Wednesday, 28 January 2015

8 ways to use QR codes in your classroom

If you're lucky enough to have access to at least one smart device in your classroom, there are many ways in which you can make use of QR codes to make learning more interesting and exciting for your children. 

In case you're not familiar with them, QR (or Quick Response) codes can be scanned by most smartphones and tablets (and even a computer with a webcam). You can use a QR code generator (there are many free online) to create a code linking to text, a URL, videos and lots more.

Here are some ways in which you can use QR codes in the classroom:

1. To guide independent research:
It's great for children to conduct their own research but sometimes they might need some guidance. QR codes are a great way to point them in the right direction. You can pick a number of suitable websites, display the QR codes in the classroom and the children can do independent research using websites that have your seal of approval.

Here's how I guided my international school students when learning about Irish culture. They had to find some specific information but there were many open-ended questions to allow them to direct their own inquiry. The QR codes on this sheet link to YouTube videos of Irish dancing and Irish sports and also to a website with easy-to-understand information about traditional Irish musical instruments.  

2. As a self-assessment tool:

Jennifer Bates from Finally in First has used QR codes so that the children in her class can correct their own answers after doing a task. Here, they need to identify the adverb in the sentence. They write their answers on a task sheet and then scan the QR code to read the correct answer.

3. For a scavenger hunt:

Kristin-Kennedy (from iTeach 1:1) makes loads of resources involving QR codes. I really love this scavenger hunt idea. One of the cards says start. When you scan that card you receive a clue (in this example, "find an acute angle.") She has also included a recording sheet with this. 

4. As part of a homework task:

This was part of a homework task I set this week. The children had a QR code that led them to a video of Michael Rosen reciting "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." They had to record the onomatopoeic words from this. This is a great way of leading children to the EXACT resource you intended!

5. To elicit discussion/prompt writing:

Some more gems of ideas from Kristen Kennedy are to make cubes with QR code prompts - for oral language or writing lessons. Not recognising which QR code you have already scanned adds a bit of mystery and excitement.

6. For sight word practice:

This is a simple but interesting way for children to practice sight words by Alma Almazan from Going Back to Kinder. In this activity, the children are supposed to scan the card, read the word on their device, find a matching card and then record it on a response sheet. 

This could also be used for practicing weekly spellings or specific vocabulary. Just scan, read, cover, write and check.

7. To create an independent listening station:

Lawren Christianson from Teaching is a Royal Adventure uses QR codes to create independent listening stations. The code links to stories that are read aloud.

8. To teach new vocabulary:

Here's how the person behind "Teaching With a Heart in Texas" used QR codes to teach/reinforce understanding of idioms. The idiom is on the same card as the QR code that links to its meaning.

This would also be a great way to introduce challenging vocabulary before/after reading to aid comprehension.

It could also be a great way of teaching new vocabulary in another language. The QR code could be placed under a picture and link to the name of that thing in the new language.

If you'd like to share ways in which you use QR codes in your classroom, please comment below!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Making the key concepts "alive" in your classroom

A question that has come up in IB training sessions and in online forums from many IB PYP teachers is "How do I introduce/teach the key concepts to young children?" 

It's something that I've found challenging to communicate to the children. I'm focusing on improving this at the moment. In order to do so, I did a very simple thing - I stuck the key concepts to the bottom of the whiteboard. I always write the learning objective(s) on the corner of the board. Now, given the position of the key concepts, I can easily ask the children to identify what concept(s) we are exploring and place it near the objective.

I know this isn't exactly groundbreaking but it was a simple step that made a big difference to me. If you have any other suggestions for helping children to be familiar with the key concepts, please comment below!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Onomatopoeia and thesaurus ideas

This week, in English, we have been learning about words that sound like their meaning (onomatopoeia) and words that look like their meaning (If anyone knows what that type of word is called, let me know in the comments below!).

There are some fantastic onomatopoeia resources out there but sometimes it can be hard to choose from such a wide range. A colleague pointed me in the direction of "On The Ning Nang Nong" poem by Spike Milligan. I don't know how I hadn't heard this poem before. Even better, my colleague led me to The Children's Poetry Archive where there is an audio clip of Spike Milligan reading the poem with such amazing timing and expression. Guaranteed to be loved by children of any age and adults too! 

Better still, the wonderful people at Scholastic have created this worksheet to help the children to create their own verse to add to "On the Ning Nang Nong." You can download it for free from their website. (There's a slight mistake on the second last line of this worksheet. It should read "On the Nong Ning Nang.")

You could also have the children read the poem in groups using percussion instruments to add effect.

As for words that look like their meaning, I've found lots of examples to share with the children. 
Image source


I gave the children a list of words such as tall, big, small, cold, hot, wobbly. They then needed to use an online thesaurus to search for synonyms of these words and illustrate them like the above examples.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Free speech marks resources

As part of our "Signs and Symbols" unit of inquiry, my class has done lots of work on using punctuation to signify meaning. Last week we worked a lot on the use of speech marks (quotation marks). Here are some lesson ideas and resources that I used.

Visual reminders:
Having taught the rules about how speech marks, other punctuation and capital letters need to be used when the quotation is at the start or end of the sentence, we used these Gruffalo-themed posters (free to download from TES) to check over our work. I edited these slightly to use a different font and to make the important words bold and underlined.

I have also used these Ratatouille-themed posters (also free from TES) for older children in the past.

Tinipiny Camera iPad App:
I'm very lucky that all of the children in my class have an iPad. We had great fun working on speech marks using the free Tinipiny Camera Free (Balloons) app. There is also an Android version of this app. This app allows you to take a photograph and insert a speech bubble or a thought bubble. 

We used this app in a variety of ways. For the first lesson, I gave the children a sheet of sentences with quotations, finishing with "said," and one of the names of the children in the class e.g. "What time is it?" said Chloe. The children then had to find Chloe, take a photograph of her, isolate the speech and put it in a speech bubble.

When the children became more confident with how to write speech marks, I asked them to write a 4 or 6 part dialogue between them and a partner. They then used Tinipiny Camera to take photos of each part. The then put the photos side by side on Keynote to create a cartoon of their own dialogue. 

Creating own cartoons on paper:
This was an easy lesson to prepare. A quick Google search of "blank cartoon" will lead you to lots of comic strips. I created two different sheets for different ability levels. I used cartoons with lots of speech for one level and I used shorter cartoons (or cropped the last box off one I had already chosen) for other children. The class absolutely loved creating their own versions of what the characters were saying. They stuck this into their writing books and wrote the dialogue from the cartoon underneath.

Image source

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Celebratory Giveaway

Hi all!

To celebrate reaching my Facebook milestone of 1000 likes on the A Crucial Week, I'm having a competition. The winner can choose $10 worth of teaching resources from my TPT store. All you have to do is go to the A Crucial Week Facebook page (make sure you "like" the page), like the post and comment "Yes please!" on the post.

The competition will end tomorrow night at 8pm GMT.

Get crackin'!