Sunday, May 31, 2015

Peer Surveys

I promised a while back (after posting a peer survey template in my freebies area) that I would blog about how I use them.

Peer surveys are a mainstay of my classroom practice. They work for any level from ESL Literacy to CLB 7, and can also be used in EAP courses. With a peer survey, you offer your learners an opportunity to use the week's target structures or concepts with a number of their classmates. I always participate in the surveys, so this gives students a chance to converse one-on-one with me, as well.

So what is a peer survey? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at a sample peer survey for the literacy level below.
This survey was part of our unit on food staples. We had learned words such as rice, tea, milk, eggs, bread, chicken, fish, and juice. We had learned to ask, "Excuse me, where is the _____?"  We had taken a virtual tour of the local grocery store and had set up our classroom with aisle signs identical to the ones found in that store. We had practiced telling each other on which aisle we would find tea, rice and pop. We had learned to write out simple shopping lists.

Then we had learned "Do you like _____?" along with affirmative and negative answers, practicing them as a chain drill around the class, or in a more random and fun way by passing a ball around the classroom to tag each other. 

Once students feel confident in their ability to ask and answer a couple of basic questions relating to the week's topic, I give them a graphic organizer like the one you see above. I provide the questions just above the table, e.g.,

Question 1 - 
A:   Do you like chicken?
B:   Yes, I do.             OR            No, I don't.


They know they are to walk around and talk to five classmates. They know I don't want them simply to copy classmates' names onto the form, but rather want them to ask each other, "How do you spell your name?" They know, too, that they should be able to spell their names aloud for their classmates. Weekly peer surveys ensure learners get lots of practice with this function--one they will need daily as they navigate doctor visits, school enrolments, and so many more activities of daily life in Canada.

Peer surveys can also be used with higher levels in so many ways. I recently experimented with using them to give my intermediate learners an opportunity to use lexical chunks (expressions, idioms, phrasal verbs, etc.) that we had encountered in that week's text. The text was about how to use an Automatic External Defibrillator or AED. This activity was a huge hit! (See below.)

The best part of this activity is the energy in the room when it's going on. Students seem to really enjoy the interaction and chance to put the new language to use. When the surveying is done, I help them digest what they've learned. For literacy learners, this can mean producing sentences in the third person to capture what they learned about classmates. For more advanced levels, this can mean the teacher asks students to summarize what they learned about others.

This is also a great activity for speaking assessment time. The teacher can mill about taking notes on rubrics while students circulate and complete their quota of five or however many peers they are to survey.

Do you already use peer surveys? If not, I highly recommend you give them a whirl. If you try them out and/or use my template, I hope you'll leave a comment to let me know how it went.

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