Teaching Method Spotlight: Four Corners

In this series, we will continue to highlight popular teaching methods that are engaging, interactive, and, most of all, a cooperative learning strategy. Cooperative learning strategies can be described as small group learning.

The first cooperative learning strategy that we discussed in an earlier post was the Jigsaw teaching method, which is a way to involve all students in learning a given portion of material. Each student, then, is responsible for explaining their portion of text to a small group of students.

With this method, students are required to practice active listening skills as they need to understand what their peers are presenting.

Like the Jigsaw method, Four Corners is a great way to engage students, create interest about a topic, and assess students’ understanding of material.

What is the Four Corners method?

Four Corners is a learning strategy that involves students getting out of their seats, moving around the classroom, and using speaking and listening skills to share their opinion in small groups. Using the Four Corners method guarantees one hundred percent student engagement and involvement.

Students will be required to develop an opinion on a given statement shared aloud by the teacher. Like the Jigsaw method, Four Corners can be used in any subject area, throughout all age groups, from elementary to high school students.

How is it used?

Four Corners is a very versatile teaching method that can be utilized as an activity after content is presented or as a pre-writing activity to formulate opinions about a given topic.

Before using the Four Corners activity with your class, it will be helpful to establish ground rules that everyone must follow before the activity begins. Each student must understand that they will be respectfully having an open discussion to hear each other’s points of views and opinions.  

To set up Four Corners in your classroom, you’ll need to label corners in your classroom with the words: strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. Then, students will listen to statements read aloud. They will decide what their opinion is after hearing the statement.

Every student must take an opinion on the given statements. This is an especially great activity to encourage all students to use their voice in the class and develop their reasoning for “why” they agree or disagree.

Additionally, you can use Four Corners as a pre-writing activity in much the same way. After the statement is presented and students select which corner of the room their opinion falls in, students are given time to discuss amongst each other in their corner what they believe and why.  

If a student changes their mind in the middle of the discussion with the material presented, they can move to a new corner and begin the discussion again there. Students can question each other’s evidence and ideas after the information is presented.  

For older students, after the verbal discussion, students can be invited to debrief in a variety of ways. One way is for students to journal about their experience. Did their original opinion change from the discussions with their peers? What information was presented that they hadn’t thought about before? 

After independently debriefing, invite the whole class to debrief together and keep the points of “for” and “against” in a list on the board. This will help in case some students are more confused after the exercise.  

What are the benefits of Four Corners?

Using this cooperative learning strategy is beneficial to students for a number of reasons. In addition to allowing for ultimate student participation, using this method encourages students to develop their critical thinking skills as they discuss their opinions and beliefs with peers and consider other viewpoints.

Four Corners is both a collaborative method and one that cultivates introspectiveness. Students need to work with their peers to discuss and critique one another’s responses, practicing their communication and teamwork skills.

In the same way, students need to be able to articulate their own thoughts, opinions, and ideas both verbally and in writing when debriefing through the journal exercise.

This method challenges students’ decision-making skills. They must choose what they believe about a given statement and defend their position. Students also need to listen to other’s ideas and evaluate what they believe to be true.

This is such an important exercise to learn, practice, and grow in starting at a young age because they will be making decisions based on evidence and reasoning for the rest of their lives.

Ultimately, this learning strategy is one that we could all benefit from engaging in! Students practice learning how to engage in situations where they may not agree with everyone around them. This is a great way for them to learn to navigate these types of scenarios with grace and compassion, which will only help them in the future.

How can I check for comprehension?

When checking to see if students have grasped the material from the Four Corners activity, it can be easily seen in a few ways through teacher observation.

One way to see is to see how students are responding throughout different sections of the activity. During the discussion time, are students actively engaged in listening and responding? During the journal debrief, are students writing out their thoughts and ideas from the discussion? In the whole class discussion, have students walked away more confused or with more certainty.

If using this as a pre-writing activity, you will be able to check for students’ understanding when students submit parts of their writing activities or journal debrief. Assessing this will be helpful to check for any students that are confused and need help to rethink parts of their outline.

All in all, this learning strategy is a top-notch one for including all students, getting them up and out of their seats, communicating with one another, and engaging in discussions to support their own opinions and points of view. We need more kind and compassionate discussion in the world, and practicing now is a great time to start!

The next time you need an activity to keep students engage, consider trying out Four Corners in your classroom.