cooking/hispanic food, dance, to have a conversation = all doable in class!
3.) What do they like to do?
This question helps me see what the personality of a class might be like. If everyone puts down sports it shows me they will be more active and energetic. If they like music/arts/videogames, I can find more TL videos about those things. If a class is really similar – they usually get along better. If they are very diverse, it takes more effort to get them talking to each other. It easier to engage them if you already know what they are interested in!
4.) Where have they traveled?
A student may be able to share first hand information about the language/culture if he has seen it. If most students haven’t traveled out the their city or out the the country – then I know they will love seeing the culture – but there may be some shock at first. Helps to know beforehand!
5.) What activities are they involved in at school?
It helps to know that the guy trying to sleep in 2nd period may not hate your class. He plays football and the team is practicing four hours a day. If a soccer player gets a little rude and I can’t get ahold of a parent – I can talk to a coach. One girl does the school announcements – great! She can help promote a Spanish Club event!
6.) What is something unique about them?
These are funny! Not everyone answers it – but it makes me want to get to know them more. One year, I found out a kid knew how to hack computers… (GOOD TO KNOW!) Another time, a student told me he could play flamenco guitar. He was shy and wouldn’t have bragged himself up unless I asked! He put on a mini-concert for us later in the year! Ole!
7.) Anything else I should know?
This is here just in case I didn’t give a student a chance to share something earlier in the questionaire. I especially like kids to feel free to medical issues that may affect their mood or attentivness. I may find out a certain kid can’t see well and prefers to sit close to the front. Others warm me that they are extremely shy. If they write something – they wanted you to know it! It helps to much to know these things so I can TRY to accomodate my students. The more comfortable they are – the more they will learn!
So there you have it! My must-haves for a new student questionaire!
Sit down. Think it out. What information would help you better understand and engage your students? Now ask them – It takes some of the guesswork out of being a teacher!