Watch the Video
Jennifer Schafran is a secondary English teacher at Sweetwater Union High School in Chula Vista, California.
Hello, my name is Jennifer Schafran, and not only have I been a teacher leader as part of the California Reading and Literature Project for the last five years, but I’m also a secondary English teacher and have been for the last twelve.
Finding fun ways to engage with students while also creating a safe and comfortable classroom environment while giving students a chance to find their voice is the best way I found to build community and trust within my four walls. That is why today I’m going to share the “Four Corners” activity that literally uses the four corners of your classroom. In this activity, you can decide how much student-to-teacher, student-to-student, as well as how much student-to-daily lesson or entire unit engagement you want. That means this can take as little as five minutes to prepare or as much as a day.
To start, you’ll need to place labels around your classroom that read “Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, “Agree”, or “Strongly Agree”. You can spend anywhere between five minutes at the start of class or use this as an entire lesson to introduce the new unit with themes and big ideas that would be relevant to the unit itself.
For the shorter time constraints, you’re going to create three to five debatable statements or closed questions. The perks students are able to discuss in their common groups why they agree or disagree, as well as create a debate between other groups based on which degree they are standing. Examples of statement questions could be: “Netflix is better than going to the movies”, “All families should have a pet”, or “Is a hot dog a sandwich?”.
Developing this idea into a unit starter will take a little more preparation. You’ll need to create between five and fifteen statements on a handout based on the unit’s themes or big ideas. This could be based on a novel that the class might be getting ready to read, a science unit that has debatable ideas, or even a history unit that has major themes and concepts that can be discussed.
Have students individually decide on their level of agreeance, followed by a reason statement as to why they picked the degree of where they stand with each statement. Once students have spent some time on this, the instructor will randomly pick statements from the handout and have students move to the wall that coincides with their choice. Examples of unit statements that could be used: “In America, everyone has the same chance to succeed as everyone else”, or “Appearances do not always reflect reality”.
Encourage students to have a discussion with either their group members or across the room with other various groups. Encourage students to listen to each other and allow them to move from one wall to another if they feel like someone made a good point.
Changing one’s mind is natural when we hear other people’s perspective. So enabling students to change their level of agreeance, based on their others’ responses, helps build that community and trust we try to build throughout the year.
“Four Corners” is a great way to build community and trust in the classroom throughout the school year.
So have some fun, and I leave you with this: is cereal a soup?
Accompanying Materials & Resources
- Quick Guide: Four Corners (PDF – 1 Page)
- Four Corners with Jennifer Schafran, HowTo (PDF)
- Four Corners with Jennifer Schafran, Anticipation Guide (PDF)
- Four Corners with Jennifer Schafran, Anticipation Guide – Getting to Know You (PDF)
- Four Corners with Jennifer Schafran, Anticipation Guide – Night and Human Rights (PDF)