On Thursday in my D Block US History class, I introduced the four corners discussion model to my students. It’s really simple. I have small pieces of paper in the four corners of the classroom with the following words: strongly support, strongly oppose, somewhat support, and somewhat oppose. If students are unsure or don’t fully understand the prompt, they can come into the middle of the class. I usually provide some background on the statements (if its not in the content already) and then we move!
Because I have not done this with the class before, I decided to talk about two current events issues: the President’s proposal to raise taxes on millionaires (known as the Buffett Tax) and ending the policy known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the military. Here are the two PPT slides I used to introduce and discuss the topics before we moved and chose our corners.
The discussion went very well! There’s an interesting balance of students who would like to speak and those who would rather not. All are participating, even if they’re just listening. For those who are comfortable speaking to a group (or have strong thoughts about the topic), this gives students a platform. I moderate the discussion and practice my skills as a facilitator, providing positive feedback and redirecting comments that are potentially extreme as guiding questions to other corners of the room. All students who speak are acknowledged. I sometimes choose students who may not participate and give them an opportunity to answer or pass. Passing is completely without judgment. I also make sure to allow students to move through the discussion, which does happen from time to time. When points made between competing corners gets a little ‘heated’, I diffuse the situation by asking the students in the middle to assess the comments made. Their opinions are very important here. Ultimately, its the purpose of students in different corners to try to persuade those in the middle to join them, without directly doing so. Taking the time away from a student who may be belaboring a point and asking another student to evaluate their comments is a great way to reflect as a class.
How do I know if it works? Well, sometimes during discussions, we end up sitting on desks or standing in different parts of the room actively listening to each other and providing input. The corners break down and we are one equal group of people engaged in each others’ perspectives and facts. It’s an amazing thing when it happens.
So today, when browsing Twitter, I noticed that someone had posted a chart explaining who pays what in federal taxes. This fits perfectly with our discussion and its something that I want to share here.