Beyond the Reading Interest Surveys: Getting to Know Your Readers

Ok, so let’s be real for a second.  Every back to school year we print off those reading interest surveys with great intentions.  Yes, we need to get to know our readers and reading interest surveys seem like the best way to do that, right?  But what happens after you give the survey?  They end up in a pile of papers along with other meaningful activities for back to school.  We forget to look at them, analyze them, or even more so, USE the information in the survey.  Getting to know your readers is so important to do, but there are better ways to do it!

Beyond the reading interest surveys

Probably THE most important thing a teacher can do at the beginning of the year is to make sure they get to know each and every one of their students.  We all know that relationships matter.  We cannot teach someone we don’t know.  But it goes even beyond that.  Getting to know your readers actually can positively impact your reading instruction and give you more academic gains for the year.  I also have a great blog post for more regular ‘get to know you‘ type of games and activities!

Why We Need To Get to Know Our Readers:

  • Matching books:  Students’ engagement in the books that they read can help them fall in love with reading.  When we get to know our readers more and find out their likes, dislikes, wants, dreams, memories, pastimes, we can better help students find the right book for them.  When students are early readers (grades K-3) they don’t know yet the possibilities that are out there for reading.  We need to help and guide them and match books to make the magic happen.
  • Finding Texts:  When we pick books to read aloud or find texts to use for lessons, it’s important to really put thought into what texts we pick.  Our students’ engagement level and access to schema is directly correlated with their ability to comprehend that text we have chosen.  So by knowing our readers on a deeper level, we are better able to select texts for small groups, mini-lessons, or even classroom read-alouds that match our students.
  • Understand Schema:  Schema is the most important tool that students bring to the table with them.  Their ability to access and use their schema can directly impact their level of comprehension.  So when teachers get to know students better, they know what is and is not in the students’ schema already and can provide texts that match the students’ schema to help make reading lessons and experiences more concrete and connected.

It may not seem like it, but one book can forever change the trajectory of a reader.  One book can turn a nonreader into a reader.  So it’s our job to get to know our readers and make it happen.

So if we are not using reading interest surveys, then what can teachers do to get to know their readers?  I’ve got three fun ideas to share!

Cover All

Getting to Know Your Readers This is a super fun and easy activity you can have students of all ages complete to help get to know your readers’ experiences and attitudes towards reading.  Students will use the free activity page (provided in the link below) and color each of the squares that apply to them.  On the activity page, the student will find sentences such as, “I want to be a better reader” and “I know what my favorite book is”.

Again students will read each square (or have the teacher read it to them) and if they agree with the sentence, they get to color it.  If not, they leave it blank.  At the top of the activity page, it states that there are no right answers.  Every reader has their own experiences and story.  We are all readers.  If you want to create your own version of this activity, it is very simple to do in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint by using the ‘grid’ insert.  Simply type in statements and off you go.  Or if you want my copy you can download it by clicking HERE!  You can also grab the digital version HERE.

Book Sorts

I love this activity and so do the students.  I sometimes call this activity ‘book sorts’ and I sometimes call it ‘This or That”.  It’s a very simple activity that you can do one on one with readers, in small groups, partners, or even the whole group.  I would recommend doing it one on one at the beginning of the year to really get to know your readers.

To complete the activity all you need to do ahead of time is to gather a LARGE number of books and have them paired up.  You will want the pairs of books to be very different from one another.  For example, you wouldn’t want to pair up a realistic fiction with realistic fiction.  Instead, you would pair up a realistic fiction with a biography.  Two very different book types.

When you’re ready to do the activity, simply show the student(s) the two books and say ‘This or that?”.  Let the student pick and explain why (optional) and record his/her answers.  This allows you to see which book types, topics, genres, authors, etc your reader is interested in.  It’s quick and easy and something I highly recommend doing a few times a year to stay current with your readers.

Circle of Me

Circle of Me is a really fun activity that you can have students wor on independently after you model it for them.  This activity allows you to see more into the students’ likes, loves, Getting to Know Your Readersand even dislikes. Basically you draw out three circles.  The inside circle represents things the student loves.  The middle circle represents their likes.  And the outside circle represents their dislikes.

Depending on the grade level of your students, you can have them write words or draw pictures in the circles to fill them in.  Try to have the students fill in the circles and fully as they can.  Encourage them to share them with their neighbors and classmates too.  Collect the circles and use this information to help you match books and find texts to use when teaching.

You can grab a template for this activity HERE or a digital version of the activity HERE.  You can also make this activity more interactive by drawing out the circles on large butcher block paper and turning it more into a presentation.

I hope that some of the activities you read about above sound fun!  I know my students always enjoyed them and so will yours!  Just remember that curriculum NEEDS to wait.  We cannot teach someone we do not know.  Take time to get to know your readers and USE that information when you can!  So ditch those reading interest surveys and do better!

Want to save these ideas for later?  Pin the image below!

Beyond the reading interest surveys


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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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