Four Square Vocabulary


From Reading and Learning Strategies for Middle and High School Students  (Lenski, Wham, and Johns 1999)


Directions and Example


  1. Draw a square with four quadrants on the chalkboard, or an overhead transparency, or a computer with an LCD panel.
  2. In the top left quadrant, write a vocabulary word that you want students to learn.
  3. Ask students to suggest words or phrases they personally associate with the vocabulary word. Write one of the personal associations suggested by students in the upper right-hand quadrant.
  4. Write a brief definition of the vocabulary word in the lower left quadrant.
  5. Next, ask students to suggest a word or a phrase that is the opposite of the vocabulary word.


Once you have modeled this strategy, students will be able to complete this activity on their own. Making a personal connection to the word helps students to retain the word in their long-term memory.



               Vocabulary Word





             Personal Association


    French for relaxation



Decrease in tension between countries




      Strained relations


Hint: It is helpful to walk students through the thinking process you use to decode an unfamiliar word. If students are unable to come up with any personal associations for the word, you’ll need to skip to the definition and then backtrack to the personal connection. Some students may wish to draw a visual clue to help them remember the word.


Sample Teacher Talk:


The vocabulary word/term is Square Deal. O.K…..a square is equal on all sides. In a card game when a player deals the cards, he distributes them evenly. Maybe a square deal is some kind of program that is fair or equal to all parties.