Four Corners Teaching Strategy

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The four corners teaching strategy can be easily adapted to any grade level and subject. It takes little teacher preparation yet results in motivated, engaged students. The strategy involves students moving to one of the four classroom corners to convey their feelings about a topic. It can be designed to take only several minutes of class or up to an entire session. Memorable and valuable class discussions are often the result of the four corners strategy.

1 Visible Opinion Sharing

Four corners is a teaching strategy that works well to engage all students in conversations about controversial topics. For example, in a reading class you can ask questions about a character’s actions in a novel. Math students can debate if students should be able to use calculators. Science students can discuss the use of alternative forms of energy. While in social studies, students can debate the various forms of government.

To prepare, write statements in a definitive manner. For example, nuclear energy is a good source of energy. Before class, record the statements on an interactive white board or overhead so students will be able to view the statement. Clear the four corners of the room of tripping hazards. Label each corner of the room with a sign stating strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree.

Engage the students in the strategy by sharing the first controversial statement. Students may first be required to write a short passage explaining their position on the topic. Then students physically move to the corner of the room that best matches their personal viewpoint.

There are a variety of ways to engage students after they are in their respective corners. The teacher can randomly call on students in each corner to share why they chose the given position. Otherwise, students in each corner can discuss the statement and develop a collective response to be shared. Alternatively, the teacher can assign different groups to debate one another. For example, the agree and disagree students can debate while the strongly agree and strongly disagree students do the same. Another option is to have each group research their position and present a persuasive speech to the rest of the class supporting their position.

After the groups have shared their information, it is interesting to repeat the activity with the same controversial statement. Have students reflect on their position and indicate if it has changed.

2 Making It Work

The four corners teaching strategy also can be adapted into a simple game format that allows all students the opportunity to move around the classroom. For this modification, label the four corners of the room one, two, three and four. Make four slips of paper that are labeled with the corresponding numbers. Have all students go to a corner of the classroom. Draw a numbered slip of paper and ask a question to the given corner. If the students in the corner are able to answer the question correctly, students move around the room to another corner. If the students answered incorrectly, all students in that corner must return to their seats. Play continues until one student wins the game.

Another option is to use the four corners strategy for multiple choice questions. With this option, label each corner A, B, C or D. Ask a question and give four options. Students report to the option they believe is correct. All students who chose the right answer continue to play while others take their seats.

Andrea Buckner Schoenherr is a middle childhood educator. She greatly enjoys teaching students to write and is excited to use her own writing skills outside the school setting. She has a Bachelor and Master degree in education, recently earning the Heidelberg University 2009 Master of Education Award.