The Back-to-School Questionnaire

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Over the years, I have learned what questions I should ask that help me get a better handle on my students. But, I don’t ask these questions until about four or five days in, because first of all, I want to do math right away, and second of all, often times the class rosters shift quite a bit in the first week of school.

Once I have all of the papers collected, I read them and then I put them in a three ring binder organized by class period. Often this first read through means nothing to me — unless there is a red flag of a parent death or a particularly fascinating extra-curricular activity like bull riding. When I have trouble with a student (not necessarily behavioral — it could be just a puzzlement), and talking to the student one-on-one hasn’t helped, I go straight to the binder. After I read through the questionnaire, I often have a plan. “First I’ll call the parent, then I’ll get in touch with the band director.” OR “That kid is so-and-so’s nephew? I will call the mom but I will mention that I work with the aunt.”

I teach in a rural county school district that is near a major research university, so these are the questions I have come up with to help me better understand my students. You will have to tailor it to your school and to your students. But, this questionnaire is a start!

Click here to access the questionnaire I use.  It can give you an idea of what you might like to type up (or if you are really fancy make a web-based interactive survey) for your own students.

Here are some questionnaire hacks:

  1.  The student writes down that s/he is in the 11th grade but on the roll s/he is in the 10th grade.  This student could be a struggling learner who has failed at least English in high school, if not other subjects as well.
  2. What math I took last year.  If the student took the same math last year as this year… RED FLAG!  Either this student failed last year or somehow slipped through the counseling center cracks and is mis-scheduled.  Sleuth this one immediately.
  3. The student’s birth year, when subtracted from the current year gives a greater (or lesser) age than one would expect from students in that grade.  Hmmmmmm…
  4. The schedule.  Is the student in Band?  Sports? jrROTC?  These teachers can be very helpful in motivating your shared student.
  5. What I like to do (G-rated).  This will give you tidbits to incorporate into word problems, bell-ringers, and general conversation.  If none of your students are skiers, e.g., why use that as a reference for slope?

I hope this questionnaire helps not only new teachers out there, but also seasoned teachers who are looking for ways to reenergize their school year.


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  1. Pingback: Place Cards / Assigned Seats | Math, Teaching, and Teaching Math

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