What do you prefer?

It’s World Book Day on April 23rd. In this month’s blog post, I will share a ‘Books and Reading’ survey idea for teachers to try out with their primary students. I will also provide a simple reflection task to support Professional Development. We invite you to send us your feedback. By sharing experiences we can learn a lot from each other.

Children are naturally curious and classroom surveys are a great way to channel that curiosity while developing important skills like collaboration and evaluating and presenting information. This survey about books and reading preferences ties in with World Book Day on 23rd April.

A class survey: asking questions, sharing opinions and presenting findings.

Where to start?

It is a good idea to link a classroom survey to a topic that students are currently learning about. Topics like transport and sport for example, easily lend themselves to surveys on how students get to school or their favourite food. But special days in the calendar can offer opportunities to leave the established syllabus and broaden the scope of the learning by introducing cultural and social references. It is important to choose a subject that students have an interest in. It is also a good idea to choose a different subject (or at least, a different angle) for each survey so that when students ask questions and share their findings, the interest is maximised.

Key points for a successful survey project

  • Think of a subject.
  • Choose questions carefully. If questions are too ‘open’, you might end up with 20 different answers in a class of 20. It’s better to have groups of children with the same answer so that the findings can be shown in a graphic form.
  • Decide who and how many people are going to answer the questions. This can be the whole class, another class, family members, etc.
  • Think about how the answers are going to be recorded.
  • Think about how the information collected is going to be analyzed and presented. Graphs and PIE charts are usually best.
  • Discuss these steps with the class beforehand or write some step-by-step guidelines on the board for them to follow.

For the purpose of this post we’ll look at a survey about books and  reading preferences.

  1. Organize students into pairs or small groups.
  2. Write some example questions on the board and then invite the students to add more. You might need to check understanding of some words and phrases.


  1. Which kinds of stories do you like best?

(a) Funny (b) Adventure (c) Fantasy (d) Factual (e) Other

  1. How many books do you read in a year?

(a) None (b) 1-4 (c) 5-8 (d) more than 8

  1. What do you prefer?

(a) To read a story myself (b)For someone to read a story to me

  1. Where do you like to read books?

(a) In my bedroom (b) In the living room (c) Outdoors (d) Anywhere (e) Nowhere

  1. Which books do you prefer?

(a) Books in English (b) Books in my language

  1. Who reads books in your family?

(a) Everyone (b) Some members (c) No one

  1. How many authors can you name?

(a) None (b) 1-3 (c) 4-6 (d) More than 6

  1. Which is better …

(a) reading a book? (b) watching a film?

  1. Read some of the questions and ask students to think of their answers. Some questions require more thinking (and remembering) time.
  2. Choose one question to ask everyone in the class. Record their answers on the board. Then display the findings. An ‘a, b, c’ question is best for this. Answers can be recorded in a small grid and presented in a simple bar chart.

Setting up the survey project

  • Ask pairs/groups to copy 5 or 6 questions from the board.
  • Arrange for students to ask their questions and record their answers (in the class, with another class or at home).
  • Students analyse their answers and decide how to display their findings. This might involve bar charts or simple sentences. They might use numbers, fractions or percentages.

E.g. 25% of the class like funny stories best.

A quarter of the class like funny stories best.

Seven students like funny stories best.

  • Groups take turns to share their findings with the rest of the class.

Note: You might like to use technology for the surveys. The basic steps above will be the same but students will have the option to send a digital survey to a wider audience and to create more elaborate graphs and charts to present their findings.

Reflection task

Try out a survey project with your class and spend some time completing the reflection tasks below. This can be done in a professional development journal or in a discussion with a colleague.

  1. Was the survey project a success?
  2. How did the learners respond to the project?
  3. Did all learners successfully complete the survey?
  4. Did any of your learners surprise you in any way?
  5. Did you or your students encounter any problems? If ‘yes’, how did you resolve them?
  6. Would you do this activity again?

If ‘No’, why not? If ‘Yes’, would you do anything differently?

If you try a survey project with your class, we’d love to hear how it went.


Featured Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Author: Katherine Bilsborough

Katherine has been creating ELT materials for 30 years, for her own students and for some of the top ELT Publishers. She has written more than 30 course books and many online courses. . Katherine also writes monthly lesson plans for the British Council/BBC website teachingenglish.org.uk and blog posts for National Geographic Learning’s In Focus blog. She is the author of ‘How to write Primary materials’, a training course for ELT writers and is the Joint Events Coordinator for IATEFL’s MaWSIG (Materials Writers’ special interest group). Katherine is a co-author of Look, a seven-level primary series from National Geographic Learning.

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