Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Understanding the Literacy Habits of your Students through a Survey

In my classroom, I handed out a short survey to learn more about the literacy habits of my students. What I got back was a plethora of information, some of which was surprising and other parts not so much. Teaching tenth grade English I’m getting used to hearing students complain about the vocabulary workload, the stories, and more than anything else, the writing. I like them, realize that English class takes a great part of their homework time, and can understand why they see English as a challenging subject. So I was pleased to discover when I read that many of my students did love to read and did love to write, they just didn’t know it. Also, by giving them this short answer questionnaire I was also able to see that some of my student’s writing and reading skills were far below the class average.    

           In my high school English class we hit the ground running with vocabulary quiz’s, assigned readings, and essay writing to the grumble and dismay of most. So when I asked many of them if they liked English class many gave a resounding “NO!” I can’t say I blame them, and like one student wrote, “if I say yes will that mean more homework?” We make them read and write so much that the words are almost as fowl to them as any curse word would be in a teacher’s classroom. Yet, many of them say they spend an average of five hours a day reading, and writing, through text messaging and social blog posting. While I agree that this is hardly academic skill building its very telling about my students literacy needs. This fact tells me that these kids do like to read; they just don’t like what we are assigning them. Now we all know that this does not mean I am going to which out Of Mice and Men for a Twilight but do I believe I can and should modify some content to make it relevant for them. For instance, instead of making them read a persuasive news article about health care, I might give them a persuasive one on Justin Berber. In this way we can teach students the skills they need in a way, which is relevant to them.
         Another aspect of my student’s literacy habits that my survey pointed out to me was, how many of them were lacking basic reading and writing skills. I was quickly able to identify students who I had not known needed extra help, or who were second language learners. This allowed us to modify some of our lessons in a particular period in order to meet those students writing and reading needs. Just by the way they answered a question or lack there off it was easy to gauge some of their skill levels in a meaningful way.
        If I learned anything from conducting this survey it is that getting to know your students is always helpful in helping your help them succeed. I was able to not only identify students who needed extra skills but also those who loved to read and write and might need to be challenged a little. In the fast passed world, which is a school, and with class sizes on the rise, it is imposable to know every student the way we as educators feel we would like. Giving this type of survey takes less than five minutes and while I will admit I have not analyzed all the data into a compensable form. What I have gained form it so far has given me great insight into the literary habits of my students. Not only that, but I plan to keep the results in a folder which will allow me to look over them again in a easy way so that if at a later date have a question or concern I need to investigate I can do so.

Click here to Get a copy of the Survey given