The One-Question Interview is an efficient, low-prep way to get a snapshot of your students’ musical preferences and experiences. If you’ve never used popular songs as a teaching tool, this would be a great introductory activity. It is much simpler to do than it is to describe, so don’t be discouraged by the multiple steps below.
The questions in this survey are about music, but the one-question interview works with many topics. (For lists of questions on other topics, please see Conversation Questions for the ESL/EFL Classroom on the website of the Internet TESOL Journal.)
Steps for a One-Question Interview About Music
1. Choose questions from the list below. You will need one question for each student in your class. (If you choose questions out of order, you will need to renumber them.) Project the questions on a screen, distribute them to your students as a handout, or write them on the board.
2. Students create their own survey form by numbering lines on their own paper, as many numbers as there are students in the class.
3. Students count off (1, 2, 3, 4…) until everyone in the class has a number. Students write their numbers on sticky notes and attach the numbers to their shirts. Then they look for their number on the list of questions. That is their question. They write that question at the top of their survey form.
4. Students walk around the room with their survey forms, ask every classmate the same question (plus a follow-up question, if there is one), and record each person’s answer next to his or her number. For example:
Are you a good singer? Do you sometimes sing in public?
1. I’m a terrible singer. No! I never sing in public.
2. I’m a good singer, but I sing only for my family.
3. I’m a good singer. I sing in a choir.
5. After students have asked everyone their question, they report back to the class and summarize what they learned. For example: “Five people say they are terrible singers. The rest are good singers, but only two sing in public.”
Thanks to: Anna Silliman, editor of Hands-on-English (unfortunately no longer published), who sent me the “one-question interview” idea many years ago. The activity was from the classroom of Fiona Armstrong, New York City Schools.
- When you listen to songs, are they usually in English or in another language?
- What kind of music do you listen to most often? (For example: hip-hop, pop, country, rock, classical)
- What kind of music do you NOT like to listen to?
- What kind of music do your parents listen to? Do you like it?
- What is a song (in English or in another language) that makes you feel really, really good?
- If you wanted to make someone fall in love with you, which song would you play?
- Are you a good singer? Do you sometimes sing in public?
- Do you sometimes sing along when you listen to songs?
- Are you a good dancer?
- Who is the most famous musician in your country?
- When you listen to songs in English, about what percent of the words do you understand? (For example: 95%, 75%, 50%, 25%)
- Who is your favorite singer who sings in English?
- What is one of your favorite songs in English?
- Can you play a musical instrument? If so, which one? Are you good at it?
- Can you concentrate on other things while you listen to music?
- Have you ever been to a music concert? If so, which was your favorite concert?
- Do you sometimes watch music videos on the Internet? If so, do you sometimes watch the same music video more than once?
- If you watch music videos on the Internet, which music video is your favorite?
- Do you sometimes buy music?
- If you buy music online, where do you buy it? (For example: iTunes)
- How much do you spend every month on music?
- If you could play any musical instrument, which one would you like to play?
- Can you read music?
- How do you usually listen to music? (For example: on my phone, with headphones; on the radio; at home on speakers)
- About how many minutes a day to you listen to music?
- Do you like singing karaoke?
- Do you think music can help bring peace to the world?