Top Ten List

Social Studies

Students explore the true meaning of friendship by defining "how not to be a friend."

What You Need

  • video or print samples of Top Ten lists from "Late Night with David Letterman"

What to Do

  1. Ask students if they are familiar with David Letterman's "Top Ten" lists. Invite them to share (in good taste!) examples of his work. Share two or three of your own samples, either in print or video.

  2. Discuss what makes these lists effective:
    • short, concise statements
    • contemporary, informal language
    • "tongue in cheek" humor; sarcasm
    • exaggeration
    • irony
    • understatement
    • elements of truth

  3. Tell students that they will be writing and sharing a list of the "Top Ten Ways to Lose a Best Friend." Ask for a sample statement to write on the board. (Example: "Gossip about your best friend's secret crush.") Work as a class to revise and edit the statement until it fits the criteria discussed earlier. (Example: "Blab over the P.A. system that he's got a thing for the football captain's girlfriend.") When the assignment is understood, divide the class into groups to write.

  4. Share completed lists with the class. End the activity with a reflection on what students learned about the best ways to keep best friends.

  5. Ask the class to brainstorm qualities and attitudes that contribute to good friendships. (Example: "Friends are nice to each other.") Write the list on the board.

Teaching Options

  1. Students may meet in advisory groups to discuss the many decisions faced in middle school regarding friendships. Is it best to hang on to all friendships? Are there times when it might be best to let some friendships go?

  2. Invite students to write in their journals about why friendships are so important to them at this point in their lives.

  3. Read and analyze the nature of friendships as presented in contemporary young adult novels.


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