As luck would have it, in the past month 4 elementary schools used our student survey, and so we have responses from 5th graders. The results are intriguing when compared against typical high school responses.

Favorite two subjects? Same answer as middle schoolers, and in John Goodlad’s massive study A Place Called School 30 years ago:


Why your favorite? Same pattern as older kids. But that surprises me: the role of the teacher is even less a factor than with older students; I thought liking/not liking the teacher would be far more influential with younger students:


Once again, therefore, the survey findings underscore the importance of the experience in school – the work and whether it plays to one’s abilities and interests: does it make me feel competent? Am I interested in this kind of work?

Least favorite? An unusual response to this one:


In no prior survey for any school does World Language show up as least favorite. And in no prior survey is art & music so bi-modal. (Math is the most bi-modal subject with older kids – the only one you either love or hate, with more people hating it than loving it). [See my follow-up on this, as a PS at the bottom]

The other interesting point here is that younger kids dislike history far less than older kids. (Why?)


Interestingly, younger students are nowhere near as bored as older students:5thgr.howoftenbored


This cries out for local discussion if the pattern hold locally. (Cf. the viral post of my daughter on her experiencing shadowing HS students.)


Below is another unique result. In no prior survey do older kids point to other students as the number one reason for a class to be boring:



Let’s now hear from the 5th graders in their own words:

What has been the best activity/assignment in the past year?

  1. The most interesting work I have ever done was when I did a test on which paper towels brands absorbed the most water. It was an interesting test to me because I learned how much the paper towels at my school absorbed compared how much other paper towel brands absorbed. [7 other students also picked this]
  2. I think the most interesting work I’ve done was the Shelter Island nightwalk because we were pushed outside of our limits. We were on Shelter Island, and we were asked to walk a little through a strech of forest to get to a campfire. It really helped my self-confidence a lot. We got to be away from home for 4 days. [7 other students picked this]
  3. I enjoyed writing the seedfolks chapter because I like making up a whole new person and to feel what they felt like. [4 other students picked this]
  4. I liked playing scrambled states in social studies because It was a really fun way to learn the states and I like learning about geography. [3 other students picked this]
  5. I like soccer because I feel like I am good at it. I think it is fun and easy. [2 other students picked this.]
  6. I thought learning about slavery and Andrew Goodman was very interesting. It was very interesting because I like learning about slavery and people being uneven based on what they believe or what their race was because now everyone is equal. [2 other students picked this.]


I learn best in class when –

  1. Teacher is explaining a subject well and not upset or being strict because a student is being annoying.
  2. Teacher is not talking too much and keeps the class moving
  3. I learn best in class when the teacher explains things clearly
  4. When they show pictures or videos or do not talk too little or too much.
  5. Is showing a video.
  6. Is describing clearly and orderly.
  7. I learn best when the teacher does exciting things and not boring ones.
  8. I learn best in class when the teacher is interactive.
  9. Is in an upbeat mood and is leting us be active and acting out things if needed.
  10. Lets us do hands on learning.
  11. I learn best in class when I’m called on alot.
  12. I learn best when I can ask a lot of questions and practice what we are doing before I get the homework.
  13. When there is not too much talking.
  14. I can learn better when the teacher is more interactive so that I could ask question when I don’t understand something.
  15. I learn the best when the teacher explains the lesson thoroughly but also lets us do sheets in class to help us understand it.
  16. goes not to slow not to fast but we come back to things threw out the year.
  17. I learn best in class when the teacher teaches me things about things about the subject.
  18. Teacher lets us do things hands-on.
  19. Only explains what to do and how to do it.
  20. Teacher makes class hands on.
  21. I learn best in class when the teacher changes what we do every day.
  22. I learn best in class when I look at the smart board and do not talk to friends around me.
  23. I learn best when the teacher assigns activities that you do with a partner.
  24. I learn best when we do an activity.
  25. Teacher gives us work to do so I can learn from my mistakes
  26. Teacher is telling everybody in the class to calm down and do there work.
  27. Has an activity that we need to do not just writing in the notebook.
  28. Teacher makes thing fun, and when nobody in the class is talking. If they are not strict.
  29. Teacher keeps the class quiet.
  30. Teacher explains what we are doing in a easy way
  31. Focuses on every one and not just one person
  32. Explains the topic very vividly.
  33. when we are doing stuff and moving.
  34. I learn best when there are hands on activities.
  35. likes children and are nice to them and they are funny and exciting
  36. Is teaching something really interesting


If you could give your teachers 1 piece of advice to make class more interesting and better for you, what would it be?

  1. Do more activities.
  2. I would ask for a little more one-on-one learning for the kids that don’t understand.
  3. Give the kids punishments right away but give the kids a chance to prove the were not apart it.
  4. If they could give us easier work.
  5. Teachers should make more fun activities.
  6. I would give more times to ask questions.
  7. To make assignments interesting. And to go over the assignment in class so we know exactly what to do.
  8. I don’t have any advice
  9. Make classes more fun.
  10. I think that there should be advanced classes and unadvanced classes because if you’ve already learned the subject, but you’re doing it again it can get boring.
  11. I think the teachers should do more activities and make the class less boring
  12. Tell us not to talk and send us outside more
  13. Give less homework sometimes I get stressed out
  14. Maybe make the work more fun so I understand it and it’s fun
  15. Focus on everyone not just one person
  16. Make the work fun and interesting.
  17. Be funnier. i mean it. it helps me work.
  18. To do different levels of work so every student learns at their own pace.
  19. more hand on work
  20. Talk less.
  21. To be more friendly and funny and try to understand the students better
  22. Have a more fun variety of activities in class.


NOTE: Keep in mind that this is a small sample – 200+ students from 4 schools – and the sample skews a bit more male and suburban than large-scale results.


Comments and requests to filter and analyze the data are very welcome!


PS: A commenter, JS, requested that I dig in the data to see if I could glean reasons for why the Arts were Least Favorite for some – and whether there was any differentiation made between art and music. Great question.

So, I filtered out the students who put the arts least favorite, and here are their reasons. Music is liked less than art, slightly:

  1. I don’t like this subject because I am just not interested in it and it does not get me excited when I say I have art and music today.
  2. I hate art because we do not do anything that is fun. To me it is kind of a waste of time for my day. In music all we do is sing and I am not good and I do not like it.
  3. art and music are boring because the things that we do in class are generally boring and I am not a very artistic person.
  4. because I don’t like to draw or sing its not the thing I want to do
  5. Art isn’t, its just music I don’t really like singing so I just don’t like to do it. Plus I just am not very good at it. But I have done a lot of plays in my music class, but I don’t no if I am necessarily good at the plays?
  6. there both fine but I don’t like some of the things we do in music
  7. I like to do art in music but some of the work is hard or the teachers don’t explain what we are supposed to do and don’t explain all the details.
  8. Because there boring
  9. I don’t like music because I don’t like to sing and I don’t like art because I don’t like to draw
  10. the reason I don’t like art and music is because in music we got a new teach and she is really hard on us because we have a concert coming up and she wants all of it to be perfect. I don’t like art because it does not interested in it at all but it is really fun and our teacher is good but I don’t really like art
  11. I am not good at drawing and I just don’t like music
  12. I like art not music
  13. I don’t like music because I don’t like the songs we sing and we have to sing it all over so many times.
  14. I don’t like to sing or draw
  15. you just learn about drawing and songs
  16. art is one of my best but music not fun at all
  17. Be because i am not a good draer or singr


Note, again, that competence plays a role in how kids feel about classes.

But probably the most important fact came from looking at another piece of data once the results were filtered: 13 of the 17 were boys.