QR Code Roulette

Turn QR codes into a game that can be used with any content!

It’s colorful. It’s magical. It’s MYSTERIOUS. It will mesmerize your students for the whole class period. Eighth graders will swoon, and ninth graders might start out as skeptics (“Why can’t we just do this on a worksheet?”), but fear not! Before long, they will fall prey to the magic as well. And the best part? They are actually LEARNING. So, what is this magical tool, you might ask?

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It’s the magic of a cube. Yep. A cube.

Just insert a QR code on each side, and presto! Like magic, you can turn any activity into an engaging learning quest. Furthermore, QR codes are an easy way to differentiate content, process, and product without making it obvious to your students that you are doing so. If this sounds magical to you, read on for some different ways to incorporate QR cube codes into your teaching!

The QR Cube

Roll the cube and scan the code. It’s as easy as that. You can easily find or make your own cube template to use for this activity. I made mine in Microsoft Word by pasting the cube template and then inserting the QR codes as pictures. However, you could also print out a blank cube template and then print the QR codes separately to paste on to the cube.

You can easily create your own QR codes at a website like http://www.qrstuff.com/. Just copy and paste a link to a website or to a Google Doc, choose your color, and the website will generate a QR code for you, which you can save as a JPEG. I typically provide a separate assignment with questions or space to complete each task provided by the QR codes. This way, you can simply change the questions on the printed hand out if you want to differentiate, instead of having to make different cubes for each group.

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I recently used QR cubes with my eighth grade students to practice identifying paragraph structures such as compare/contrast, problem/solution, and cause/effect. Each QR code took them to a Google Doc with a sample paragraph. They had to identify which type of paragraph structure was being used by identifying signal words and then creating a graphic organizer.

With my ninth grade students, I used QR cube codes to help students practice identifying ode and elegy. Each code was linked to a poem which students had to identify as ode or elegy; then, they answered differentiated questions on each poem and practiced writing their own poems.

Next, I am looking forward to using the QR cubes to introduce The Diary of Anne Frank. Each code will link to a different website with historical background information, such as The United Holocaust Museum and the Anne Frank Museum website. Students will explore each site and complete a web quest to build background knowledge.

The options are endless when it comes to QR code cubes, but here a few more ideas to get you started:

  1. Link codes to student writing samples and have students evaluate them.
  2. Provide pictures or narrative writing prompts to spark your students’ imagination!
  3. Practice vocabulary by linking each code to a vocabulary word. Provide students with a list of definitions or fill in the blank sentences and have them match each word they scan. This could easily work with foreign languages as well!
  4. Help students practice grammar by providing sentences for them to correct with each code.
  5. Practice developing claims and counterclaims by linking each code to an argumentative writing prompt.
  6. Provide links to different websites on the same topic and have students evaluate their credibility.
  7. Link each code to a practice math problem.
  8. Link codes to different steps in a sequence and have students put them in the correct order. This could work with a variety of subjects; for instance, order the plot events in a story, the steps to solve a math problem, or even the steps of the Scientific Method.
  9. Make test prep more fun by linking codes to practice tests or individual prompts. You could even link each code to a different test prep strategy and have students practice using that strategy with the next problem they complete.

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Because they are so versatile, QR cube codes can be tailored to meet the needs of any student. In addition, they add an element of mystery and surprise to any lesson, which everybody loves! If you have other ideas for how to use QR codes in the classroom, send a shout out in the comments. In the meantime, roll the dice and have some fun! I promise you’ll see the magic!

 

4 Tools for Differentiating Content

Easily find and create modified content with Common Lit, Rewordify, Newsela, and Actively Learn!

I was recently browsing Pinterest to procrastinate on school work when I came across a website that actually made me want to get back to work. Well played, life…well played. The website is commonlit.org, and it offers a compilation of free texts sorted by type, theme, and grade-level. It can be difficult and time-consuming to differentiate content, but websites like commonlit.org give me confidence that I can meet the needs of all of my students! Keep reading to learn more about Common Lit and a few of my other favorite things (websites for differentiating texts, to be specific).

