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Top 10 reasons to write a list review

In this lesson on writing with bite-sized information for the A&E section, students will study examples and learn what makes a good list. Then they will write their own “Top 10” lists to go with their reviews.


  • Students will learn ways to present information in small, readable bites.
  • Students will learn the importance of description, voice and detail even in short pieces of writing.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2b Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2d Use precise language, domain-specific vocabulary, and techniques such as metaphor, simile, and analogy to manage the complexity of the topic.


50 minutes


Top 10 (or other lists) examples

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 15 minutes

As a warm-up visual to introduce the idea of lists, consider showing a few tweets from links of list reviews or a few clips from magazines. The idea is to show students that lists are everywhere. Explain that lists are popular both in print and especially online. Online lists and slideshows are popular because readers like reading information in bite-sized pieces, especially if they have visuals to go with the list items. It’s important to emphasize, however, that writing a story in list form is more than just the list itself — writers must describe each item and explain why it made the list.

Distribute copies of lists and ask students to analyze the sort of information the lists include. Discuss aspects that work and ones that don’t, then ask them about the visuals that accompany each list.

Students will write four-part list items.

  • Title/Name of thing listed (fancy headline may work)
  • Sentence explaining list item and why it made the list
  • Sentence to provide more background information or to point out an important detail
  • Quote from a knowledgeable/connected student about the list item

Is the student quote really necessary? Probably not, and it’s not something that pops up in Buzzfeed-style lists, but then again, this would be an easy way to cover more students in a publication or to make a Top 10 list more yearbook-worthy.

2. Create lists — 30 minutes

Divide students into small groups. Assign them to choose a topic that relates to one of their reviews, so the list could be additional content on their A&E page. For example, if students review a movie, they could do the top five movies in that genre, by that director, top five funny moments, or something similar. Or if they chose a restaurant review, they could do top five menu items to eat there, other places to eat, or something that connects back to their topic.

Have the group members brainstorm things to put on their list. Remind them of your editorial policy — what happens if students want to include places or things unavailable to students under age 18? Once they have a list in mind, students will write a lead to capture readers’ attention and a nut graph to explain the main idea of the list, then work on their list items. They can interview classmates as sources for the quotes, or if possible, students can conduct interviews around campus during the class period. (This piece also transfers well to a homework assignment so the interviews are completed before the next class and represent a wider range of student perspectives.)

3. Share and submit — 5 minutes

Invite students to share a few items, then have them turn in their reviews and their lists. Use the list as formative assessment to check for the four key parts and whether students understand the importance of describing each list item.