Active learning - ordering and ranking

Ideas for activities and tasks to keep your learners active and help them learn process, method, framework or hierarchy.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago


Give learners a jumble of steps and have them put them in the right order.

Help learners spot or learn a pattern or structure.

Get learners to re-tell a story. 

Note: This can be a great pre-activity to help learners get a broad overview or plot before they dive into the detail.

Image dropdown

Give learners an image of the process and have them choose the right labels.

Fill in the blanks

You can get learners to fill out steps in a description.

You can set up a variation on 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon. In this way, learners have to find the similarities between events or ideas to chain them.

Or make it even more open (and a bit harder) by just leaving a start and end point and they have to fill in what's missing.

You could also add an essay task below for learners to explain their rationale and/or turn this into a small group activity in a talk channel.

Number line

One way to promote learners understanding of differences is to ask them to place things on a spectrum. This is possibly not the intended use or purpose of the number line task, but we can bend it a tad to suit.

You could also use the number line task to prompt learners to consider different interpretations of character or theory. They could place traits, actions or quotes on a scale from -10 to 10. 

You could do a similar activity with leaders, theorists or theories. You could also choose scales other than "good and bad" you could choose efficiency, relevance, or any dichotomous pair really.  

Mark up image

If you want to do a spectrum, but need something different than numbers, you could try getting learners to mark up an image. The letters or shapes you get them to use to label should be as simple as possible as writing long words, with your finger as a pen,  on a mobile can get tricky!


The example below is much more open-ended and uses a variation of the 9-diamond ranking activity. 

Using images can also be quite effective.

There's an endless number of variations on this sort of task. You don't always need to go for importance, you might ask learners rank the according to which image or statement sums up a text or concept best. 

And if you'd like to extend this activity, add an essay task after it where you ask them to justify their selections. 

Multiple choice

Even just asking learners to pick out the n-th step is asking them to think about the sequence. And can, in some instances, be more difficult than simply ordering the steps.

What next?

This article was focused on learning through similarities and differences. But if your concept doesn't have a contrasting idea or categories, you can still help learners interrogate what a thing that particular thing through analysis. See the examples given in Active learning - analysis and evaluation.

You could also do a more social variation on many of these tasks by asking learners to share their categories or compare/contrast in a discussion or talk channel. This is an effective approach if there is no "right" answer or categories are contentious.

Or, want to see how else you can make the learning active? Pop back to our main Active learning techniques article and pick another from the list.

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