Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Genius Ladder

The lucky Wibbeteers who have been attending Whole Brain Teaching conferences this summer are talking about something called The Sentence Ladder, aka The Genius Ladder.  It is basically a framework to model creating sentences.  It begins with simple sentences, adds adjectives/adverbs, adds conjunctions, etc.  With practice over the course of the year, students will develop the skills to write their own complex, "genius" sentences!

I haven't had any training on this myself, but sought help on the forum and read others' blogs.  I got some good information here.  And I printed out Erica's visual for the ladder here. So I took this to tutoring with me to try it out on my soon-to-be 4th grader.

We had completed some reading, collected a list of vocabulary words, and looked up the definitions in the dictionary.  Then I introduced the Genius Ladder by reading all the sentences on the ladder and noting how they changed.  I then challenged him to use one of his new vocabulary words to make a simple sentence.  He chose scour.  He thought of a sentence and used air punctuation to model it before putting it on paper.  We worked together to move up the ladder and add to the original sentence.  This is what we came up with:
  •            I scour the car.              
  •          I scour the red car.           
  •   I scour and clean the red car.  
That is as far as we got, but I figure it is pretty good for the first try.  For my 2nd graders I know this will be a much longer process with much time spent on modeling.  Andrea Schindler passed on this advice:
We want to expose them to all the sentence types. Since the beginning stages of the sentence ladder are where the teacher is doing all the writing~ and modeling how the sentences become more complex, this is easy to do. Later they will "help me (the teacher)" and share their ideas to help construct the sentences. They will not be creating their own until much later. 
Below you will see three different representations of the Genius Ladder.  Thank you to Erica, Georgia Ramsey, and Ocalacna for sharing!  More info can be found in the WBT Model Classroom ebook.

WBT Intern, 2011-12


  1. I just read about the Genius ladder in one of the e-books and loved it! So much so that I was bummed for a moment that I don't teach language arts. But then I decided I can't wait to tailor it to math for my students' answers to math word problems. I'm thinking 4 rungs that look something like...
    1. 27
    2. 27 beads
    3. Gloria now has 27 beads in all.
    4. Gloria now has 27 beads in all. I found this by using addition. I added the amount she started with to the amount she bought at the store. 15 + 12 = 27.

    The "genius" answer is of course #4. This type of answer would score a 2 out of 2 on the Ohio Achievement Assessment, so I love that we can build these good habits all year in a fun way!

    P.S. thanks for your encouragement on my blog =)

  2. Oh my goodness! That is just.....GENIUS!!!!

    What an amazing way to adapt it!