10…, 9…, 8…, 7…, 6…, 5…, 4…, 3…, 2…, 1…, blastoff! Can you picture the exciting moment when the spaceship thrusts itself into the sky headed for lands unknown? This countdown, like any other, creates excitement and dramatic tension. We all know that the big event is coming when the speaker finally gets to number one.
In the following activities, your students will think creatively as they write and present their own countdowns.
T: How to Teach A ‘Top Ten Countdown’ ESL Lesson
There are a variety of events that use a countdown, so showing your students pictures of these events will get them thinking along the right lines. You can show videos of a rocket launching or a building preparing for implosion. You may also want to show the countdown before a race, especially if the Olympics will be held any time soon. You could also show a clock ticking down at the end of an important sporting event like the Stanley Cup Final or the Superbowl.
You will need to practice the countdown with your class since numbers are always a challenge in a second language. Though counting from 1 to 10 may seem mundane to your students, counting backwards from 10 to 1 will likely be a challenge no matter what level their fluency is. If counting from 10 to 1 is too easy, or if you are just looking for more of a challenge for your class, try counting backwards from one hundred. Warn your students before you start that if they get stuck to jump back in whenever they can.
After watching some countdowns and practicing counting, it is now time to get your students in the mindset for writing their own top ten lists. Show them examples of top ten lists from other sources. For younger students, you can use a top 10 from a children’s magazine or make one up yourself. For older students, use a video of Dave Letterman who is very well known for his comedic top ten's. After listening to the examples, make sure your students understand the purpose of the top 10 list. Make sure they understand that there is a theme to each top 10 list and that all the items on the list relate to that theme. Also, point out that the items are arranged in order of importance with ten being the least important and one being the most important. They should also understand that when presenting a top 10 list, the writer should start with number ten and countdown to number one and the most significant example of the set.
Once your students understand the purpose and structure of a top 10 list, it is time to start thinking about what they will write. As a class, brainstorm a list of topics that they could use to write a top 10 list. They may be topics dealing with language learning like the top 10 reasons to study English, the top 10 most interesting English words, or the top 10 ways to get to English class; or they may be more general topics that anyone might relate to like top 10 pets, top 10 ways to get rid of a younger brother, or top 10 snack foods. During this process, encourage your students to think creatively and not to criticize another’s ideas. Remind them that the goal of brainstorming is to compile as large a list as possible and not to list practical items only.
Once you have a list of topics, you can either assign one to your students or allow them to choose their own. Coming up with the 10 examples may be easier to do in small groups than individually. Either way, have your students write each of 10 examples on an index card. Help them understand that at this point they are only thinking of the examples and that they will arrange them in order of importance after they have all ten. If you have your students write these examples on index cards or scraps of paper rather than in list format, it will be easier for them to arrange them for their final lists. Once they decide on the final order, have your students write their lists. Each list should start with a title and then count down to the number one answer.
Now that your students have written their lists, give them a chance to do some speaking practice. Have each group read their top 10 list in front of the class. When reading, they should be dramatic and build tension until they end with the number one reason. Once they have finished, encourage the class to ask questions of the presenters. They may ask why they chose the items that they did, why they did not include a particular example, or why they arranged them in the order that they did. Students should answer the questions as best as they can.
You can extend the Top 10 Lesson beyond these activities in two ways. First, you may take the concept of a top ten list into subject areas that you may also be teaching. You may ask your students to list the top ten cities in the province by population as a social studies lesson, for example. For older students, you can also extend this countdown idea to writing a five-paragraph essay. In this basic type of essay, the three examples that your students give to support their thesis should also be arranged in order of importance with the most important example appearing last. You should also help your students write an introduction as well as a conclusion to round out their essay.
Listening to or writing a Top 10 Countdown is fun.
By doing this activity with your class, you will help them think critically and logically but also have fun in the process.