Using QR Codes to Enforce Vocabulary

By
Thomasine Mastrantoni and Deborah Goldstein, the Link Ladies

Editor's note: Our beloved Link Ladies are back with another super-doable app-style learning activity! We're sure you've seen QR codes everywhere, but if you're anything like us, you may have found them a bit mysterious. Here, the Link Ladies lay out exactly how QR codes work, how you can make them (trust us, it's easy), and why you should use them in your classroom. This activity links QR codes to vocabulary to deepen understanding in a fun way! 

Vocabulary is a great equalizer. One of the best ways to lessen the achievement gap is to increase students' vocabulary. Storyworks does a great job of using bold text to highlight challenging or Tier III vocabulary throughout its nonfiction articles. Front-loading these words will help to increase your student’s comprehension and ability to interact with the text in more complex ways.

The app: Scan

Why we use it: It's an easy way to engage your students in the content before they even see the article. The app is so basic, any student can use it. The website is a simple way to literally link what students know to the text.

Wondering why we should be using QR codes in the classroom? According to BBCActive.com, QR codes can give direct and simultaneous access to all students to the same resource with the scan of your device in school or at home. They can hold over 4,000 characters of information and are easy to create. They can also be printed on just about anything. Whether you are sharing a web address or a hidden answer to a class question, QR codes are fun and engaging to use.

Skill Focus:

  • Vocabulary Development
  • Using Context Clues
  • Comprehension

Time: 1 class period

What you’ll need:

Frontloading Vocabulary: BEFORE you read the articles, pull out the bold vocabulary words (as well as any other words you think your students will need to know to fully understand the text). Here's the bolded vocab: lure, cultural, anchorman, dedicated, diversity, rural.
Assign a group of students "vocabulary duty."  For the first time, we chose our most independent learners. As you do this more often, give each student an opportunity to get the vocabulary words ready for the class. These students will be responsible for looking up the definition of each of the vocabulary words and creating the QR codes for the class to interact with. In 1-2-3, these words will be ready for the class. Here's how it works:

Go to http://www.qrstuff.com/

1. Click on "plain text" on the lefthand side of the page.

2. Type the definition of the vocab word in the box.

3. Click on the color you would like the QR code to be. Your QR code is now created!

4. Save your code by clicking on "Download QR code." When it asks you to open a subscriber account, just click "No thanks."

Congratulations: You just created your own QR code! It will then create a .png file that you can save on your desktop or copy & paste into a Word or Google Doc for later.
Once your students have all the QR codes saved, print them out.

Lesson Ideas:

You can now have students interact with the words using the Scan app (note that any scanner app will work, but we like the simplicity of the Scan app).  
Your options are endless! You can choose a vocabulary activity that your students already know with the twist of getting the meaning from the QR code.  Here are some other ideas on how to get your students to interact with the vocabulary words.

  • Put the vocab word on a strip of paper with the QR code at the end. Example:

  • As the students read the article, they can use the codes to help them define the words.
  • Scanning is as simple as point and shoot:
    • Open up the Scan app on your iPad or smartphone
    • Hold the device so you see a square to capture the code. It will vibrate when it captures it. Then it brings you to the vocabulary word’s meaning.
    • Students continue to scan as they come across the new words.
  • Have students create a sentence using the new word.
  • Have them draw a picture that depicts the word’s meaning.
  • Have them list 3-4 synonyms they already know that have the same meaning as the new vocab word.

Once you see how simple the QR code generator is, you'll want to find more uses for it. We also create a code each month that links to the answers for some of the questions from the Teacher Resource page for the article. This is another way to extend a student’s learning and offers additional engaging activities for each article—especially for those students who routinely finish early and need a challenge.
If you want to try using QR codes (without making them yourself), here are QR codes for each of the vocabulary words in the Paired Texts articles. You will see how “linked” your students get and will surely want to start making them yourself.  (answers to the math homework… answers to the pause and think questions in Storyworks Jr… the audio for each page of a picture book… the ideas will keep coming to you.) Enjoy!

Anchorman:

Cultural:

Dedicated:

Diversity:

Lure:

Rural:

 

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