Do you ever wonder whether your children are more inspired and creative than you are? A few months ago my ten-year old son invented an activity we began to call “Top 5’s”. First, you choose a subject, like “best memories” or “favorite movies” or “coolest superheroes.” Everyone playing the game takes a few minutes to brainstorm their top 5 for that category, then we announce each list in a round-robin reveal, drawing out the excitement by beginning with #5 up to #1, pausing before #1 to include “honorable mentions” that didn’t make the top 5 list!
Top 5’s is a game of surprising and hidden qualities. We’ve learned interesting stories about each other, as we understand each other’s perspective, likes and dislikes. We gain clarity about things that bring us joy, and when we share the list, we share ourselves. It’s ingenious.
Top 5’s have begun to improve my professional life as well. The game inspired both “5 Things Teachers Should Know about Themselves” and “Top 5 True Teacher Hacks”. So, here are my Top 5 ways you can use this game in your classroom to engage and connect with your students while promoting analytical thinking, too.
- Meaningful morning work. Often with morning work, I have my students brainstorm top 5 fun careers, classroom jobs, reading assignments, or things they remember about our recent novel study. It’s a great resource for engaging your kids first thing that draws out both a little creativity and personal connection.
- Lesson Hook. One of the most fun Top 5’s for me is a brainstorm at the beginning of a lesson. Have your students brainstorm 5 things they know about the subject, like “Top 5 things you know about the planets” or “Top 5 things you remember about yesterday’s grammar lesson.” Your students can share their list with a partner or in a table group, and they will get more information from their peers. It’s an amazing activating strategy.
- Assessment. Depending upon your objective, Top 5’s can be used for assessment as well. Have your students name and rank their favorite types of figurative language. Engage them with naming the five closest planets to the sun or five steps of the water cycle. The only limit is your creativity!
- Reflection. Every lesson should end with a chance for students to reflect upon their own learning. What better way than to rank the top 5 things they learned that day or that lesson? It’s self-motivating and enables them to evaluate their learning.
- First Days of School. The number one best use of the “Top 5” strategy is at the beginning of the year. You’re connecting with your students while they’re learning about each other and you. Doing “Top 5’s” the first few weeks of school as morning work or during the day instills a sense of community in your classroom.
No matter what way you use Top 5’s in your classroom, the game will always be engaging and connecting for your students. What would be some of your most fun and engaging Top 5’s? Share them!