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At the beginning of the year, I use this survey to learn important background information about the new class sitting in front of me. Often many of your students know each other from previous grades and classes, and when asked, students can give you a plethora of important information (that you need to create a safe and successful classroom culture). The purpose of this survey is to find out what your students think and know about other people in the class. This survey is completely anonymous - do not have students write their name at the top of the survey.
First, students are asked to make a list of people in the class that they think of as good friends. Knowing who the best friends, worst enemies, our couples are :) - is valuable information that is helpful to have for creating seating charts. Finally students answer 15 questions, such as, Who gets the best grades? and Who are you afraid of? and Who is the kindest?
Take their responses home to read. Use this information to be proactive about your students...rather than reactive! It shouldn't have to take us 9 weeks to learn the kind of information your students will teach you using this survey...but without this, the reality is it often does! I also use this to give classroom awards - shout outs - for students that receive positive recognition from the majority of their classmates.