What’s up PE Friends!
Today I want to give you a few tips for teaching a CLASSIC game to your students that every kid should experience at some point in their life.
It’s called Four Square!
Four square is an awesome game that is easy for kids to play and popular because of the tons of variations and also the low cost of entry. Buy a playground ball and grab a piece of chalk and you’re ready to go no matter where you are. There are probably a thousand different “type’s of games” that you can play and kids enjoy the creativity and the different variations keep the game interesting.
When Do I Start Teaching Four Square to Students?
With my K-2nd students, I’ve found that playing an actual game of 4 square usually doesn’t work, so we do some skill challenges leading up to the game and also I teach them a few similar games.
I focus on cooperative learning and skill challenges with K-1 and then in 2nd we do a competitive game of 2 square to lead into learning 4-square when they get to 3rd grade.
What do you focus on when teaching Four Square?
Similar to sports like Volleyball or Spikeball, we are focusing on the physical skill of Striking a Ball with control using our hands …
My main focus is to make sure my kids can work together with each other and use good sportsmanship during the gameplay. This is a really important thing to emphasize with your students and make sure that a big part of the game is explaining to other why they are “out”.
Make sure kids are actually taking the time to explain the rules of the game to other students who might be confused, otherwise you’re going to have a lot of frustrated kids.
With the right mix of competition, cooperation and good sportsmanship – Teaching Four Square can really be a great experience for students and one that’s valuable because it teaches them something they can easily take to the playground, driveway, summer camp or their neighborhood.
Why is it such a no brainer game to cover for PE Teachers?
- It’s a low cost entry game all you need is some chalk to draw a court and a playground ball
- The BASIC rules are very easy to learn (there are tons of variations, but for starters I recommend focusing on the basics)
- It doesn’t take up much space you can play it almost anywhere with concrete, in your driveway, in a neighborhood park, on a school playground, parking lot or basketball court.
- There is a ton of strategy involved in the game to keep it interesting and engaging and if you get bored with the basic version, there are A TON of different variations, just consult Dr. Google
- It’s FUN and appropriate for all ages (once you get the skill of striking a ball – which I’ve found at my school is usually around 3rd grade for a quality game of 4-square)
When Do I Teach Four Square?
Because of the reasons above I always teach my students to play Four Square at the beginning of the year so that kids know how to play at recess (we have a court on our playground) and also as a station activity in PE Class on our Station Days (tips for station activities here) and towards the end of the year for our “Summer Training” when we do fun summer yard games like bocce ball, kan jam, polish frisbee, cornhole and spikeball.
Like most of my units (similar to Jump Rope or Gymnastics) I normally kick it off by using my TV to show students a funny and quick video that will engage students and get them interested in the content, check out one of my favorites below:
How Do You Teach Four Square?
You can check out the video below for an example of how I explain the game to students:
Recap of the Video:
- Intro: Go Over Striking with Hands
- Game Objective: To become the King (and have fun with your friends)
- Court and Boundaries: Overview of different square names/numbers and how the rotation works (see diagram below)
- GAME RULES:
- Server (King) must put one foot behind the service line
- Everyone must Hit UNDERHAND
- Ball must bounce ONCE and only ONCE in your square before your strike it (including on the serve)
- If someone makes a mistake you rotate up and that person goes to the back of the line (outside the #1 square)
- Server takes care of any arguments (unless it involves the server – then vote as a group, or play rock paper scissors)
- Inside lines are out, Outside lines are in
- Why? Because inside lines are shared, while outside lines are not shared so you know who’s square it bounced in.
- You can move anywhere outside the square or in your section of the square
- If it bounces in your square you MUST strike it
- Server Must Ask “Are you Ready” before serving
- No Carrying, Stalling or Holding – you must Strike or Hit the ball
- Just to Clarify… You are out if…
- The ball in your square bounces 2 times or you hit it before it bounces
- You hit the ball out of bounds
- You hit the ball to an inside line
- You hit the ball Overhand
- You hit a ball that was another players ball (it bounced in their square and you hit it before it bounced a 2nd time)
- A ball bounces in your square an you are unable to get to it before it bounces a second time
Some other game variations that we sometimes learn:
As I mentioned before, I start teaching the full game of 4 Square in 3rd grade in my Physical Education Program.
If my older students (4th and 5th Grades) are really grasping the basics of the game and understanding the rules and strategy – we will learn some different variations and the King will be allowed to call different games if they would like to.
Around the World
- Server must call “Around the World”
- You can go to the right or the left, they must go around the square in a circular rotation
- Anyone can say “reverse” BEFORE you strike and go the opposite direction, if you don’t say it before the strike the server can call you out (ie. If you call it while you are hitting the ball)
- If Server calls “Around the World No Reverse” you can’t reverse it
War or Battle
- Server must call “War” or “Battle” and declare their opponent
- War – Server wars with one person (2 square) until someone misses
- Battle – Starts just like war, but someone can call “BREAK” before they strike the ball and then switch to battling with a different player in another square.
- You are allowed to use overhand hits (except on the serve) Underhand hits are also still allowed.
Other Teaching Notes
With my Kindergarten – 2nd grade students we work on the skills of striking a ball with control using station work and basic skill progressions. I teach the game of 2 square in 2nd grade as a lead-up for learning the full game in 3rd grade.
2 Square uses the same rules as 4 Square, but is only played with 2 people and 2 squares. You can play cooperatively (going for a goal of a specific number of hits with no mistakes) or competitively (trying to get the other person “out”)
How Long Do I Spend on Four Square?
I normally teach this content this in 1 or 2 lessons, because I don’t really have time to spend much more of my year on it (I have only once a week PE for 50 minutes).
If I had more time, I would plan a 3-4 week unit that would look something like I’ve laid out below:
Week 1 – Skill Work/Challenges,
Week 2 – Cooperative Challenges – One Square (how many hits can you get in a row without leaving the square) / Partner Striking,
Week 3 – Learn Underhand serve and play 2 Square (K-1 cooperative, 2nd Competitive)
3RD – 5TH
Week 1 – Work on bounce serve, learn basic rules of the game, just play for fun
Week 2 – Practice the game and learn more rules (Around the world, War, Battle, Students Choice)
Week 3 – Mini Tournament (allow student choice of play for fun, or compete in a mini tournament)
Download the 4 Square Rules Cheat Sheet Below:
We put together a free guide to help you remember the basic rules of Four Square the next time you decide to teach it to your students, check it out below:
P.S. If you’re a PE Specialist Member – don’t forget to go download the 4-Square Activity Guide in the Membership Forums (If you don’t know about our Membership Program, you can find out more about The PE Specialist Membership Here)
P.P.S – Here’s a great site if you want to take a deep dive into the game of 4-Square: http://www.squarefour.org/