dice-152177_960_720You devote hours of think time and work time toward creating a classroom culture that promotes critical thinking and creative problem-solving. You strive to foster an environment that encourages students to take risks and learn from their mistakes. You do this because you care about your students and want to equip them with the skills to thrive well beyond their K-12 years. But do you ever wonder what yours students think of your class? Would you be excited to find out? Nervous? Both?

Marketers conduct focus groups to find out what their customers think of their products. Consultants survey their clients to learn how to improve their services. Why should we be any different? If you want to ensure your hard work is paying off the way you want it to, I encourage you to take the five-word challenge.

The Five-Word Challenge

  1. Think about how you would describe your ideal class. What are the five words that capture the spirit of your ideal learning environment?

  2. Ask students to describe your class in five words. Have them write their words down on a piece of paper and place it anonymously in a container for your eyes only.

  3. Review what students wrote and compare their words to your own. Chances are you’ll find consensus around some words/concepts and deficiencies in others. This will highlight which elements of your classroom culture you may want to address in a more targeted way.

Why Five Words?

For you: When you have a job where time is your biggest challenge, focus is paramount. The more you can hone your vision of an ideal classroom and focus on targeted, practical characteristics, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve that classroom. Limiting yourself to five words helps you define your vision in reasonable, manageable terms.

For your students: By asking students to list five words that describe your class, you’re asking them to be reflective about their learning, but also to synthesize, categorize, and prioritize their thoughts. So in addition to getting honest and formative feedback, you’re helping them hone the very skills you want them to apply in almost every lesson.