respect another's opinion and another's point of view."
Sri Sathya Sai Baba
A Four Corners Inquiry is a cooperative learning technique that enables students
to hone their argumentation skills. Students are confronted with controversial
issues or statements to which they are asked to agree or disagree. They
sort themselves into opinion-based groups and asked to discuss and synthesize
the arguments for their viewpoints. Individually, students are expected
to create a final written product based on the groups’ findings. This
can also be used effectively as a means for assessing student’s prior
beliefs and understandings.
IMPLEMENTING THIS ACTIVITY
- Prepare four posters labeled: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, and
Strongly Disagree. Hang them at four separate corners of the room.
- Select a controversial topic/statement that is age and content appropriate
for your students.
- Present the issue statement to your students. Have a brief classroom
discussion before beginning the activity to address any misconceptions
- Give students a few minutes to decide their own level of agreement
or disagreement with the topic or statement. After they have collected
their thoughts, instruct them to move to the appropriate corner.
- Once the groups have congregated, instruct them to discuss their choice,
explain the thinking behind this choice, and to synthesize the group’s
viewpoints into a clear explanation of their position.
- Each group will give a brief presentation of their position. After
each group has presented, allow students who have been persuaded by
the discussion to switch corners.
- After each group has presented, instruct students on the details,
directions, and expectations of the individual writing assignments
based on this Four Corners Inquiry.
►Instead of allowing students to argue for the position that they support,
you may assign them to random corners. This switch will enhance
student’s ability to argue persuasively about any viewpoint and
promote open-mindedness toward real world issues.
►There are many variations of
the writing assignment attached to the end of this activity depending
on the level of emphasis you want place upon the topic. Writing variations
could include: a brief paragraph response, a formal debate, or a persuasive
CONTENT AREA APPLICATIONS
English – A Four Corners Inquiry is a great pre-writing
activity to help students focus their thoughts before completing a persuasive
Science – When discussing a set of controversial science
topics, this activity can serve as a focusing tool for a research-based persuasive
Social Studies – During a Civics lesson, this
activity can be used to introduce students to current controversial political
activity would serve an excellent precursor to organizing a formal debate.
ASSESSING THIS ACTIVITY
During the activity, you should be observing participation and looking for
evidence of cooperative skills. As with any cooperative learning, you
may want to ask students to complete a self/group assessment. However, the
final written product should provide the main assessment focus.
MANAGING THIS ACTIVITY
►During group discussion, make yourself available to answer any questions
or address any confusion.
►It may be important for the class to establish
agreed-upon norms of behavior before beginning the Four Corner’s Inquiry.
beginning this activity, emphasize the importance of keeping an open-mind
and respecting other student’s opinion. This expectation
is especially important when dealing with controversial issues.
between groups to observe and ensure respectful cooperative learning behavior.