Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Literacy Survey Reflection (521)

Below is the instrument I used to assess the literacy of my biology students during the 2nd week of class.

Literacy Survey
I want to get to know you better as well as your reading habits. Please answer the following questions so I can begin to learn who you are and how you feel about reading. Be honest. There are no right or wrong answers. Please answer every question.

1.       What are your favorite things to read?

2.       What are your least favorite things to read?

3.       How well do you understand your textbook readings? (Consider your other classes too).
(Please circle the number that best fits your answer below. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being, “I can’t understand a word in that dumb book,” and 5 being, “I understand every word.”)

1              2              3              4              5

4.       How much do you read on your own?
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being, “I never read, except for the texts my friends send me,” and 5 being, “I love reading so much that my mom is always telling me to put down the book and go outside.”)

1              2              3              4              5

5.       Tell me one thing about yourself that we don’t know. It can be a hobby, where you grew up, your favorite food, or whatever you choose.

6.       How do you learn best? Maybe you learn the most from listening to your teachers in class, hands-on activities, group projects, taking notes, or reading. Consider your favorite class and think about why it’s your favorite. Please describe.

7.       What topic in biology excites you the most (for example: the environment, evolution, DNA, the human body, medicine, etc.)?

8.       The one thing I wish my teachers would do more is ________________________________.
(Please fill in the blank).

Above is the instrument I used to assessed the literacy of my Biology students in periods 4 and 5. The students seemed to enjoy filling them out and liked telling me about themselves. Personally, I thought this was perhaps one of the most important things that I will do all year. I learned so much about my students and can now use more relevant, real-life examples in class, based on their personal interests. For instance, one student enjoys reading books about Sasquatch. I could sneak that into material I'm presenting in class. We are learning about the scientific method right now. I could definitely create an experiment with Sasquatch to use in class. Students would enjoy identifying the independent/dependent variables and control group. 

The feedback I received from my students was more valuable than any other feedback I could receive. They were surprisingly honest and completely willing to let me know my faults and mistakes! This is great information. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them hate to read. I'm not sure if this is a good representation of the entire student body, however, because the freshman biology class tends to be composed of less-proficient students. More advanced students choose to take A.P. Biology, Honors Biology, or Med. Bio. My co-teacher uses the text as a reference guide and does not assign readings from it all. Now I understand why. However, we teaches students to use the text as a resource to look up topics for clarification. In addition, maybe I can find more appropriate readings that will interest them specifically. I can hand them short, real-life articles about their personal interests. For instance, several students love comic books. I could have students construct their own comic book story to depict mitosis, for example. I could also convert content into a comic book for the students. For more ideas, check out Comic Strip Worksheets from "Have Fun Teaching".

In addition to learning about their reading habits, I gleaned valuable information from each student, giving me valuable insight into how to best teach them. They told me when they were bored, what they want, and what they need help with. They told me they loved labs, groups, and hands-on activities. They told me whether they learned best by listening to the teacher (auditory), taking notes and reading (visual), or through group projects (kinesthetic). I learned that students want more handouts, teacher-guided examples (modeling), and longer time for review. They also want music and snacks.

Many of them are involved in sports. They are soccer players, football players, basketball players, and water polo players. They like to listen to music, and they LOVE to eat. Some love math, some love doing choreography for drama, others do parkour, a weird sport I had to look it up--some sort of street gymnastics. They are interested in medicine, the human body, DNA and evolution.

Now I know how to best reach my students. I can try to use their feedback to make changes and make content more personally relevant and interesting to them. I can target their learning styles using appropriate differentiation techniques. The biggest thing that occurred to me is that students who don't want to learn, won't. Many of these students come in hating biology. My #1 goal is to show them that biology is interesting, fun, and personally relevant. If I can hook them, then teaching content is easy.


  1. It seems like you often get the most benefit from simple assignments, such as the survey you sent to your students. Not only did you find out some valuable information that will help in your teaching, you also sent a clear message that you care about your students as individuals.

  2. I had a similar experience when i told my students that many of them read and write for more then three hours a day. They all looked at me stunned and then I told them in the form of Text messaging and blog posting. I then said if you can do it with your friends you can do it for me. Knowing our students is so important it build a culture in the classroom that makes teaching more enjoyable.