Four Square Writing Method

The four square writing method is a simple format for helping kids to expand upon their writing, add details, and be 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.  It’s awesome to watch kids bloom in their writing when you take the time to do a pre-writing activity.  No more blank stares and stationary pencils!  A pre-writing activity like four square writing will get those brains and pencils moving!

4 Square Writing Method
Click on the picture to get the printable.

The four squares can be used a variety of ways.

Sequential Method

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 in the order they happen. This works well for how-to topics.  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.

Kids can also use the sequential method for an imaginary story, with each box telling the next important event in their story.

 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.

Picturing Details

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.  Use it differently depending upon the level and ability of the writer. Once kids master getting the basics down on the organizer, they are ready write.  It becomes easy to put their organized ideas down on paper.

A natural extension of the printable is teaching transitions.  You can teaching connecting words.  “First,” “another example,” “In addition,” or “To summarize,” and other transitions are easy to add.  They can add transitions 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

Did you like the idea of four square writing?  Then we hope you’ll check out our other learning explorations and our catalog for lots more printables and learning ideas from Karen and Michelle.

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