Rank & Reason Tip #2 – How can Rank & Reason help you build a great class discussion?

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How can Rank & Reason Help You Build a Great Class Discussion?

  • Driving questions that push thinking
  • Asking students to use qualifiers in their responses
  • Demanding justification and evidence

A Great Class Discussion

We know it when it happens. We know when the students are so engaged in the discussion that they all want to be heard. Or they spend time anticipating the reasoning of others and preparing to passionately refute their classmates’ arguments. We live for these moments and share them with our colleagues in the lunchroom – wishing it was nearly every day.

We’ve got you! The driving questions in each Rank & Reason are designed to generate the rigorous discussion that students need to go beyond the surface and develop a logical argument. We do that by asking students to qualify their choices based on a ranking by significance, influence, or importance.

How important is a driving question?

We love a great question and the thinking it can provoke in students and we know the time investment needed to create one. We also know that you’ll want to change it up a bit in your classroom, so all of our questions are editable!

The best questions for Rank & Reason have more than one answer and more than one perspective. For example:


  • Who is the most influential justice of the Supreme Court?


This question requires students to rank in order of influence which will require that they research the justices and their historical role in swaying any decisions. However, which decision is significant is up to the student to determine and argue. It is their unique perspective, backed up with evidence, that makes a great discussion.

Justifying with Evidence

As students work with a partner and discuss their rankings, you may find yourself with a time crunch. Asking students to justify with evidence for an entire list may take more time than you’ve got, so here’s a quick shortcut. Have students rank first, building consensus with a partner as they work. Then choose one of these options:

  • Students justify their top two and bottom two in the rankings.
  • Delete the red herrings (Yes, sometimes we put one on the list that doesn’t fit because it helps students get started!).
  • Students justify only the middle options – especially if you notice quick agreement on the top and bottom options.
  • Students justify by writing a single powerful sentence brainstormed with their partners.

Comparing Ranking

Use the comparing time to ask students to explain their justifications and invite others to challenge. This all-important step of comparing and explaining thoughts can be influential and may result in students wanting to change their rankings.

Have students reflect after a Rank & Reason – using our questions or your own – to bring closure to the discussion and the empowerment they should feel from being heard and having their ideas respected.