Getting the most out of debates: Four corners strategy

 What is a four corners debate?

Students show their position on a certain topic by standing in a particular corner of the room.

When to use this activity?

  • Before introducing new material to access prior knowledge
  • After reading a text to begin a discussion
  • As a review after a unit of study

How do I implement four corners?

Use the template below to create a four corners debate activity with a Newsela article.

Activity Components                    Description
Preparation  
  • Select an article from the News or Library regarding an important issue or topic.
  • Teacher poses a statement or question about the topic or issue in the entry document.
  • Create four labeled posters with the opinion or response to the question or statement you will pose to students and post in the four corners of the space.

Examples:

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree
Student Pre-Work  
  • Students read selected text and craft a response based on the posed  statement or question.
  • Students choose which poster they most agree with and physically move to the corner where the poster is displayed.  
  • Once in small groups, students will discuss with others why they have chosen that corner providing personal examples and evidence from the text.
  • Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.
Discussion  
  • Designate one student in each corner to be the notetaker.
  • Once in small groups, students will discuss with others why they have chosen that corner providing personal examples and evidence from the text.
  • Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.
  • Create a set of statements for student exploration. These questions will guide the students’ search through the selected texts.
Reflection  

Create a question or project that will allow students to synthesize the gathered information and reflect upon what they learned.

Activity 1

Title:

What can we learn from others' journeys?

Article:

The ride of her life: Syrian refugee's perilous journey - in a wheelchair

 Activity:

Teacher Set-up: Nujeen and others like her who have fled Syria for safety should be able to attend school, find work, and rebuild their lives in any other country they choose. Create 4 posters and place them in 4 different corners of the room. The posters should read:

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

Assign this article to your students. Edit the Write prompt to be the following: “Nujeen and others like her who have fled Syria for safety should be able to attend school, find work, and rebuild their lives in any other country they choose.”

Debate: First, introduce the essential statement to your students: "Nujeen and others like her who have fled Syria for safety should be able to attend school, find work, and rebuild their lives in any other country they choose.”

Have them start thinking about how they feel about the statement. Teachers can have students show a quick thumbs up or thumbs down in response to the statement.

Next, choose one article from the Refugee Crisis Text Set to read aloud. This will give students context regarding Nujeen’s experience. As you are reading, have your students note sentences that support the essential statement in green and sentences that do not support the statement in red.

Once you have finished reading the article, have students walk to the corner of the room that best supports how they feel about the essential statement. In their groups, students will:

  • Designate one student in each corner to be the notetaker.

  • Discuss with others why they have chosen that corner providing personal examples and the evidence from the text that they highlighted while reading the text.

  • Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.

In pairs, have students reflect on what they learned from hearing the perspective of peers in their own group and from others. Students should highlight new viewpoints that they didn’t consider before the class discussion.

Exit ticket: Students will independently respond to the Write prompt. They will re-evaluate this statement now that we have read the article and discussed it as a class. What did you believe at the beginning of class and what do you believe now that we have had a class discussion? Use 2 examples from the text to describe your current opinion on the statement above.

  

Activity 2

Title:

Choosing a side of a paddle

Article:

Education secretary pushes to halt corporal punishment in schools

 Activity:

Essential Statement: States that permit paddling are allowing a this practice against on children, but the same action would be a crime, "criminal assault or battery," against an adult. Children should be treated the same way adults are treated.

Create 4 posters and place them in 4 different corners of the room. The posters should read:

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

First, introduce the essential statement to your students. Have them begin to process their thoughts about the statement. Teachers can have students show a quick thumbs up or thumbs down in response to the statement.

Next, read the article as a class. As you are reading, have your students highlight sentences that support the essential statement in green and sentences that do not support the statement in red.

  • Once you have finished reading the article, have students walk to the corner of the room that best supports how they feel about the essential statement.
  • Designate one student in each corner to be the notetaker.
  • Once in small groups, students will discuss with others why they have chosen that corner providing personal examples and the evidence from the text that they highlighted while reading the text.
  • Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.

Extension: Writing Assign the article to students. Then edit the Write prompt with the following:

States that permit paddling are allowing a this practice against on children, but the same action would be a crime, "criminal assault or battery," against an adult. Children should be treated the same way adults are treated.

Re-evaluate this statement now that we have read the article and discussed it as a class. What did you believe at the beginning of class and what do you believe now that we have had a class discussion? Use 2 examples from the text to describe your current opinion on the statement above.

  

Activity 3

Title:

Would taxes lead to climate change benefits?

Article:

Chew on this: Study finds meat tax would lead to climate, health benefits

 Activity:

Essential statement: A tax on meat and milk would lead to climate change benefits

Pre-Work: Create 4 posters and place them in 4 different corners of the room. The posters should read:

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

Student Activity: Introduce the essential statement to your students. Have them start thinking about how they feel about the statement. Teachers can have students show a quick thumbs up or thumbs down in response to the statement.

Then have students read the article and highlight sentences that support the essential statement in green and sentences that do not support the statement in red.

Have students walk to the corner of the room that best supports how they feel about the essential statement.

Designate one student in each corner to be the notetaker. Once in small groups, students will discuss with others why they have chosen that corner providing personal examples and the evidence from the text that they highlighted while reading the text.

Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.

Reflection: In pairs, have students reflect on what they learned from hearing the perspective of peers in their own group and from others. Students should highlight new viewpoints that they didn’t think of before the class discussion.

Exit ticket: Edit the write prompt: “A tax on meat and milk would lead to climate change benefits. Re-evaluate this statement now that we have read the article and discussed it as a class. What did you believe at the beginning of class and what do you believe now that we have had a class discussion? Use 2 examples from the text to describe your current opinion on the statement above."

  

Activity 4

Title:

Do animals behave in the same way as humans?

Article:

Study shows dogs and humans are more alike than was previously thought

 Activity:

Create four labeled posters and post in the four corners of the space you are in: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree”

Pre-reading: Students preview the article title and review the images associated with the article.

Pose the essential question: Do animals behave in the same way as humans?

Students choose which poster they most agree with and physically move to the corner where the poster is displayed. Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.

Post-reading: Students read the article and reflect on their original theory.

Teacher asks the same statement as before.

Students choose which poster they most agree with now and physically move to the corner where the poster is displayed.

Designate one student in each corner to be the notetaker.

Once in small groups, students will discuss with others why they have chosen that corner, providing personal examples and evidence from the text.

Each group presents their perspective to the whole group. Have students reflect on whether or not their opinions changed after reading in an exit ticket reflection paragraph.

  

Activity 5

Title:

Should bullfighting remain illegal?

Article:

In Catalonia, Spain, bullfighting is legal again after 4-year ban is lifted

 Activity:

Create four labeled posters and post in the four corners of the space you are in: “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “Strongly Disagree”

Pre-reading Have students preview the article title and review the images associated with the article.

Pose the essential question: Should bullfighting remain illegal?

After students reflect they will choose which poster they most agree with and physically move to the corner where the poster is displayed. Each group presents their perspective to the whole group.

During reading Students read the article and reflect on their original theory. They should highlight text in the article that supports their theory.

Teacher asks the same statement as before.

Students choose which poster they most agree with now and physically move to the corner where the poster is displayed.

Post reading Designate one student in each corner to be the notetaker.

Once in small groups, students will discuss with others why they have chosen that corner, providing personal examples and evidence from the text. Each group will then present their perspective to the whole group.

Have students reflect on whether or not their opinions changed after reading in an exit ticket reflection paragraph.

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