Strategy of the Week: Small Group Discussion Technique

Four Square Share (aka Conversation Roundtable)

Charlotte Danielson’s Framework, which is the basis for our teacher evaluation tool, pushes teachers to bring student engagement and participation to the forefront. It is no longer okay for teachers to stand in front of a classroom and lecture for 90 minutes and call on only a handful of students to answer questions. Small group discussions are simple structures to engage all students and hold students accountable  for preparing and participating in class.

One strategy I have found success using with students is the Four Square Share (Walsh & Sattes, 2015), which many know as a Conversation Roundtable. The activity requires little planning and is student-centered. While they are working in groups, I walk around and facilitate, pushing groups to think beyond the surface level discussions that many are accustomed to having in class. The key to success with this strategy is the article (or a few articles) that spark discussion. If the article is drab, student discussion will be drab as well.


  1. Students individually read a passage (could be the same article or four different articles) and write a brief summary of what he/she thinks are the main ideas.
  2. Students form groups of four as directed by the teacher.
  3. One at a time, students share their summaries with other group members. As the student speaks, others listen.
  4. Once student is done sharing, other group members stop and take notes on what he/she said.
  5. After all four students share, the group discusses common ideas/themes between the four summaries.
  6. Students individually write a summary using pertinent ideas from his/her classmates responses.

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