Genius Paragraph

Today we worked on our Genius Ladder. This teaching strategy comes from Whole Brain Teaching. I began using this writing strategy in January, and it has really helped students develop their writing skills. Today students worked independently on their Genius Ladder, and were allowed to write their own "Blah" Sentence and then build upon it moving up the ladder. Here is one student's paper from today. You can see the rubric that was created on the side.

Here's Mr. Martinez the ELL teacher reviewing students' final copies.

According to Chris Biffle, from Whole Brain Teaching the Genius Ladder is essentially a scaffold structure to teach sentence and then paragraph construction. The bottom rung should be the simplest kind of complete sentence which we call the "Blah".

The second rung should be the Spicy...add an adjective and we also add a where. Students should work in pairs to orally create a Spicy sentence and then share out.

The third rung we call the Extender Complexor. An Extender Complexor is anything that extends the Spicy sentence...a prepositional phrase, a conjunction, an adverbial phrase, an appositive. You can be as specific or as general as you wish on what you want kids to use at this level. Again have students work in pairs to orally create as many Extender Complexor alternatives as possible.

The fourth rung is the Genius Paragraph. Students take one of the Extender Complexor sentences as their topic sentence and add as many adders as possible...detail sentences. At this point, students should be writing. I have students add a Hook, simile and a conclusion.

As you can see the Genius Ladder can vary but the key idea is to move from a simple sentence to complex, give kids lots of oral reps at the lower level and finish with paragraph writing.

Here's two videos with Chris Biffle facilitating the Genius Ladder. He is awesome!

This afternoon our school's Cheerleaders, Choir and Ballroom Dancers performed. Here are a few shots taken from the performance.


  1. The Cheerleaders rocked the stage! That stunt was amazing. Yall must have really worked hard on that. Great job! Mrs. Rodriguez

  2. Awesome job Erica! I'd love a copy of the template you are using for the genius paragraph.

  3. Awesome job Erica! I'd love a copy of the template you are using for the genius paragraph.

  4. I've falling in LOVE with Whole Brain Teaching!!! Can't wait to spend the summer watching every single one of his videos.

    Fun in Room 4B

  5. could you e-mail me a copy of your template for writing? I teach 3rd grade and have been scouring for a good one like yours! I LOVE the WBT approach and the class mgmt piece (which is the only part I've implemented so far) is fabulous! My next goal is the Super improvers wall and the Genius ladder :) my e-mail is if you don't mind sending me the template, or if it's on another site, like TpT, let me know and I'll buy it! I figure that we're all in this together for kids, so please share away! And if there's anything you ever need, let me know! (not that you will, because apparently, you're awesome! Thanks!!


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