Sunday, September 25, 2011

Genius Ladder in Third grade:
This week I had the opportunity to model the Genius ladder in a third grade class.

I took a quick pic of the board to share with you. (Ignore the "Prove It" in the top left corner- that is just the classroom reminder from the morning, and a whole other post!)

For those of you who are new to the Genius Ladder,  you can check it out at

We started at the bottom, with our "Blah Sentence", The dog ran. I asked them to orally subsitute the noun, and as partners they came up with many varieties and repetitions. For example, The kid ran. The mouse ran. The tiger ran. I heard some laughing, and one pair of boys said, The nose ran. Then, they readily backed it up with, "Nose is a noun, and you can have a runny nose!"

Calling the whole class back, we climbed to the next rung on the ladder, the "Spicy Sentence". I shared with the class that when I have pizza, I like it a little spicy, with pepperoni! We talked about adding an adjective to create a spicy sentence. Before I had them come up with their own "Spicy Sentences",  I needed to doublecheck to see if they all remembered what an adjective was. We agreed that an adjective was a describing word, and gave a few examples.  Our "Spicy Sentence" was The ugly dog ran. When the students brainstorm and create as many spicy sentences as they can think of with their partner, they use the capital letter gesture (One hand eye at head level-palm down, the other hand at chest level-palm up) and the gesture for period. (Some teachers use the hand up with a screech, like a car screeching to a stop, others use a one finger point with a tongue click). Both partners gesture throughout the exchange.

I called the class back, we shared a few "Spicy Sentences", and then moved up the next rung to the "Extender Sentence". This particular class had been working on prepositions last week, so not a lot of review was necessary here. In WBT, we tell the students that prepositions are "squirrel words". Have you ever watched a squirrel? They dash in, out, up, down, over under, through, etc. Those "squirrel words" are prepositions.  Our Extender Sentence was, The ugly dog ran across the road. Again, we brainstormed a few extenders, then turned to our partner to generate Extender Sentences. Do you notice how many oral repetitions the students are getting? Many opportunities for practice are essential when building the Genius Ladder.

The final rung on the Genius Ladder is the Genius Paragraph. The students helped generate the sentences as the teacher wrote. I am including our Genius paragraph below.

The ugly dog ran across the road. He was chasing the chicken because he liked to eat the white meat. Next, the chicken scurried into the tiny pen. Lastly, the sad, ugly dog wandered away.

This Genius Paragraph has a topic sentence, two adders, and a concluding sentence. Notice, the students used "because" in one of the adders, and no two sentences begin the same.

This day, the students did not write their own Genius Paragraph. In fact, the plan is to continue to model as a whole class for several days before the students write their own paragraph independently. However, this teacher is having a different student record the Genius Paragraph each day, and this is going in the writing center. Clever!

Best of all, the students are begging to do The Genius Ladder! Teacher Heaven!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Kindergarten Fun

People often ask me how quickly they can introduce WBT concepts at the beginning of the year, especially in Kinder.  Well, rather unexpectedly, I ended up subbing in Kindergarten on Thursday and Friday. They had already learned "Class, Yes" and "Hands and Eyes" from me when I had been in and out, giving baseline assessments and general assistance. On Thursday, we rehearsed the "Five Rules" throughout the day, I introduced the scoreboard, and I taught them how to "Turn to your neighbor".  Friday, I introduced "mirror" and they loved it! I taught them to use the triple repeat for lines, chairs, papers, etc. I used the WBT 5 Step lesson plan to teach the LA Power Pix "Author". We used air whiteboards to sequence the story of The Three Little Kittens.  The teacher's aide commented on how well the students participated, and that she liked how I made learning so much fun!
I will be stepping in for 2 weeks,  until our long term sub can take over. This week, we will learn the LA Power Pix for character, capital letter, sentence, period, and the math Power Pix sort and count.  So, how much can you introduce at the beginning of the year in Kinder? Quite a bit!!! The key is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, until they are meeting your expectations.
Guiding Kinder students in learning using WBT means no more unneccesary stacks of busywork for students during an unexpected absence by their teacher. Learning continues!!! Can I get an "Oh Yeah!"?