If you are reading this on a screen right now, you will have read a listicle before. They are a popular style of blog content, having risen to the mainstream in the late 00s via digital media outlet Buzzfeed. Not to be dismissed as a vehicle for meme-sharing, listicles provide a good example of how new genres surface in a digital writing landscape.
So, what are they and why should teachers consider them for classroom use?
The term listicle is a mashup of list and article: listicles are punchy, concise ways to digest lots of information, with plenty of scope for the classroom.
The title of a listicle always tells you exactly what you’re about to read and the listicle itself curates a descriptive list designed to inform, entertain, or explore a topic. Listicles have a simple, linear structure that requires the writer to break complex ideas down into easy-to-read chunks.
Significantly, listicles are also lots of fun to write! This is primarily why teachers should consider using them in the classroom, but here are some other reasons:
- Listicles can be used for almost any subject. From ‘Top 7 Reasons a World War Broke out in 1939’ to ’12 Reasons Why We Have Less Than Ten Years to Fix Climate Change’, or ‘9 Reasons Why Shakespeare is Better Than Harry Potter’, a listicle can be used across almost any subjects and adapted to all year levels.
- Listicles are novel and fun. So much more fun than writing an essay, they are a good way to encourage students to structure their ideas and to research evidence in support of a hypothesis or for a larger project.
- Listicles don’t depend solely on writing skills. This is one exercise where ideas and comprehension are more important than writing skills. No need to structure perfectly formed sentences.
- Listicles are an effective way of demonstrating knowledge. Getting students to write listicles is a great way of getting students to condense their big ideas into a single sentence, and curate their ideas to a particular topic. If you leave the number of items open, students can easily demonstrate the breadth of their knowledge of a subject. If you limit the number of items they can include in their list, students can learn the value of scope. This is a useful exercise for students who find keeping to a word limit difficult.
- Listicles are also an effective way of seeing student interests and opinions. On more abstract or personal topics, or if they choose their own, it will immediately be obvious where a student’s interest lies. As a reflective exercise, students can gather listicles on a topic and engage with them critically by analysing omissions and inclusions, then do the same with their own listicle.
- Listicles force students to analyse their ideas. By limiting students to a certain number of points, they will be forced to analyse the quality of each of their ideas and determine their value for inclusion.
- Listicles incorporate digital literacy. Whether they’re researching online, searching for accompanying images or turning it into a digital presentation, writing a listicle ticks plenty of boxes. Listicles are also a publishable form of writing across mainstream media platforms as well as corporate websites and social media blogs, so students will enjoy learning a style of writing they are likely to use in an industry setting.
- Listicles don’t seem like hard work. Get your kids to write a listicle about all they know for an upcoming test or exam, and they will be studying without even realising it. Learning about the formal elements of a style of writing they associate with popular culture may give them new appreciation for genre that carries over into more traditional genre study.