Do you enjoy solving puzzles? Whether you’re working a math problem, trying to understand a concept in science, or trying to solve a mystery, your brain sort of works in the same way. We use equations, graphic organizers, and even drawings to make sense of the information we’re looking at, right? Well, the Four Square Writing Method is a great way for students in the primary and intermediate grades to map out their thinking and better plan their writing just like other graphic organizers and drawings help us clarify other concepts. Today, I thought I’d share a few ways I’ve made use of the four-square writing method to help my kids improve their writing.
Before you can use Four Square with your students, they have to learn how the framework works. With my students, I’ve used a gradual release model through writer’s workshop to demonstrate the format in action before having my kids use it themselves. There are really great powerpoint presentations that other teachers have shared on the web. THIS LINK is to one I’ve used often to introduce how four square works. I love the simple examples for writing just a paragraph and the more elaborate examples for writing informational essays. THIS PRESENTATION shows an essay example for various writing formats including:
- and narrative
The first step I take when I’m using four square is to build background on the assigned topic. Students are much more able to write freely if they have a word bank, a list of ideas or related topics, and a model to imitate. One of the biggest complaints from kids who struggle with writing is the dreaded “I don’t know what to write about!” I would argue that we hear this more if/when students haven’t had adequate “think” time. Simple things that can alleviate writing stress are examples to follow and a word bank of related words to support spelling.
With this example, I use the book, Brave Irene by William Steig as the mentor text. It is very descriptive, and William Steig’s carefully mapped out plot helps students get a sense of story structure first before beginning their own stories.
When I’m ready to begin writing, I use this organizer to build ideas. Each student comes up with four examples of times when they had to be brave. The four examples here are getting shots, going through a car accident, riding a rollercoaster, or going through a bad storm. Other topics could include seeing a snake, going in a dark room, riding a bike the first time, flying, or being the new kid.
Once topic ideas are chosen, then I have my kids think of related words. This helps the kids think of ideas as well as words they may want to include.
FOUR SQUARE IN ACTION
When you’re ready to get your kids started, you might give your kids a list of connecting words as a support. I’ve created THIS LIST to share with you. I organized it to follow the four square plan, and even kids in upper elementary may find it helpful. Additionally, little ones may need the boxes numbered to help them organize their thinking.