Monday, September 24, 2012

The Genius Ladder

Between it being a  Monday and my toddler bouncing off the walls today,  instead of posting on the Core Four as I had planned on, I am reposting my certification essay on the Genius Ladder from the forum. 

My students LOVE the Genius Ladder and especially enjoy reading their paragraphs for the class. I always try and build a silly and interesting topic sentence for the students to expand on!  Since we've had a good amount of 'beginner' practice, I plan on moving towards writing essays based on the Genius Ladder in the near future! The great thing is that the Genius Ladder is NOT just for upper elementary students, as you can witness here in this AMAZING kindergarten video:

ME:                     “Do you want to hear about a fun game that   
                            will help you write like 6th graders?”
STUDENTS:             “Yes!”
ME:                        “BEG ME!”

Watching The Genius Ladder ( webcast 504) really helped me figure out how to pull all of the WBT writing tools together. I was having trouble deciding how to use the complexors and puzzles on The Writing Game, use Cosmic Genius Ladder, and weave in Oral Writing. The simple answer is that they all go together! Coach B. had suggested alternating Cosmic Genius Ladder and Genius ladder every other day and use Red/Green Marker proofreading.  Now that I know what it is, I feel that is a great way to set it up for regular use in the classroom.  Use The Writing Game complexors for tackling micro skills and daily Oral Writing is perfect practice for The Genius Ladder!

The teacher danced.
The Genius Ladder isn’t a sentence frame, it’s an ESSAY FRAME. When first beginning you’ll start with a simple, boring, BLAH sentence such as “The fish swim”. Underline the noun and have partners take turns replacing ‘fish’ with as many nouns as they can for a minute. You can also do the same with replacing the verb in sentences.  Use the power of color coding to have students focus on each specific part they are supposed to replace.  Down the road, subject and predicate could also be substituted.

The crazy teacher danced.
Spicy sentences are next on the ladder, forcing students to use adjectives to make their sentences more descriptive and well, SPICY.  If you find they are having difficulty coming up with a variety of adjectives, an activity I like to do is take chart paper with a hole in it and have partners brainstorm and write adjectives that describe each other on it. The adjectives begin with describing their physical traits then moving to their personality traits. Lastly, they put their heads through the hole in the paper and stand in front of the class devising sentences using the adjectives they came up with for each other.  I find this always breaks the adjective brain freeze!

The crazy teacher danced in class.
Because the students were sleepy, the crazy teacher danced in class.
We now move on to the extender sentence in order to attach additional words!  As Coach B. pointed out, remind students to use ‘squirrel words’.  These are words you can use  to describe anything the squirrel can do with a log (go under, beside, through, over, etc.)   If you haven’t figured it out yet, you can teach PREPOSITIONS and prepositional phrases using extender sentences!  Eventually, you can progress to teaching introductory phrases or even more difficult,  parenthetical phrases that are in the middle of a sentence. (Remember the comma " ZOOP"!)

The crazy teacher danced in class.
Now comes the WRITING! Students will have to write detail sentences, preferably known as ADDER’s, about the topic sentence they’ve been working on.  As stated in the webcast, a paragraph is a unit of information on the SAME topic.  When an adder begins to go south, while a student is reading it aloud, remember the BUNGIE JUMP!   Walk your fingers across your arm and jump off with an “Aiii! Off topic!” (which the students love chiming in on).  This will cue the student to get back on topic.

Have student’s use  the same process to write each paragraph, including their CONCLUSION!  Use the basic starter:  “The author’s conclusion is___”, and build from there using evidence as ADDERS.  Another great idea to use are sentences that contain a number such as, “The three reasons why we should_____.”   This would serve as your INTRODUCTION for an ARGUMENTATIVE essay( think COMMON CORE).  For each reason students would add detail sentences, creating each paragraph in a 5 paragraph essay! It seemed to progress so smoothly, I bet you forgot this was an ESSAY frame!

It is clear to see that critical thinking is tightly intertwined with The Genius Ladder.  Everything builds and scaffolds on each other in a way that allows for more in depth subject matter.   Say bye-bye to BLAH sentences, off topic details, and ill constructed essays.  Students will have to go beyond BASIC and enter the world of ‘BECAUSE’(clap)!  Eventually students will graduate from red/ green marker writing and be able to do their own editing via paperclip proofreading!  Students are gradually pushed to be more independent, leading them to catch their OWN mistakes and CORRECT them! I can’t wait for my 5th graders to begin writing like 6th graders!

If you're interested in watching The Genius Ladder for yourself, in order to get the ENTIRE picture, watch Webcast 504 on !   

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