I’ve finished 3 weeks of summer school, and this year I took the opportunity to practice some of the new instructional strategies in the Whole Brain Teaching system. So far I’ve experimented with Genius Ladder, Red/Green Marker Writing, the Big Seven, SuperSpeed 1000 and SuperSpeed Math. Whew! As always, I’m grateful for the chance to work summer school in my district – the pay, the fun trips (hello, Lazy River!) and time to practice some new instructional ideas. This summer that has been especially true because of Whole Brain Teaching. I wouldn’t say that my insights are profound – I am a rookie at this after all. However, some of the best lessons are the small ways a veteran WBT manages the system and makes it work with her students. Here’s what I’ve learned so far about the Genius Ladder…
Practice Definitely Helps
You will get better with practice. My first sessions at Genius Ladder were a little awkward, as you might expect with a new lesson. Each day was better, although at first my progress could be described as “baby steps.” It was, without a doubt, a much better grammar lesson that what I had been doing because it was directly tied to improving student writing. The kids could make the connection between learning adjectives, adverbs and prepositional phrases and how that information improved their writing.
Priming the Pump for Writing
Oral fluency is so important for developing strong writers! If you can’t speak it, you can’t write it. The Genius Ladder gives students lots of repetitions at speaking in lengthy, complete sentences that build on each other into paragraphs. Once we end the interactive part of the lesson and move into the 10 minutes of writing, no one is “stuck” about what to write.
Whenever possible, tie your Genius Ladder lesson into a lesson or activity that your class has recently done. Since I’m teaching summer school, many of our starter “Blah Sentences” are about our projects or field trips. Doing so also gives students an opportunity to use precise vocabulary in their writing. For example, after completing a mystery/science experiment, we used the following words in our writing – criminals, culprits, apprehended and murderers.
Creating a Cohesive Paragraph
Be prepared, especially in the early phases, to provide a verbal scaffold for students as they orally write their Genius Paragraph. In the beginning, my students would be able to state complete sentences but they were disconnected from each other and didn’t form a cohesive paragraph. Asking such questions as, “What happened next?” was usually all it took to subtly prompt students into creating a unified story.
Questions I Still Have…
With only one week left of summer school, I don’t have much more practice time remaining. I’m grateful for what little time I did have using the Genius Ladder with my students and have learned so much that will help me in August. Questions I hope to explore and reflect on in the future include:
- focusing more on nonfiction writing
- using evidence to support our extended sentences
- developing student awareness of specific grammatical skills to improve their writing
- maintaining an energetic pace to the lesson