Class survey tasks to create input from discussion.

When I’m honest with myself, I admit that I’m not very good at facilitating PQA (Personalized Question and Answer) off the cuff.  PQA is definitely an area of growth for me.  I’ve learned quickly that I need to create context for me to successfully facilitate PQA.  One easy way to do this is through class surveys.  I originally tried a few class surveys as vocabulary activity.  Now I understand the gold of a class survey is the discussion of the data afterword.

I approached a recent survey in a class exploring ideas of friendship as we read selections of Cicero’s de Amicitia.  Early in the 1st passage Cicero used words for a close relative, a stranger and he discussed the importance of proximity of friends.  After introducing new vocabulary and attempting some fairly stale PQA based on some questions I wrote I created a survey to find out some info about my students.  I kept them simple while using some of the vocabulary from Cicero.  Most questions were yes/no or how many.  Some example questions translated into English:

  • Do you have friends who seem to be a close relative?
  • How many friends who seem to be a close relative do you have?
  • Do you have friends who are far away?
  • How many friends do you have who are far away?
  • Is friendship strong enough for those friends who are far away?
  • Do you have friends who are strangers to America?
  • How many friends do you have who are strangers to America?

I learned some interesting things about my class.  Most of them have more than 1 friend that they feel is close.  Almost half said they have friends outside of America.  What followed was a discussion about the class data in Latin.  We ended up learning more things.  One student said that technology makes long distance friendships strong enough to handle the distance, yet when I asked a student who traveled to Greece with me how well he has stayed in touch with friends we met on the trip, he said he hadn’t really stayed in touch.  This is where the discussion became interesting.  In general, the class decided that we must be close friends in proximity before it will be strong enough to handle distance.  I almost felt Cicero nodding his head as we stumbled around the ideas in Latin.

So if you are like me and can’t always figure out how to jump start the PQ&A session, take a step back and consider some simple survey questions related to your topic.  You can take other simple ideas like good idea/bad idea, agree/disagree, ratings, or anything that will solicit judgments from your students.  Just remember:

  •  Keep it simple – The goal is to give you content to extend discussion in the target language.
  • Recycle recent phrasing – The survey becomes comprehensible input before the discussion even starts.
  • Complete a simple quick quiz – Data is an easy way to review numbers, more and less than, who said, etc.  Use the data to create a low pressure listening and reading assessment.


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