Using Google Forms to get to know your students (with screenshots)

We’ve heard it over and over again: “You must know your students.” It is a tenement of most education programs as well as the National Board Certification Program and for good reason. It is impossible to best serve our students if we do not understand who they are on at least a moderate level.

The question is: How do we get to know our students?

There are so many ways! Talking with them (not just to them) is an obvious start. Having them write about themselves is one of my favorites, but more recently I’ve added another tool to my “get to know my students” arsenal: Google Forms.

It takes me about 10 minutes to set up a Google form that gives me actionable data about my students. There is no wrong time of the year to do something like this, but I tend to do it at the beginning. In a matter of seconds, I can get data like this:

By using this form I can clearly see that in my two ADay Dual Enrollment classes who responded to this survey, 53.1% consider themselves visual learners and 40.8% consider themselves kinesthetic learners. This knowledge impacts the delivery of my instruction and the ways in which I ask students to show what they know.

Sometimes I get responses like below that shows a relatively even spread. I always mix up individual, pair, and group work in my classes, but having this data (specifically because I can look and see individual responses) helps me prepare students for various learning activities.

Here’s how to do it. It’s so easy!

You probably already have a Google Drive, but if you don’t it’s as easy as creating a gmail account. Then Google, “Google drive” and sign in with that email account.

When you log in you will get a screen that looks something like this:

If you are new to Google Drive yours may be blank. The next step is to click on the rainbow plus sign next to the word “New” in the upper right hand corner. You will get a number of options. Click on “more.” Then choose “Google Forms.” You will get a screen that looks like this:

Now it is as easy as filling in the blanks with what you want to do. I recommend first giving it a title where it says “Untitled Form” in bold. Students will see the title, so make it something friendly like “Class culture survey.” Then click on the “Untitled Form” in the upper left hand corner and it will automatically populate for you.

Time to write your first question. Take a look at the tools to the right side of the question box. You can toggle over them to see what they do. The only one we’re going to need is the first one. We use the plus sign to create another question.

You’ll also see the word “required” on the bottom right of the question box. You can ask some questions that aren’t required if you want. If you want the question to be required, move the little circle to the right and it will light up a color (mine is purple, but yours might be different).

You’ll also see in the top right of the question box “multiple choice.” Odds are you won’t need anything other than multiple choice for our purposes, but I will show you how to use short answer as well. If you click on the little chevron you can see all your options.

Let’s make a question

My first question is “Do you have internet access at home?” Yours can be whatever suits your purposes, but I suggest starting with an easy one. If you’re going to dig deep. Don’t start here.

Just type your question right where it says “untitled question.” Then you’ll see a magical thing that Google forms does for you. It gives you some suggested answers right under your question. All you have to do is click on “yes” and “no” and your question is finished.

It should look something like this:

That’s it. First question is done. Now click the little plus sign in the circle on the right to make your second question.

Let’s do a question that has answers other than yes or no. I like to ask, ” If you could demonstrate your understanding in any fashion, how would you chose to do it?” Go ahead and type in your question and then click on “option 1” below and type the first answer choice. If you click “add an option” below that, a new line will appear for you to type the next answer choice and so on. Don’t forget to mark the question required if you want all students to answer it.

Let’s make a short answer question

What is something you might want to know that you want students to have free response on? I ask my students what their greatest strength is in reading and writing and I don’t want to give them options that might not be their true strengths or weaknesses so I pose those questions as short answer questions.

Here’s how.

Click on the plus sign in the circle to get a new question. Then click on the chevron in the upper right corner of the question box and choose “short answer” from the drop down menu. Set it to required if you want to and you’re done. Responses to a short answer question come up as a list.

Follow the above steps to finish creating your form then share it with your students so they can take it.

I find the easiest way to share the form with my students is with a link. Click on “send” in the upper right hand corner of the page and then choose the button that represents a link. It should be in the middle between the email symbol and the two arrows.

I like to click the “shorten URL” box and then click the blue “copy” button. Now the link is copied to your clipboard and all you have to do to share it with kids is post it somewhere they can click on it. I post mine in Schoology. You might use Google Classroom.

Then all you do is wait while Google makes beautiful graphs. Just click on “responses” next to questions at the top of your screen.

Go for it! Have fun. Learn more about your students!

Here are some more questions I ask:

I hope you now feel ready to use Google Forms to get to know your students better. You can also go to the wheel or settings button and choose not to collect respondents email addresses if you want to poll students anonymously.

Just getting knee deep in your first year teaching (or student teaching)? Check out these posts:

Unexpected perks of teaching

5 ways to handle first year teacher stress

Survival Mode

5 Snacks teachers love

It’s ok to get teacheritis

A script for how to call a parent

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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