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Understand Your Class - Fun Survey for ESL / EFL Learners


A common comment made by new English students is that they want to improve their conversational skills. In fact, many students complain that their grammar is OK, but, when it comes to conversing, they feel they are still beginners. This makes sense - especially in academic settings where the emphasis often tends towards structural knowledge. As a first year, enthusiastic ESL / EFL teacher, I can remember striding into class ready to help students converse - only to find out that what I had chosen was of little or no interest to my students. I stammered through the lesson, trying to cajole my students into talking - and, in the end, doing most of the talking myself.

Does this scenario sound slightly familiar? Even the most experienced teacher runs into this problem: A student wants to improve his/her speaking ability, but getting them to state an opinion is like pulling teeth. There are many reasons for this common problem: pronunciation problems, cultural tabus, lack of vocabulary for a given topic, etc. In order to combat this tendency, it's good to gather a little background information on your students before you begin your conversation lessons. Finding out about your students well ahead of time can also assist in:

  • planning out longer arcs of learning topics
  • understanding the 'personality' of your class
  • grouping students for activities
  • finding the right authentic materials that will hold your class' attention through the tough bits
  • suggesting individual research topics for class presentations
It's best to distribute this type of fun survey during the first week of class. Feel free to distribute the activity as homework. Once you understand the reading and study habits, as well as the general interests of your class, you will be well on your way to providing engaging materials that will actually encourage you students to say more than "yes" or "no" the next time you ask them to make a comment.

Fun Survey for Adult ESL / EFL Learners

  1. Imagine you are having dinner with your best friend. What topics do you discuss?

  2. Imagine you are having a work lunch with colleagues. What topics do you discuss that are work related?

  3. Imagine you are having a work lunch with colleagues. What topics do you discuss that are non-work related?

  4. What do you like best about your profession?

  5. What do you like least about your profession?

  6. What do you like to read? (circle items)

    • Fiction

      • Adventure stories
      • Historical fiction
      • Science fiction
      • Comic books
      • Thrillers
      • Short Stories
      • Romance novels
      • Other (please list)

    • Non fiction

      • Biography
      • Science
      • History
      • Cook books
      • Sociology
      • Computer manuals
      • Other (please list)

  7. Do you read any magazines or newspapers? (please list titles)
  8. What are your hobbies?
  9. What places have you visited?
  10. What type of things do you like: (circle items)

    • Gardening
    • Going to museums
    • Listening to music (please list type of music)
    • Movies
    • Working with Computers / Surfing the Internet
    • Video games
    • Watching TV (please list programs)
    • Playing sports (please list sports)
    • Playing an instrument (please list instrument)
    • Other (please list)

  11. Think about your best friend, husband or wife for a minute. What do you have in common with him/her?

Next page: Fun Survey for Students

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