“Survey says!” – Using polls as a pre-reading tool

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Earlier this year, I was at an educational technology conference that included Richard Byrne, James Hollis, and Jen Deyenberg. I had the opportunity to sit in on both Richard’s and James’ sessions. One of the tools that was demonstrated in James’ Smartboard session was Poll Everywhere. I was already familiar with this free online tool, but hadn’t seen it in action during a seminar. At the time, I was intrigued, but couldn’t really see how this might be useful in my classroom. I shelved the idea for the time being and returned back to my school with all sorts of other ideas that I could implement immediately.

Some time ago, I was talking with a colleague about some reading and writing activities and the idea of Poll Everywhere came up again, but this time I had an idea of how it could be used to help students draw from their previous knowledge during a pre-reading exercise. Students respond online to a series of statements based on the text they are about to read by giving their opinions on whether they agree or disagree with the sentence. The results are then posted for everyone to see and discuss before reading the text. After, the students go back over the results to compare the answers from the text and their previous responses.
  • Previous knowledge: Students are able to draw from their own experiences and knowledge on the topic.
  • Discussion on the topic: Students are engaging with the topic and with their peers before reading the text.
  • Vocabulary: Students are able to learn or review vocabulary based on the topic before reading the text.
  • Critical discussion: Students debate the merits of each statement, giving their own opinions before reading someone else’s viewpoint.
  • Noticing: Students read the text for specific information.
  • Online survey: There are a number of good free online survey makers, but for the sake of this demonstration, I will be using Poll Everywhere. It is simple to use, doesn’t require registration, and displays results in real-time.
  • Web annotator: Once again, there are a good deal of quality sites and tools for annotating pages. For this project, I will use BookmarkQ for its simplicity and the clean results.
  • Internet device: I prefer the use of cell / mobile phones for this task, but since some schools don’t allow the use of phones in the classroom, I will demonstrate how you can use either a computer or phone to enter in the results.
  • Large display: The obvious choice is an Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) although most schools don’t have these and for this project, a simple computer and data projector will do just fine. You can even just have students look on their computer screens, but it loses the community type of feel to it.
  • Collaborative document: Google Drive works well, but since some students might not have a Google account, I prefer to set up a TitanPad document that they can use without having to sign up.
  1. Find an appropriate text: This could be paper-based or online for this activity.
  2. Create a list of statements: Create a series of statements based on information from the text. Students should be able to agree or disagree with the statements.
  3. Create a poll: Go to Poll Everywhere and create a multiple-choice poll using each statement as a separate questions with Agree / Disagree as the two options.
  4. Share their thoughts: Before having the students complete the poll, have them discuss what they think the article is about and the information that could possibly be found in it. This can be done as a class or in small groups.
  5. Complete the poll: Have students complete the poll on their own and show the results in real-time on the IWB or projector.
  6. Discuss the results: Have the class discuss the results after everyone is done. Have students share any new words that they may have come across in the statements.
  7. Read the text: Have students read the text and then complete the poll again, keeping a copy of the original poll results before clearing them for the students.
  8. Compare the results: Put students in groups to look at the results. Have them share anything they find surprising or things where they disagree with the author.
  • Students could use an online annotation tool such as BookmarkQ or Infocus.cc to share they answers to the poll questions.
  • Students could follow this up with more research on the topic using an online annotation tool and Wallwisher or TitanPad to share links to what they found. This could culminate in a writing exercise or presentation.

Have you used something similar in your classroom? Add your thoughts in the comment section below, tweet me at @nathanhall, or email me through the contact page on this website.


3 thoughts on ““Survey says!” – Using polls as a pre-reading tool

  1. This sounds like a great idea. It would be a motivating prior knowledge assessment or anticipation guide sort of thing. I don’t think it would be practical for me though. Like you said, strict cell phone policy and only 2 computers for 12 students. Could the students write their answer on a post-it and then the teacher could put the answers in to get the poll to come up?

  2. That would certainly work. It obviously adds more time to the process, but could be done. It might be simplest to just use Excel or another chart program instead. Take a show of hands and then enter in the results into the chart and then display them using a computer and projector. Similar end results, but without the individual entries. Compare the charts afterward.

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