Four Corners

Get Them Out of Their Seats
General Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History, Rhetoric
Large Group, Ongoing, Cumulative, Out of Seat


  • Students will develop stronger opinions and arguments about the novel.
  • Students will create a more personal connection to the issues and themes of the novel.


A four-corners debate requires students to show their position on a specific statement (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) by standing in a particular corner of the room (signs will be posted) or by responding to four choices to one question. This activity gets everyone involved and requires full participation by taking a position.

This activity can be done as a cumulative exercise (for a section of reading or for the entire novel) or used as a priming activity prior to reading a new section of the book.

Materials Needed/Preparation


  • Label the four corners of the room with signs reading “strongly agree,” “agree,” “disagree,” “strongly disagree.”
  • Generate a list of statements related to the material being studied. These should not be “yes” or “no” statements, but ones that will elicit strong feelings/opinions. Statements most likely to encourage discussions typically do not have one correct or obvious answer. (See sample statements below.)
  • ~When generating statements, consider the objectives.
  • ~~Is this a cumulative activity, or an activity meant to prime students for upcoming scenes in the novel?
  • ~Statements do not have to be pulled directly from the novel. Statements could be about the larger issues covered in the novel (trust, violence, etc.), issues that students may be able to relate to on a personal level.

Materials Needed

  • List of statements related to the material being studied (see above)
  • Overhead projector (optional)
  • Copies of prepared statements to distribute (optional)

Estimated Time

1 class period


  • Distribute statements (optional).
  • Read the first statement to the class. (Consider using an overhead projector as well.)
  • ~Allow students a few minutes to respond to the statement in writing, explaining their stance (no simple “yes” or “no” answers).
    Have students move to the corner of the room that best represents their opinion.
  • ~Once students are in their places, ask for volunteers to explain their opinions/read their responses. When they do, they should refer specifically to Travels with Charley and other information from their own experiences. Encourage students to switch corners if they hear an idea that persuades them to change their opinion.
  • ~After a representative from each corner has defended his or her opinion, students can question each other’s evidence and ideas. It is especially interesting to hear from students who have changed their minds and moved to a new corner.
  • Move on to the next statement, and repeat the above process.

Another alternative is to use each corner as a response to a question. For example:

  • Who is the most important character in Travels with Charley? (For example, the corner signs might indicate Steinbeck, Charley, Rocinante, Ruby Bridges.)
  • ~This can also be broken down by individual scene.
  • Which character trait (of four choices) is on display most in the book?
  • Which scene is the most important in Travels with Charley? (For example, the service station outside Seattle, school desegregation, the Bad Lands, any time Steinbeck was lost.)
  • Steinbeck created an accurate representation of America in Travels with Charley.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

Post Activity

  • Journal or writing assignments based on the statements given for the Four Corners activity.
  • Have students further analyze the statements from Four Corners.
    Have students relate an experience from their own lives to the issues discussed in Four Corners.


  • Students should come away with arguments and opinions about the book that will assist them in a cumulative project, essay, or exam.
  • Students should relate in a personal way to the issues discussed.


  • If Four Corners is done prior to finishing the book, consider posing the same or similar statements for another session of Four Corners after completing the novel. Has finishing the novel changed opinions?


  • Participation is the key in this activity; students should be earning points for participation.
  • Assign and grade a follow-up journal/writing assignment based on the statements used in Four Corners. Assess student understanding based on how well they support their responses using the text.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • Reading Standards for Informational Text 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 9
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1, 4
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 6

Related Lesson Plans for this Work