The four square writing method is a simple format for helping kids to expand upon their writing, add details, and stay organized. So many young writers struggle to develop well-written stories, essays, and descriptions. This method utilizes a simple graphical organizer to take kids step by step through the process. It can be used for any type of writing project from a simple paragraph to a story or even a persuasive essay.
The four squares can be used a variety of ways.
A simple one to begin with is the sequential method. The center square contains the topic or main idea, then each subsequent box lists the bits of the story in the order they happen. For example, the main topic may be “How to build a snowman.” The boxes may say: 1– Roll three snowballs to form the body, one large, one medium, and one small. 2– Stack them on top of each other with the biggest one at the bottom, the medium one in the middle, and the smallest one on top. 3– Gather a scarf, a hat, a carrot, 2 sticks, and some rocks. 4– Place the scarf around the neck, the hat on top, the carrot for the nose, sticks for arms, and the rocks to make a mouth, eyes, and buttons.
Main Idea and Details
Another simple way is to put the main idea in the middle, and then add details about it in the four surrounding boxes. For example, “Why I love winter.” 1–The snow sparkles and makes everything look clean. 2– I get to go sledding with my friends. 3– Mom always makes hot cocoa for breakfast. 4– I get to build snowmen. This is the basic method for creating a 5 sentence paragraph. For older students, it can easily be adapted into a 5 paragraph essay with the center as the topic, and the four boxes as each supporting paragraph.
The third way I use this writing prompt is also important for helping kids think through writing in a detailed way. The center is still the topic, and the 4 boxes represent who, what, where, and when. The topic may be “My vacation to the ocean.” 1–Who: My whole family went to the coast. 2–What: We went camping and explored the beach and the tide pools. 3–Where: We stayed at a campground on the Washington Coast called “Kalaloch.” 4. When: We got to spend 10 whole days of August there during our summer vacation.
No Matter How You Use It
The graphic organizer can be used for just a few words, complete sentences, or even whole paragraphs, depending upon the level and ability of the writer. Once kids have mastered getting the basics down inside the graphic organizer, they are ready to put their organized ideas down on paper. Teaching them connecting words like “First,” “another example,” “In addition,” or “To summarize,” becomes important as they transfer their basic ideas from the 4 squares to their writing project.
One more time – here’s the printable 4 Square Writing Method organizer for you to try out.
More From Layers of Learning
Hope you’ll check out our other learning explorations and our catalog for lots more printables and learning ideas from Karen and Michelle. Then go catch up with us on social media. We love meeting others who love teaching kids as much as we do.