How to Implement the Four Corners Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom
A four corners debate requires learners to show their position on a specific statement (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) by standing in a particular corner of the room. This activity elicits the participation of all learners by requiring everyone to take a position. Utilize this as a warm-up activity by asking learners to respond to a statement about a topic they will be studying. It can also be a productive follow-up activity by asking learners to apply what they have learned when framing their arguments, or you can utilize it as a pre-writing activity to elicit arguments and evidence before essay writing.
- Prepare the Room: Tag the four corners of the space with signs reading Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree. Develop a list of debatable statements related to the material being studied. Comments that are most likely to encourage discussion typically elicit nuanced arguments, embody authoritative values on both sides of the debate, and do not have one correct or obvious answer. Effective “four corners” statements include the following:
- The needs of the bigger society are more essential than the needs of the individual.
- The objective of schooling is to prepare youth to be good citizens.
- Individuals can select their destiny, as their choices are not influenced or limited by the limitations of society.
- Individuals must always resist unfair laws despite the consequences. I am only answerable for myself.
- Introduce Statements: Disseminate statements and allow learners to respond to them in writing. Many instructors distribute a graphic organizer or worksheet that requires learners to mark their opinion and then provide a brief explanation.
- Four Corners Discussion: After learners have considered their response to the statements, read one of the comments aloud, and ask learners to move to the corner of the room that best embodies their opinion. Once learners are in their spots, ask for volunteers to defend their position. When doing so, they must refer to specific evidence and applicable information from their own experiences. Encourage learners to change corners if someone introduces a concept that causes a change of heart. After a spokesperson from each corner has defended their position, you can allow learners to question each other’s evidence and ideas. Before beginning the discussion, remind learners about norms for having a respectful conversation
- Debrief with Journals: You can have learners discuss in their journals about how the activity altered or solidified their original stance. It is possible that some learners will be more puzzled or uncertain about their views after the four corners debate. While ambiguity can feel uncomfortable, it is an essential part of the comprehension process and embodies real grappling with moral questions that have no clear-cut answers. To explain concepts shared during the conversation, you can chart the main “for” and “against” arguments on the board as a learning activity.