Weekly Polls

One of my strategies for engaging students, and discovering what pop culture references they find relatable, is to conduct weekly polls. The results of these polls give me an idea of the types of pop culture they engage with on a regular basis, and I incorporate their responses into future lesson plans.

Since ENL 102 Critical Writing & Reading II is centered within the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe), the polls I conducted for this class were in regards to characters and films within the MCU, and even the debate over which is better: The MCU, or the DC Universe.

A poll asking students with cinematic universe they preferred: the MCU, DC, or no preference

The image above shows the very first poll I conducted in class, on our first meet. I was curious to discover why students had enrolled in the class: was it because they liked the MCU? Perhaps it was because they preferred DC, and wanted to use the essay portion of the course to discuss all the reasons why; or maybe they were unsure about either, and just curious to see what the course was about.

Using the results of this poll, I composed an in-class assignment in which I allowed students to (respectfully) sound off on the reasons they chose one or the other. In doing so, the students were engaging in a conversation with their peers that served a specific purpose: instead of speaking at one another they spoke with each other, and held an insightful conversation. They discussed their specific reasons why they preferred one over the other, listened to what those who were opposed had to say in response then counter-responded, addressing the points brought up by either side.

A classroom discussion assignment created based on poll response from students

To help students find common ground, we also created a class Venn diagram we filled out with characteristics specific to the MCU, characteristics specific to DC, and overlapping characteristics both have in common. This opened up further avenues of discussion once students were able to visually see their ideas represented on the board. Discussions over where characteristics belonged proved fruitful, and students offered arguments and counterarguments for which belonged where, even changing their minds after brief reflection. This demonstrates critical thinking in action.

A classroom poll asking students which film makes better use of music: Guardians of the Galaxy, or Deadpool?

To better incorporate technology in the classroom, I adopted the practice of creating online polls and providing the students with a QR code they could scan with their phones in order to participate. The students showed a preference for this method as it gave them the opportunity to vote anonymously. After each student logged their vote, we would watch in real time as the website calculated the results and then follow it up with a discussion. Students who wished to share how they voted would, as with previous polls, initiate a discussion by offering specific reasons for why they chose one over the other. As with previous polls, students created and engaged in meaningful discussion using evidence (such as Peter Quill’s mix tape in Guardians of the Galaxy) to defend their claims.

A second online poll asking “who is cuter: Baby Groot, or Grogu”? Poll is accompanied by a photo of each character. The results of this poll proved controversial (in a meaningful way): it develop another layer in classroom discussion, as students hold strong personal feelings towards each character.