Writing Project: Student Surveys
Level: High-intermediate or advanced
Time: Six one-hour class periods
The composition assignment: Students will design their own surveys and execute their own research. This project involves writing a poll or survey, collecting first-hand data, organizing and presenting this data using both graphic representations and written discourse. Ultimately, the final student projects could be compiled into a class magazine, which would be distributed to other students at the school.
What students will learn by doing this assignment:
The learning goals for this assignment are manifold. For one, students will gain familiarity with the terminology and procedure for doing first hand research. Secondly, because this is an integrated skills class, they will continue to develop their oral fluency outside of the classroom by asking people the questions on their polls. In addition, because the final products will be compiled into a class magazine, students will gain increasing sensitivity to the idea of writing for a particular audience. Lastly, students may develop advanced skills for using Microsoft Word, specifically the ability to import and reformat web images and create tables and charts. Though these goals may seem somewhat varied, it is important to note that especially in an intensive language program, where students have a number of reasons for wanting to master English, class projects should maintain appeal for all involved.
Each lesson is designed to take approximately 60 minutes. This is a process lesson with some emphasis on product, as the students final writings may appear as magazine articles. The recommended time for this project is two weeks, though it could easily stretch over three weeks; as a three-week project, final articles would go through another revision.
Day One: T begins by asking Students to freewrite on a general question For example, what did you expect the United States (and this school) to be like before you arrived? What surprised you once you got here? Following 3-5 minutes of freewriting, T asks class for responses. Together, Students and T brainstorm a list of topics. T writes these on board, ultimately explaining that they are possible research topics for next writing project.
Once a long list of topics is on the board, T asks Students to think about which topic they would like to research. Students can either meet in discussion groups to share their views on the topics or Students take time (10 minutes) to freewrite on their chosen topic; either way, T should ask for feedback.
Next, Students receive 3-5 sample sets of survey questions. In groups, Students create a set of criteria for writing poll/survey questions. T leads class in a discussion of designing strong survey questions. Homework: write your survey questions.
Day Two: Class begins with a peer review of questions. Working in groups, students try asking and answering the questions they have written. At this stage, Students are encouraged to weed out any weak questions and add stronger ones as necessary. Once Students are content with their questions, T can provide a brief grammatical review of question formation, a problem that seems to plague students at every level. Students are then asked to check their questions for accuracy. During this step, T should circulate among Students, helping to correct grammatical mistakes by underlining them, thereby guiding Students toward self-correction. Now, Students are brought to the computer lab to re-write, edit, and print final copies of their polls. Depending on the computer literacy level of the group, T might first provide a brief demonstration of using Microsoft Words numbered list icon and formatting menu. T assists as needed. Following class, T assists Students in making multiple copies of their surveys. Homework: collect data.
Day Three: Students bring completed surveys to class, 20 min (optional) to obtain data orally from classmates. Students are now paired to discuss survey results. (For this step, T writes several discussion questions on the board: What topic are you researching? What did you find out? Does this information surprise you?) Individuals are then given 10 minutes to freewrite on the question: what does the data mean? Afterward, T presents several different ways of organizing data, including the use of graphic representations, both pie charts and bar graphs. Homework: Bring a rough rough draft of your article for peer evaluation.
Day Four: Students may exchange papers, though this is not required. Rather, Students are given two sets of discussion questions and work with their partner to insure their papers are addressing all vital concerns on this topic. Once this is done, T provides several sample articles. Students work in groups to analyze these models. Homework: Bring rough drafts to class for peer evaluation.
Day Five: Peer exchange of papers. Students fill out peer evaluation forms (attached) and then give each other oral feedback. Now, Students are brought to the computer lab, where T demonstrates how to insert charts into Word documents (Insert/Picture/Chart/Enter data) and how to import and grayscale images from the WWW (Right click/Copy Image/Paste/Image Properties/Grayscale/Text Alignment). Students are given class time to rework final ideas, re-write, and add graphics to their pages. During this time, T holds mini-conferences with individual Students. Homework: Bring a final copy of your article both a printed copy and on disk!
Day Six: T gives Students editing guidelines. Students proofread their own papers following these guidelines, then exchange papers to double check grammatical accuracy in peers paper. Students are assigned to magazine groups. After this, the remainder of the lesson is spent in the computer lab. Students make final changes to their articles. One magazine group makes a table of contents page and front cover. Another makes signs promoting the free magazine. Following the lesson, T makes multiple copies of class magazine. These are places near the front desk and in the computer lab, for other Students to take and read.
The rationale for my having decided on a research project is a bit complex. For one, it is an often-neglected area in ESL writing tasks. Secondly, the lesson appeals to a wide range of interests. Some students may be entering university programs which will require them to conduct research projects; still others will undoubtedly enter a business environment in which first hand research will play a role. Even for those Students who will derive no long-term benefits from designing a research project, the oral component of negotiating the collection of data is worthwhile. This assignment requires everyone to use his or her English skills outside of class.
The peer response segment of this lesson is designed to foster interactivity while giving writers feedback from the very audience for whom they are writing. Peer response is given both written and verbally. The written portion is designed to have students look carefully at whether or not their peers are completing the assigned task. Meanwhile, the verbal portion allows for increased oral communication time.
Writing for other students at the school not only provides a tangible audience but, moreover, results in increased motivation to complete the task at hand.