Creative Ranking allows students to meet and interact with the major themes of a story or lesson before they have even seen a piece of writing or have heard a single lecture. Students are given a list of items (individual plot points, data, concepts, historic events, occupations of characters, ect.) and a set of criteria by which to rank them (personal connection, preference, by timeline, ect.). Each student should complete their ranking individually, without fear of being graded, and should share their decisions with a classmate, peer group, or with the class. The teacher can record the top rankings of the class and keep track of them as the lesson progresses.
I have used Creative Rankings in a high school Environmental Science class in order to introduce students to the evolution of insects. I gave each student a list of 8 groups of insects and asked them to rank each group, 1 to 8, from the earliest to emerge to the most recent:
I admit that this was not exactly the most creative application of Creative Rankings, but it was an effective means of getting students to recognize major groups of insects while freely using their own logic and reasoning to place them on an evolutionary timeline. If this exercise succeeded only in getting the students to understand that insects did evolve on a timeline as all other animals on the planet–and did not simply appear all at once in a writhing mass of chitin–then both the students and I are better off for having used it.
My favorite part of Creative Rankings is that it allows students to put information into a personal context before they are formally introduced to it. This personal context serves two purposes. It allows students to identify with the material and become intrinsically engaged with it (a necessity for effective eduction), and it lets the teacher understand the students’ prior knowledge of the topic before the lesson even begins.