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Twist on a classic: Ranking

Not quite as ubiquitous as the past two classic activities (brainstorming and warmer questions), rank-ordering is nonetheless a TESOL mainstay. Here’s a nifty adaptation…

A classic

Rank-ordering activities generate lots of discussion. Presented on the board, on paper, as little cards, or even on screen, we often get learners to rank things from 1 to 10 in order of preference or importance, like:

  • Holiday destinations
  • Restaurants in the local area
  • Personal qualities in a best friend
  • Ingredients for success (see example here)
  • Goals for a language course (see First lessons with adults or teens)

Ranking is often chosen as a way to engage learners in a topic or personalise a lexical set. But beyond that, it’s a great for critical thinking.

The twist

A ‘priorities diamond’ is a simple graphic organiser that takes ranking to the next level. I’ve used it several times, even in training sessions with teachers, and it’s worked a treat every time. Here’s how it works:

Preparation. You’ll need a square of paper for each learner and a set of 9 items to rank.

Procedure. Learners divide the square up like a noughts-and-crosses grid and turn 45 degrees (see picture below). They write the words into the boxes with their top priority in the top box through to their least important item in the bottom box like this:

What factors are most important for you in a job? (In a lesson with young adults)

Alternatively, you could cut up 9 cards and give them to learners/trainees to order.

Next, learners use it as a prompt for a long-turn speaking task. Each learner presents their priorities to a partner or a group. There’s all sorts of useful language they can use in addition to the vocabulary in the squares. Here’s just a few ideas:

  • Expressing preference: Ideally, preferably, ideal, I’d rather
  • Expressing indifference: I’m not that bothered about/whether… I don’t care about… I don’t mind if…
  • Expressing importance: Essential, crucial, has to be…, must be…, priority
  • Various pseudo-cleft type structures: What’s most important to me is…, The most important thing for me is…, Something else that’s important to me is…

To follow up, they can see what they have in common or what is different and apply it to some outcome. For example, I got teenage learners to think of jobs that would match their partner’s priorities.

Have fun!

Acknowledgement: I originally came across this idea in the Life Skills section in Macmillan Gateway, level B2.


  1. Reblogged this on Glyn online and commented:
    Today I discovered the blog. It’s definitely a site that’s going to be well worth spending some time with.

    This post that I’m rebloging is a great simple twist on classing ranking activities. Enjoy!


  2. Pingback: Traffic lights for reactive teaching | TESOL TOOLBOX

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