Most students naturally understand how to make lists. They draw up lists for everything from ranking their favorite songs to planning which colleges to consider. When a student ranks one college higher than another, for instance, she does so by creating a personal set of criteria, narrowing the list of all schools to a few that meet her criteria, then ordering the final list by evaluating how a particular college ranks relative to the others in her list.
What kinds of items belong on a list? They can be as objective as the steps involved in meiosis or as abstract as the qualities of effective leaders. Teachers can incorporate list-making in a variety of disciplines and with students of all ages. In a social studies class, students might analyze the significance of factors involved in human migration. For a writing project, students might rank the elements of a good mystery story. Students in a primary classroom might list and order their favorite foods to begin a unit on nutrition.
The Visual Ranking Tool makes the process of ranking items and comparing lists easy. With a simple click and drag, students move items to any position in a list. Working in teams, they collaborate and negotiate their reasoning. The comment feature of the tool gives them a place to record this rationale. After the teams have finished making their lists, they compare their results with their classmates' versions and discuss the differences and similarities. Visual Ranking displays how closely the lists match and shows the correlation between two rankings.
Begin by trying the tool. The Try the Tool section has a demonstration workspace for you to practice with ranking a sample list and then comparing it to other lists. It also has a tutorial that takes you through the features of the tool. You may wish to download the Visual Ranking Tutorial and save it for future reference.
Once you are familiar with the tool, take a look at the Project Examples and Instructional Strategies sections for classroom ideas and suggestions from other teachers.
When you are ready to start a project, you can register in the Teacher Workspace. The Your Projects page in the Teacher Workspace is where you can enter a list, describe the project, and set up student teams. The thinking tools come with a time-saving feature to help you set up a project. This project wizard automates some of the steps in creating a new project and allows you to duplicate a project from any existing project example.
"The exercise of ordering your favorites…ranking one a level higher than another, and then articulating why you chose the way you did—requires a depth and clarity of consideration and comparison that inspires richer appreciation and enjoyment."
Michael J. Gelb, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci