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!

 

Group Discussions with NowComment

Unleash the power of introverts and host vivid discussions using NowComment, a free and easy-to-use online discussion tool with a wealth of features!

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to learn is by discussing something, and it’s certainly important that all students learn how to speak with others. However, it’s also important to remember that not all students are speakers, and that not all discussions need to be verbal.

In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain suggests that introverts are dramatically undervalued in an education system aimed at developing extroverts. Kristen Adler, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Antioch College writes in a blog post titled “Balancing Introversion and Extroversion in the Classroom” that threaded discussions are “extraordinarily beneficial for introverts, and otherwise quiet students–as well as for extroverts.” They allow introverts, who characteristically think (long and hard) before they speak, to articulate their thoughts without having to jump head first into a conversation without a life vest; they also require extroverts to piece together their thoughts before saying the first thing that comes to their mind.

NowComment is an awesome and free online tool to host threaded discussions of texts, pictures, and even videos so that introverts and extroverts alike can share their ideas and learn to communicate effectively. **Yes, there are many other tools available for collaborating and discussing texts online (hello, Google!), but NowComment is particularly useful for moderating and organizing online discussions.

Getting Started

When you first go to NowComment, you will need to create an account using Google or Facebook, or by creating your own login. Once you log in, you can upload documents, including Microsoft Word or Excel, PDFs, images, html texts and images, and even videos (from your computer or a website like YouTube). You can also type your own text if you prefer. Finally, there are public documents where you can search for ready-made assignments. If you make your documents public, they will also become part of the public library.

Features

Once you have created an assignment, there are a wealth of options for moderating your discussion,  which you can see in the screenshot below.

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If you didn’t read through that screenshot (yes, I’m calling you out 😉 ), here are a few noteworthy features:

  • You can set a due date (with optional email reminder).
  • You can set a minimum number of comments that a student must post, and it will keep track (you can also set a maximum).
  • You can keep students from seeing each other’s comments until a designated time. This is great for seeing what students are able to think of on their own, before they have had a chance to read what other students have to say. This is also good for introverts, who may be dissuaded from posting their comment if they see that someone else has already shared their idea.
  • You can allow students to suggest revisions to a document. This, of course, lends itself well to editing and revising student work. Furthermore, when students suggest a revision, it requires them to fill in a field explaining why they made a particular change.
  • You can highlight text and specify which colors designate what. With each document you assign, students can publicly or privately highlight text. Anything highlighted publicly is visible to all students, and you can click on it to see a heat map showing how many students highlighted that word or section as well as what colors they highlighted it. The default highlighting colors are yellow for “important,” red for “unclear,” green for “agree,” brown for “disagree,” and blue for “like.” You can change these when you create the assignment. Students can change their private highlighting colors, which only they, along with the document administrator (you) can see.
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Public and private customizable highlighting options

Sharing Assignments

After you set your options, you can create groups to share your assignment with by importing your class roster(s). Watch this video by Heidi Weber, a 2015 PBS Learning Digital Innovator, to learn how (it’s only three minutes long, and it’s very helpful)! You can create as many groups as you like, so you can assign texts to one student, one group, one class, or all of your classes! However, take note that if you assign one document to multiple groups, all comments will show up on that document. If you want the document to only have one classes’ comments, you will need to make copies of your document to assign to individual groups. This can be done by clicking on “My Library” at the top of the page, then clicking the “More” drop-down menu next to the assignment you wish to copy. Then click “copy” and you will be able to select how many copies you would like to make.

Hosting Discussions

When your students open your assignment, they will see a screen that looks like this:

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The default screen is in two panels, with the assignment on the left, and the commenting panel on the right. Students can make comments on individual sentences or multiple paragraphs by simply hovering over the text they wish to comment on. They can make comments on pictures or videos in the same way. When they click on a sentence or paragraph, they can immediately see any other comments made on that section. At this point, they have the option to reply to a previous comment on that section, or start a new thread if their comment is unrelated to the existing discussion.

When students post a comment, they must include a brief (255 character maximum) summary of their comment. The summary serves as a tagline, or almost like an email subject line for the student’s comment (nice opportunity to teach how to write an objective summary). Aside from the summary, the student’s full comment can be as long as they wish.

At the top of the comment panel, you can toggle whether you see full comments or just summaries. You can also sort comments by name, date, or tag. If you are grading students’ participation, this feature is a life-saver; you don’t have to dig through tons of comments to find one student’s posts.

Student and Class Blogs

If you end up using NowComment frequently, you may consider hosting a class blog, or having students create individual blogs to share and reflect on their work. Blogs are easy to set up on NowComment (there is literally a button that says “Create Class Blog” when you are in your group’s page, and  button that says “Create a Personal Blog” when you are in your main login screen). After setting up your blog, you can upload excerpts from public documents or assignments as blog posts. Simple, but effective.

Ideas for Use

Obviously, NowComment is great for any discussion-related activity, but here are some general ideas for use:

  1. Assign a close-reading passage and have students highlight and comment on diction, tone, mood, symbolism, plot structures, characterization, or other literary devices.
  2. Have students upload their writing and practice revising and editing each other’s work.
  3. Post a painting or photograph and have students complete a collaborative OPTIC analysis.
  4. Post a scene from a film or documentary and have students discuss it.
  5. Have students read and discuss a news article about a current event.
  6. Host a debate.
  7. Assign word problems and have students collaborate to solve them.
  8. Have students comment on each other’s blog posts.
  9. Assign small groups a different text or task to work with, then have each group share out.
  10. Host a seminar.

And there you have it! Now you can comment with NowComment…and no comments from the peanut gallery! Just kidding. If you have comments, please let me know!

Creating Apps with Marvel

Use Marvel to let your students design their own phone app!

Ready to ditch the boring projects? Me too, and I can’t wait to try using Marvel in my classroom! This free app for iOS and Android lets you design your own app by adding pictures and seamlessly linking them to simulate a real app–no programming skills necessary!

**Bonus: You can also open the app online if students don’t own a smartphone!

There are several ways to add photos to a project, including uploading them from your phone or computer, taking photos within the app, or even using the app’s canvas tool (much like Paint) to draw your own picture. If you prefer drawing by hand, you can also download free templates to draw your own wire-frames and simply take pictures of your finished drawings to create your app.

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Because of its versatility, I think Marvel could be a great tool for many types of students, including introverts and extraverts, sensing and intuitive students, visual-spatial, logical-mathematical, and kinesthetic learners. After all, apps can be used to solve problems, tell stories, provide entertainment, teach, and of course, help people collaborate and communicate! Here are some project ideas for a variety of subject areas:

  1. Develop an app to solve a conflict within a novel–man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc.
  2. Create an app that tells an interactive version of a story or historical event.
  3. Devise an app to help write geometric proofs.
  4. Design an app that lets people create something artistic.
  5. Create an app that helps people communicate more effectively or write a speech.
  6. Develop an app that teaches people how to eat healthy or exercise properly.
  7. Devise an app to track or chart scientific or mathematical data.
  8. Create an app to show people what it would be like to live in a particular time period.
  9.  Design a puzzle or logic game to demonstrate critical thinking skills.
  10. Develop an app to market a new invention or idea.

Do you have other ideas? If so, let me know by leaving a comment!

 

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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Process: 9 Studying Tools for All Learners

Are students always asking you how to study for the test? This post shares some new and creative ways to help every student ace the test.

All students learn differently. Here are 9 apps and online platforms to help different learners study their materials. For more information on the types of learners mentioned in this post, go to the About Page.

  1. Quizlet: Featuring iOS, Android, and online platforms, Quizlet is a free application that lets you create study sets with terms, definitions, and even pictures. Once you have created a study set, you can review in a variety of ways, including flashcards, definitions, spelling, practice tests, and games. With the flashcards and definitions you can enable audio playback. You can also adjust the difficulty for several of the activities. This is a great study tool for virtually all students, including auditory, visual, kinethetic, low ability, struggling readers, Introverted Sensing, and linguistic learners.
  2. MindMeister: MindMeister is a mindmapping app available for iOS and Android. It also has an online platform. A mindmap is basically a graphic organizer/chart that helps you map out ideas or learning topics. With the online platform, you can create three free mindmaps, but the phone app is free, and lets you create unlimited mindmaps. MindMeister even allows you to collaborate and share mindmaps, which would certainly benefit extraverted and interpersonal learners. This app would also be particularly helpful for visual spatial, logical mathematical, visual, kinesthetic, and Introverted Sensing (IS) learners. You can see some of the features here:
  3.  Popplet: This app is very similar to MindMeister, but simpler. You can still share your Popplets by email or by downloading them to your phone or computer, but Popplet does not have the collaboration features that MindMeister does. While MindMeister isn’t difficult to use, Popplet is much more intuitive, so this would be a great tool for students who aren’t so tech savvy, or just want a tool that is quick and simple. There is no Android app, but you can download the iOS lite version free or full version for $4.99; Popplet also has an online platform which allows you to create ten Popplets for free. Like MindMeister, this app would benefit visual spatial, logical mathematical, visual, kinesthetic, and Sensing (ES and IS) learners.
  4. AutoRap by Smule: AutoRap is a free app for iOS and Android that allows you to create rap tracks by recording your voice. Auditory or musical students could use AutoRap to create raps for any topic they need to study. You can read my earlier post on other ways to incorporate AutoRap into your lessons here.IMG_1269
  5. Adobe Spark Video: This is a free iOS app that allows you to create beautiful slideshows with text, images, and audio (voice recording and background music) in in a matter of minutes. To start, you can choose an organizational template–promote an idea, a hero’s journey, show and tell, personal growth, teach a lesson, an invitation–or start from scratch. You can even export your slideshow as a video to share. Auditory learners benefit from hearing their own voice played back to them, and musical learners tend to retain information better if they study with background music. Visual learners can incorporate pictures to associate with terms they need to learn, and Intuitive (EN and IN) students will love the opportunity to be creative. As natural leaders, Extraverted Intuitives (EN) in particular would love the “teach a lesson” template, which they could use to study for virtually any topic. 
  6. Spotify: Students ask all the time if they can listen to music while they work. Spotify is one of many free music streaming services, but I particularly like it because you can search by genre or by specific songs. Instrumental music can help many students focus, but musical students in particular learn best with background music. You can listen to Spotify online, or download it for free on iOS or Android, although the free version does have adds.
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    Voice Recorder (iOS)
  7.  Voice Recorder (iOS) & Audio Recorder (Android): There are many voice recording apps out there, but I chose these two because they are free and easy to use. Auditory learners could record themselves reciting terms and definitions, or spelling out vocabulary words to study from.
  8. Whiteboard (iOS) & A Web Whiteboard (online): Both of these are essentially free-form drawing canvases. Whiteboard (iOS) has some cool templates you can use as backdrops, or you can upload a photo to draw over. When you save your whiteboard in the phone app, it automatically stores it in your phone’s photos. With A Web Whiteboard (online), you can download your whiteboard to your computer or share via Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit. Visual spatial and kinesthetic students would especially appreciate these apps!
  9. Post-its Plus: Kinesthetic, Extraverted Sensing (ES), and Perceiving students will love this free iOS app which allows you to take pictures of multiple Post-its at once, organize and rearrange them in the app, and even add new Post-its later. You can also share and collaborate with other users. This means that hands-on students get to work with real, physical manipulatives, and Perceiving students can explore new ideas in a way that lets them easily organize later. Watch this one-minute video to see this app in action!