The "Four Corners" strategy is extremely versatile; it can be effectively used across subject areas from grades K-12 (or even college)! This pack includes some tools I will be using in my own classroom to enhance my use of this strategy in my own teaching.
If you are not familiar with this strategy, the idea is that the teacher poses a multiple-choice question for the students, and instead of students just staying put to answer the question, they GO to a corner of your classroom that is designated for their answer. For instance, if you ask a question and the student answers choice “A,” the student will go to a corner of your classroom labeled “A” and will share their thinking with other like-minded students. This can easily be used in conjunction with papers, technology, and whiteboard work as well for students to be able to show their thinking.
The benefits of this strategy are many. This is a great strategy for creating a “safe practice” learning environment for English Language Learners in which they can rehearse their expression of their thinking. It is also a great tool for test prep, enforcing academic conversations, critical thinking, and getting the students off of their feet and moving!
Here are a few tips for effectively using this strategy:
→Review the rules for this activity with your class prior to starting this activity. (a sample set of rules are included in this pack- feel free to use!) You may have to review the rules 1x per week or more depending on your class.
→ When you first introduce this strategy to your class, you should choose questions that do not have a right answer. This breaks the habit of students all rushing to the same corner; they will learn to pick the corner that best suits their thinking. I have included some sample starter questions for you in this pack to introduce this strategy to your class.
→Allow for processing time. Nothing is more frustrating to a student when they feel that they are “thinking too slow” and don’t have the time to make a decision before they choose a corner. Once your class has read your question, depending on the complexity of the question you may give anywhere from 15-90 seconds of “thinking time” for your students to quietly stay put and process the question before you let them choose a corner. Be sure to then review the language frames you expect for them to use when they go to their corner. (a few essential language frames are included in this pack!)
→Tell your students in advance what attention-getter you plan to use when you need their attention later, and make clear that once they hear or see this attention getter, their eyes need to focus on you. This can take on so many forms; some examples are a bell, clapping, piano, sign, rainstick, chimes, maracas, chant, song, tambourine, dance, magic word, etc. It makes it that much easier for them to focus back on you if they know what to expect when time’s up! I included a “come back!” sign you may choose to use as a visual with your students to bring everyone back together for debriefing. Hopefully it will save your voice the extra effort!
→Right when you are about to send them off, tell them how much time they have and set a timer. This way, they know that their time in conversation should be used wisely and they can expect your attention-getter once the timer goes off.
→ If you have a student with mobility concerns, you may choose to modify the location of that student’s corner choice so that the students who picked the same choice as this student will meet in an easily accessible location.