Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday! The Genius Ladder

     I am currently laying in bed seemingly dying from bronchitis but it is also my fifth Whole Brain Teaching Wednesday post! I hope that this focus on a specific WBT strategy is helpful to those of you who are wishing to learn more about how a certain strategy may work and what my personal experience with it has been. Last week I highlighted "The Scoreboard", this week I would like to introduce you to the WBT strategy of "The Genius Ladder". (I realize that my introduction of these strategies are not in any specific order).

     So far, my WBT-W posts have been summarizing classroom management strategies but this week I would like to add something new! Last night my fiance and I were working on a reflection paper for his ELA Methods course and decided to include some information on the WBT teaching strategy of "The Genius Ladder". Although English is not one of my teachables, I really enjoyed learning more about this strategy so I've decided to include it as this week's WBT focus.

     One of the things I had difficulty with when I started post-secondary level classes was my formal writing, specifically all those essays and reviews for my history major! While I knew what I wanted to say in my writing, I had difficulty with essay organization, topic sentences and effective arguments. After some trial and error I began to have a better grasp on the mechanics of formal writing but I feel that I would have benefited if I had had more opportunities to learn these skills in high school. "The Genius Ladder" is a visual teaching strategy that provides students, of any age, with an opportunity to practice sentence structure, parts of speech, complex sentences, and paragraph organization. The following describes "The Genius Ladder" teaching strategy as stated by Chris Biffle in the WBT Model Classroom E-Book available for download  here.
Whole brain teaching strategy, genius ladder, classroom mangement, paragraph development
Genius Ladder made by Allison, WBT Intern for 2011/2012

     The Genius Ladder is posted on the front board and changes daily. Students work from the bottom of the ladder, simpler sentences, to the top of the ladder, a paragraph. The rungs of the Ladder are:
     Genius Paragraph
     Extender Complexor Sentence
     Spicy Sentence
     Blah Sentence
     Here is a filled in sample (Note that when used in class, students work from bottom to top, from Blah sentence to Genius Paragraph).
     Genius Paragraph: The crazy boy runs down the street. He looks like he is being chased by a ghost. No one knows what is wrong with him.
     Extender Complexor Sentence: The crazy boy runs down the street.
     Spicy Sentence: The crazy boy runs.
     Blah Sentence: The boy runs.
     The Blah sentence, as you can tell, is composed of an article, "the," a non subject, "boy" and a verb, "runs." Obviously, an infinite number of sentences can be composed using these three simple components.
By having students begin with a Blah sentence, teachers can employ a very useful rule for student writing, "No Blah Sentences!"
     The Spicy Sentence adds an adjective, one of the simplest grammatical devices for increasing the flavour of student writing.
     The Extender Complexor extends the Spicy Sentence and makes it more complex. This category is extremely rich in possibilities. A Spicy Sentence could be extended with because or a prepositional phrase. A Spicy Sentence could also be extended with a conjunction, an adverb or dependent clause.
     At the top rung of the Genius Ladder, the Genius Paragraph, several sentences called Adders are added to the Extender Complexor. Adders are defined as any sentence that adds information to a previous sentence. Thus, Adders make up the bulk of student writing. As you can see, as the student moves up the Genius Ladder, the sentences advance, quite naturally, from simple to complex. Fairly sophisticated topic sentences can easily be created.

     As some of you know, my first student teaching placement was in a Grade 10-12 Social Studies classroom so I unfortunately don't have any personal experience to share with you regarding this teaching strategy. In March when I begin my second student teaching placement I will be in a Grade 5 class where I may have an opportunity to try out this strategy. If so, I will make sure to update and let you know how it worked out! Click on the link below to download the E-Book where you can find the full "Genius Ladder" description on pages 8-11. There is a great section on how to specifically utilize it in the classroom.

Check out the Whole Brain Teaching E-Book Download to see Chris Biffle's instructions in context or check out Chris Biffle's YouTube channel to see this strategy in action.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much! This was a very helpful article.