5 Questions to Ask When Getting to Know Your Students

Every year I give my students a questionnaire to complete on the first day of school. Later that night, when I have finally recovered from the excitement of the first day, I sit down with my stack of questionnaires to read all about my new students. My students' responses are such an important piece in getting to know each and every one of them.

While there is a whole list of get-to-know-you questions for students to respond to, there are five questions that I make sure to pay extra close attention to:

What do you like to be called?

This question might seem like an obvious one, but I speak from personal experience when I tell you that this question can make such a big difference for certain students. My name is Rebecca, but as a kid I ONLY went by Becky. Every year, when my teachers would call my name during attendance on the first day, I would simply respond with "HERE", instead of letting them know that I preferred to be called Becky. I was painfully shy as a child and too afraid to speak up. Often it was not until Back to School Night, or even conference time, when teachers would meet my parents and learn that I preferred to be called Becky. It may seem like a small thing, but it was a HUGE deal to me as a child!

On this same note, it is just as important to students that we know how to PRONOUNCE their names. It is definitely worth the extra effort to make that connection with students, and make them feel valued in our classrooms.

What is something that makes you feel proud?

This question is the one that allows me to make connections with my students. This is where they share what they're good at in or out of school. It gives them a chance to reflect on what makes them feel good about themselves. For me, it helps me to start conversations with students, recommend books they might like, or encourage other interests or activities that may be related to what makes them proud.

What is something that is challenging for you?

This next one is an obvious one, but still an important one. Those things that challenge our students are the very things that might lead to anxiety or discomfort in the classroom. The responses to this question are ones that I like to keep in the back of my mind as I am preparing lessons for new and challenging content. It gives me a chance to think of ways to help students overcome those challenges, or to simply shift their mindset when it comes to challenges.

What is something you wish I knew?

I used to ask the question, "What is the MOST important thing you want me to know about YOU?" While I got some great responses to this question, I would also get things like "I am really good at baseball" or "I like math". Of course these things are important, but we cover interests and favorite subjects with other questions. I want to hear the one thing (or more) that my students need me to know about them, in order for me to be the best teacher I can possibly be for them. A few years ago, a teacher named Kyle Schwartz posed this question for her students. She shared some of the responses on social media, highlighting the need for teachers everywhere to truly get to know their students and what they might need. Needless to say, this question is now asked on my questionnaire.

What is something you expect from me as your teacher?

We discuss so many expectations that we have for our students during the first week of school. I also think that it's important to see what our students expect from us. I am always surprised by my students responses to this question. They are often honest and specific about what they need. I have had students share that they like to have fun, but that they need structure. I have also had students share that they expect me to listen to them. Leave it to our students to remind us what it takes to make us better teachers!

Believe it or not, students' responses to these questions stick out in my mind throughout the year. I always keep their responses in the back of my mind as I am interacting with my students, planning lessons, or even dealing with challenges. A student questionnaire is a great jumping off point for getting to know your students.

You can download this questionnaire for FREE by clicking HERE or on the pic below. 
This questionnaire is just one of the get-to-know-you activities from my Back to School resource. If you're looking for more activities for those first days of school, click HERE or on the pic below to take a closer look. This resource now includes digital pages for distance learning.
It's never too early to start thinking about the next school year. I hope that you will keep these questions in mind when getting to know your students this upcoming year.