Using the Listicle as an End-of-the-Class Reflection Exercise

I enjoy a good compilation of facts, opinions, or reporting in an easy-to-digest, bulleted format. (Blame that on attention deficit and busyness.) That means that I thrive on listicles.

The portmanteau listicle mashes together the words article and list, and some of the best purveyors of listicles are BuzzFeed, Cracked, and Mental Floss. However, the numbered list in reporting has been around for ages. The best 100 albums or the top 10 political blunders have capped reporting at the close of a season or the end of a year.

I chose to give a listicle assignment for a few reasons:

  • My students in media research needed more hands-on, media-oriented writing. I forced them to dig into the research trenches, do a comprehensive search, and write a literature review on a topic. This is a wonderful exercise to help them better understand a topic in great detail, conduct online research, and learn APA style guidelines. In my opinion, students in journalism and mass communication classes should develop and write content that can go into their portfolios.
  • A listicle is a fun, creative way to reflect on the semester and what the students gained from the semester. It is hard to gauge what students really learned and digested in the semester. What things cemented in their brain post-test? What constructs and concepts stuck in their minds, and are they able to relate that to their lived experiences and future career aspirations? I didn’t know. This assignment was crafted to be a mechanism for them to showcase what they received from the class and tie that into pop culture.

Here are the assignment details:

According to Ross, a listicle is an “itemized list with a handful of carefully composed sentences associated with each point.” This is your opportunity to do something creative with what you have learned in this class. Your audience for this assignment are students who are taking the class next year. You must include videos, images, gifs, and links as well as text for your listicle. The minimum word count for the listicle is 500 words.

You will create a Buzzfeed-like list using the course content as your source. The angle for your list can be anything, but you must have at least 6 things on the list.

Before you do this assignment, read Stephen Poole’s Top 9 things you need to know about listicles and Caroline O’Donovan’s The 3 key types of Buzzfeed lists to learn before you die. Here is something from the Nieman Lab about Listicles: — Submit your assignment via the Dropbox.

Examples of Listicles:

Note: I am not that brilliant to have come up with this assignment in my own brain. I reviewed other syllabi for social media classes. Here are some of the sites I consulted and reviewed when creating this: Multimodal Mondays and Bard College.

I reviewed the assignment multiple times in class and mentioned that the thematic narrative should drive the list. I found that for many students, they didn’t get it. They didn’t know what a listicle was until I showed them examples and asked them to pick out ones that they used. They weren’t sure how to create a listicle with gifs and clips in Microsoft Word. (This is another exercise that can be incorporated into a class: how to save documents as .HTML and/or how to use Google Docs.) The students weren’t sure of their voice: Could they be funny? Could they be snarky? Would I mark them down for being too serious? I encouraged them to be creative and take some pleasure in doing in this no-pressure assignment, but in the end, I believe that many of them felt there was a singular, right way to do a listicle.

In the end, I received 50+ completed assignments, and the majority of those fell into one categories of listicles: the framework list. Some were okay, but a few were excellent compendiums about the class and its contents. Several students agreed that it was okay to share their posts with my world, so enjoy their creative reflections about research methods:

This has been my experience with listicles. Here are some more tips for writing listicles:

So, what say you, dear #prprofs? What do you think? Would you incorporate this into your classes? What would you do differently?

PS: Also, I dogfooded the assignment with my own listicle about leaving your academic job. Feel free to take a peek and see what you think.