“Best of” Lists: Toys & Buzzwords

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It seems like everywhere you turn during the month of December there is another list of superlatives.  Viral videos, political gaffes, worst tweets.  We live in a culture that sums up its annual experience in lists of fives and tens. Even AARP made its own end of year top ten lists: Albums for Grownups and Movies for Grownups.

Yesterday we tried to bait you by mentioning Time Magazine’s Top 10 Everything 2011.  If you haven’t seen it in all its glory take, a moment and peruse.  You’ll find 54 lists in total ranging from Albums to Animal Stories to Sports Moments.

It would be simply impossible to use all the lists because of content and time. The goal today is to offer up two complete lists that are appropriate for use within the English classroom.

Top 10 Toys of 2011

The list itself will get the your students interested.  Ranging from LeapPads to Let’s Rock Elmo, it’s a reminder of what captivates us as children.  Each toy includes a short and smartly written paragraph.

Have students read through each toy on the list and consider the following:

When finished ask students to look at the list as a whole.

Consider using the following questions as a starting point:

  • How do the top ten toys of 2011 reflect the trends of the year as a whole?
  • What arguments can you make about childhood and modern society?
  • What should #11 be?  Why?

Top 10 Buzzwords

Nothing could be better for an English teacher, or perhaps a current events teacher, or political science teacher, or psychology teacher, or. . . you get my drift.  The list works because it is, in essence, a short study of language, politics, and trends.

Have students read each buzzword on the list and do the following:

  • Annotate each paragraph for phrases that are striking, disturbing, or humorous (i.e. see “Hactivist“).
  • Identify what each buzzword argues about society/culture in 2011.

When finished ask students to look at the list as a whole.

Consider using the following questions as a starting point:

  • What do these buzzwords reflect about culture during 2011?
  • What words are absent?  For what reason?
  • What can we make of words like Leading From Behind and Man as a PrefixStudents should actually discuss the language here.

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