Recently I had an administrator observe a group activity in my classroom which required students to summarize the facts from a lesson into a well constructed paragraph. After watching the lesson, my administrator asked me “How do you hold individual students accountable?” I had an answer to the question, but the question itself stuck with me for several days. Yes, I can walk around the room and listen in to each group to see which students are participating and which aren’t, but with several groups in the classroom it is hard to get a good grasp on everything that each individual student is contributing to the group. So, I put in some time researching and came up with several options, one of which is the strategy 4 Corners.
This is not the strategy that has kids up and moving around the room to each of the four corners based on content or to answer a question. Rather, it is a way to give students individual think time before working with a group, and a way for teachers to hold both the individual and the group accountable for the finished product. For this strategy, I started the class with a sticky note waiting on each student’s desk. They wrote their name at the top of the sticky note, then I gave them a question to answer on the note. I gave the students about 5 minutes to answer the question on their own, and then put them together in groups. As a group, the students then went over their individual answers, decided what the best information was from all of the members, and put them together in one well constructed paragraph that completely answered the question. When I collected the paper from the groups I had an individual note from each student to grade and a group paragraph to grade, everyone was held accountable.
The great thing about this strategy is that it gets students writing, something that is becoming an emphasis across the board in every classroom regardless of content. The same end product could be made by using a Think-Pair-Share strategy, but then nothing is being written down. Using 4 Corners gives students a chance to see their answer and their group member’s answers, and to see a finished product that combines everyone’s answers together. Perfect teamwork, no one has to do all of the work and no one gets to do none of the work!