  1. Common Lit: The first thing that struck me about commonlit.org was its broad listing of common literary themes. Once you select a theme, you can choose a discussion question based around that theme, which will take you to a page with relevant fiction and nonfiction texts sorted by grade level. Even better, each text includes a set of text-dependent questions and discussion questions rooted in Common Core Standards. It also includes links to paired texts and related multimedia, answer keys, and even a parent guide. In addition to theme, you can also search by genre, literary device, or Common Core Standard. Commonlit.org is completely free, though you do have to register in order to access all of its resources. My only complaint with Common Lit is that some themes have limited resources for particular grade levels; however, I think this will only improve over time, as Common Lit relies on teachers to add content. You could easily use Common Lit to differentiate content by assigning heterogeneous groups texts at their reading level related to the same theme, genre, or standard. However, if you want all students to read the same text, the next two resources are definitely for you!
  2.  Rewordify: Let’s say you find an 11-12th grade text on Common Lit that you want to modify for struggling readers or use with a younger grade level. Simply copy and paste the text into rewordify.com and click “rewordify” to create a modified text. Rewordify identifies tricky vocabulary words and replaces them with easier synonyms and/or definitions. You can toggle the settings to adjust how many words are replaced as well as whether/how the original words are displayed. In addition to modifying texts, Rewordify offers some strong vocabulary and grammar features. For instance, you can print lists, quizzes and activities using the vocabulary words replaced in the original text; you can also view parts of speech, color-coded for identification. Like Common Lit, Rewordify is totally free, and even offers a wealth of classic literature and public documents if you are looking for a particular text.

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  3. Newsela: This resource is somewhat of a mix between Common Lit and Rewordify, offering modern and historical news articles, primary sources, biographies, and famous speeches each re-written at five different Lexiles. Each article provides a writing prompt as well as four text-based questions focused on specific Common Core standards. Articles can be filtered by topic–opinion, war & peace, kids, law, health, and more–as well as Common Core standard, and of course, Lexile. One of my favorite features of Newsela is that you can find or create text sets based on novels, themes, subject areas, and more, so if you find an article you love, you don’t have to worry about losing it! The one downside to Newsela (if you’re cheap like me) is that the paid version has some awesome features that you will have to look at longingly every time you log in. However, if you are willing to pay for a subscription, you can create classes, assign articles, and track results based on Common Core Standards. Newsela will also automatically adjust the Lexile for each student based on their performance on past quizzes. Newsela
  4. Actively Learn: One of my close friends, a fellow middle school English teacher, recommended this resource, and I am stoked to use it in my classroom! This tool provides a wide variety of free and paid fiction and nonfiction texts, searchable by grade-level, genre, subject, page count, and more. In this way, it is very similar to Common Lit. However, what distinguishes Actively Learn is its assessment features. Whereas Common Lit provides an uneditable set of text-based questions, Actively Learn allows you to use and edit pre-made questions OR create your own questions. It also allows you to place questions anywhere within the text and require students to answer the question before they can continue reading (if you like). Questions can be multiple-choice, poll, or short answer, and you can align Common Core Standards with them. Aside from questions, you can also add links, notes, and multimedia, and even whiteout text that you don’t want students to read. Like Newsela, Actively Learn allows you to create classes, assign texts, and grade assignments. Unlike
    Newsela, you do not have to pay for a subscription in order to use these features; you do, however, have to have a subscription in order to use more advanced features like assessment data. In addition, the free version of Actively Learn allows you to upload three internet article, Google Doc, or PDF imports per month, while the paid version allows unlimited imports. This being said, the free version is by no means lacking, and I would still highly recommend this tool.

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Differentiating content doesn’t have to require tons of time or boring content. With tools like these, we can reach and challenge all students to meet their potential! Do you have other ideas for how to simplify the process of modifying content? If so, leave a comment! Enjoy the rest of your summer, and happy teaching!

Step Up Your (Video) Game!

Be a part of the fun! Comment with your favorite game (and what subject area you could use it for, if possible). I’ll compile your input for a future post!

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