Tag Archives: current events

4 Corners: Taxes & DADT

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.


I’m going to add some more of my four corner prompts below. Let’s see if I can dig them up!

Osama Bin Laden’s Death

Good evening.  Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.

These were the words spoken by President Obama on May 2nd 2011.  It was enormously important news, and something noted by historians everywhere as a major event.  Let’s learn more about this story from many different perspectives.

First, let’s learn as much on this event as possible:

You can also see how many newspapers around the world created their headlines for that important day:

Next, let’s examine some ideas on how this event can be taught in the classroom:

You can also explore how this is a teachable moment by looking at dozens of other events and issues brought to the classroom from current events.  There’s a huge list here:

Let’s also take a look at a classroom exercise concerning US policy in Afghanistan and the options for the US on the War on Terror following Bin Laden’s death:

Who are the people who fight for Osama Bin Laden?  Take a look at this PBS Frontline documentary that goes behind the scenes of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

What was it like to be in the war room in the White House watching the operation take place live?  Take a look here.

Think of what it is like for soldiers to kill.  There is a lot more here than action and adventure.  This documentary explores those in the military who choose non-violence.  It’s an interesting counterpoint to the excitement of the raid on Bin Laden.

What about the cost?  Since 9/11 there has been a huge amount of money spent on the war on terror.  How much?  Take a look here:

And also take a look at the cost of both wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) here.  It’s constantly going up according to how much money Congress appropriates.  Here’s a snapshot on Monday morning, May 9.

Finally, how did Twitter get this story out?  Take a look here at a graph:

As well as a story on NPR concerning Twitter breaking the news here.

If there are other ideas, suggestions, comments or questions, please let me know.  The last link I’d like to leave you with is from a former student who wrote about this on his blog, The Daily Voice of Reason.  Check it out.