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1. What is a Concept Ladder?

A concept ladder is a literacy tool, as well as a graphic organizer, that helps and guides students

to ask different questions about a specific topic. Concept ladders help organize student’s

thoughts when reading to better understand their texts, or develop a concept around key

vocabulary terms. This tool is used so that students can have a better or deeper understanding of

a topic that they are going over. A concept ladder is set up like a ladder, with the topic on the top

box, or rung of the ladder. Questions can either be formulated on the concept ladder for students

to answer, or for high order thinking and teaching, students can create their own questions.

Questions should become increasingly more challenging and they go down the ladder.

This activity can be done as a pre-, and post- reading strategy depending on what you chose for

your students. If done as a pre-reading strategy, you may want to allow your students to create

their own questions based on background knowledge, or have them pick out key vocabulary

terms and find the definition, create their own, draw a picture and make a sentence in the boxes,

or rungs, below each term. This can be used as a post-reading strategy, by having students either

answer questions based on the reading or the topic, or for older students, write down questions

that they did not get answered. This activity should be used with Bloom's Taxonomy when

generating questions on their own, this will increase their knowledge of, and make them more

comfortable with, higher level thinking questions.

2. Why would I teach this strategy?

Concept ladders help give students a purpose for reading and developing background

knowledge not only for texts but also vocabulary. It is important for students to have
background knowledge on a topic before reading so they are able to make connections and

engage with the text. If you choose to have students create questions on their own, or provide

questions already on their ladders, before reading the text they are able to establish a purpose for

their reading. Having students create their own questions makes them think about the reading

they are doing. Students are engaging with the text before even reading it through in its entirety.

They are able to make connections to their background knowledge that is related to the content,

or readings that they may have encountered in previous years or classes. Concept ladders

provide teachers with the opportunity to get an insight into what students may, or may not

understand when analyzing texts or new key terms. Concept ladders are great for differentiating,

they give them the freedom to create their own questions, which encourages students to expand

their knowledge without having to worry about working up to a level that they may not be at just

yet. It also lets students see their own understanding of topics and vocabulary, so they can

become more accountable and play a part in their learning.

3. How would I teach this strategy?

Concept ladders should be done as group instruction tool when first introducing it to the

students. How concept ladders should be taught is by starting with the teacher picking key

vocabulary or a topic. The teacher will then develop their concept ladder and decide if they want

it to be teacher or student led. Students will then follow the ladder down, if it is teacher created,

answering the questions in succession. If it is student led they will create their questions

gradually using Bloom’s Taxonomy questioning. I would use this strategy as a pre and post

reading assessment in any social studies class I teach. I would begin with having the students

write questions on the topic that we are referencing, using only background knowledge and the
title of the reading. This will give students a purpose when reading. They will refer to Bloom’s

Taxonomy when creating their questions using words such as, Create, Evaluate, Analyze, Apply

etc. to increase understanding as well as learn higher analytical skills. I would proceed with the

reading with the students, interacting with the text the entire time and having them answer their

questions as they go. I would then hand out another concept ladder, that they would write the

same questions in, added two more questions that they may have come up with while reading.

They would then switch questions with a classmate and answer the new set of questions. This is

will ensure that students interact with the text while reading but also pay attention because they

are not looking for their answers anymore, they are looking for the answers to a question that a

classmate created.

In a 7th grade Social Studies class I would use this while teaching the Civil War. It

would look something like the following:

Step 1: Introduce the Civil War and what it was.

Step 2: Hand out the concept ladder and explain/show my example of a completed one.

Step 3: Have students write the topic sentence in the top box.

Step 4: Give students time to create their own questions for their concept ladder.

Step 5: Hand out the reading on the origin of the Civil War, remind students to listen carefully

for their questions, some may or may not be answered. Read through once for them to listen,

read through a second time to answer their questions.

Step 6: Hand out another blank concept ladder and having the students rewrite their questions,

then switch with a partner.


Step 7: Discuss whether they could answer their questions, what they were and remind them that

we will use this with other readings that will come later that may help them complete their

ladders.

​Resources:

Cause and Effect of Flow Charts. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://carla.umn.edu/cobaltt/modules/strategies/gorganizers/HGO/5H.PDF

Concept Ladder - Murray Reading and Writing. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://sites.google.com/a/stcmo.org/murray-reading-and-writing/frontloading/concept-ladder

Five for Friday...well, Saturday. (n.d.). Retrieved from

http://curiousfirsties.blogspot.com/2013/04/five-for-fridaywell-saturday.html