Top 5 Uses of Top 10 Lists

I discovered a site that publishes top ten lists. That’s all they do. Well, there is some variation.  They have top 20 and top 25 lists as well. The List Universe. The site offers materials that are appropriate for upper level students. Lists contain brief explanations for each item. As an added bonus, the site has begun to make podcasts of existing lists. What does that mean for classroom use? It means you can find some lists presented as an audio file and the original publication serves as the transcript. If you really enjoy the content, you can subscribe to Listverse podcasts on iTunes. The podcasts use fast but very clear speech. (Click here for a sample.)

The archives on this site organize the lists into a dozen categories, giving you a broad selection of topics. You’ll probably want to bypass the categories of Bizarre and Controversial and browse more classroom appropriate ones, such as Art & Literature, Fact & Fiction, and Leisure & Travel. One example of a tame but still interesting topic is Top 20 Facts About Sleep.

What can you do with the lists? I think back to my early experiments with top ten lists to offer these suggestions. You may choose to focus on one or more skills within a single lesson.

  1. Detailed listening practice. Use a podcast. First listening: identify the items on the list. Second: use a gapped text to listen for details. Recommended list: 10 Most Annoying Time Wasters.
  2. Understanding a theme. Hide the list title and present the items of the list one by one on the board.  As you post each new item, it should be easier for the class to guess the theme. What would they title the list? You can either have students volunteer their guesses as the activity progresses, or you can ask them to wait until the last item is shown and then write down their ideas. After they submit their guesses, show the actual title. Recommended list: Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Food.
  3. Understanding a theme. Show the title and hide the items. This is the opposite of the previous activity. Have students work in pairs or small groups to generate their own items for a given list title. Then they can compare their lists to the original one. Recommended list: 10 Greatest Food Combinations.
  4. Self-expression through writing. Students can respond to a list in writing. Revised and approved texts can be posted on the site’s forum.
  5. Debates and presentations. Lists loaded with personal opinion make for interesting discussion. Discussion can center around the ranking. Assign each pair or small group an item on the list and ask them to prepare an argument for ranking their item number one. Recommended list: Top 10 Everyday Inventions.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Oooh, nice. I was just working on an activity today where students make Top 10 lists and share them with each other. I especially like the forums. Thanks!


    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      If you want to suggest good topics for ELLs, please do! In the past, I used the top ten:
      a. reasons to learn a foreign language
      b. places to visit/ tourist destinations
      c. questions parents don’t want to answer
      d. complaints women make about men (or vice versa)

      1. How about Top 10 places to eat for a food unit and Top 10 friends/family members for a personality unit:)

      2. englishwithjennifer says:

        I see a number of possibilities with Top 10 Places to Eat. For example, the Top 10 Places to Have Lunch/ Have a Quick Bite to Eat could lead to students exchanging info on local dining. This could lead to reviews. Make the students food critics for a day and put their observations down in writing.

  2. David says:

    Dear Jennifer
    First of all thx a million 4 sharing ur ideas.
    I’ve tried the one on this page (5 Uses of Top 10 Lists) I heard the podcast and see there’s no option to download the file. Do you know if that’s possible? It’ll be really useful.
    Thanks 4 ur help in advance. Hope u can get back to me soon.

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      Hi David,
      Can you download it through iTunes?
      I see a number of podcasts being offered as free downloads.

      Let me know if that works.

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