Read on to get some fantastic tips from a terrific teacher, Lacey VanBuskirk, I invited to write this post!
We’ve all been there. Stuck in the rut of giving notes, passing out an assignment, grading the assignment, and ending with a test. This is something I clung to in my first few years of teaching. It’s how I was taught as a student and so it easily translated into my own teaching style.
Three years ago, I realized the need for change. I was doing ALL the work, ALL the talking, and ALL the doing. My students had no ownership of their learning. Instead, they were more like passive pawns who came into my classroom, sat, took notes, completed the assignment, and then left to go to their next class. Why was I the one talking and doing when I already knew the information?
I wanted a way for my students to engage with the concepts we were discussing. I wanted a way for my students to check their own understanding. Ultimately, I wanted a way for my students to be the OWNERS of their learning.
It was from this desire, that I began integrating the use of QR codes into my lessons and classroom management. QR codes are such a simple way to spice up a lesson, get students up and moving, and save you time with menial classroom management tasks. I have developed 5 ways to easily utilize QR codes in the classroom.
- Hall Pass/Tutorials
The hall pass. For years, I fought the hall pass battle. In the beginning I issued bathroom passes to each student to use at their discretion throughout the grading period. However, it always ended up that students either lost or misplaced their passes when it came time to use them. I no longer fight this battle or collect bathroom passes. Instead, I have students sign in and out by completing a Google Form (if you aren’t using Google Forms check them out, they can do amazing things) embedded in a QR code.
How it works:
Before leaving the classroom, students scan the LEAVING QR code and complete the Google Form. This documents the date, time, and their reason for leaving class as well as their destination. Whenever they return, they scan the RETURNING QR code and complete the Google Form. This documents the date and time. From each of the Google Forms, I can create a spreadsheet so that it is easy to see how often a student leaves class , as well as how long they are gone. This has been super helpful when administrators ask if a certain student was out of class at a particular time. All I have to do is pull up the spreadsheets and check! So easy!
- QR Code Dominoes
Vocabulary is something that is difficult for my students. Biology contains so many vocabulary words that it’s almost like learning a new language. To check student understanding, my go to used to be a card sort, however these would often take longer than anticipated as I would run around the room trying to check each group. In swoops the wonderful QR code! In lieu of card sorts, I create QR code vocabulary dominoes. These QR code vocabulary dominoes allow students to CHECK THEIR OWN understanding as they complete it! Now, they don’t have to wait for me to check it, and they get immediate feedback for themselves.
How it works:
Students begin with a START domino. Students scan this domino first to get the first definition. After reading the definition, they find the matching vocabulary word on one of the remaining dominoes. This domino matches up with the start domino and has the next QR code that they scan. I have set it up so that the start domino begins with #1, so the next QR code should read #2 (followed by the next definition) if students get the correct answer. If they get a different number, then they know that they were incorrect and need to try again.
- QR Code Self Check Cards
Throughout a unit, it is important not only that I assess students progress, but that they also assess themselves. Every few days, I provide this opportunity to students using QR code self check task cards.
How it works:
The task cards are an individual activity as opposed to working as a group. I typically either have students do these as either a warm-up at the beginning of class or as an exit ticket. Every student receives between 1 and 3 task cards to complete depending on the concept. Each task card has a question for students to answer as well as the answer embedded in a QR code. Each student is given a response sheet which requires them to record their answer and also explain either why it is correct or incorrect after they scan the QR code to check it. This obligates students to truly evaluate their thinking about a concept!
- QR Code Scavenger Hunt
At the end of a unit, a QR code scavenger hunt is an excellent way for students to check their own understanding before a major assessment.
How it works:
I start by hanging the QR code cards randomly around the classroom (mixing up the order). Each QR code card contains one QR code that has an embedded question. Students start the activity at any of the QR code cards by scanning the QR code and answering the question. They record their answer on their answer sheet, then look for that answer at the top of a different QR code card. When they find it, they scan the QR code on that card. This activity is designed to go in a loop. Therefore, if students start by scanning a QR code that reads “4…..” the next QR code they scan should read “5……” if their answer is correct. This provides students with immediate feedback!
- QR Code Video Stations
Videos can add so much to your lesson and are often great for visual learners. There are certain instances in which I want students to watch a short video over a concept or I want to engage students through a series of short video clips. To do this easily, I create QR code video stations.
How it works:
After selecting the clips I want students to watch, I create QR codes for them. Print out the QR codes and place them at different lab stations. In addition, I provide students with instruction on what to do after watching the video clip. It is important that students do something with the information they have watched. Depending on the concept being covered, my students may have to answer a few discussion questions, draw an illustration of the concept, write down questions over the video, or create a graphic organizer. It is my belief that if the video is important enough for students to watch then students must be provided an opportunity to reflect and evaluate the information.
As a teacher, I am passionate about fostering a learning environment in which students are encouraged to become true owners of their learning. I have discovered that by integrating QR codes into my everyday assignments and routines, it generates more student engagement and creates opportunities for students to self-assess. In addition, I am also able to do some quick and easy formative assessment. I hope that with these tips you are able to do the same! Happy TEACHING!
What are some ways that you use QR codes in your classroom? Leave a COMMENT and let us know!
Do you need a QR Code Reader?
If you have an iPhone that is updated to iOS 11, then you already have one! If you open up your camera app and hold it up to a QR code it will automatically scan and a browser link will pop up.
If you don’t have an iPhone, the AT&T QR Code Reader is a great one to use as well!
Need a website to make QR codes?
Check out www.qrstuff.com. Their QR codes are FREE!!!
Check out this FREE Mitosis QR Code Scavenger Hunt Activity available HERE!
If you’d like more ideas like these, check out additional blog posts at mrsvbiology.com.
Lacey VanBuskirk is a Biology teacher in Texas. This is her 6th year teaching and she teaches a blend of Regular Biology classes and Pre-AP Biology classes. In addition to teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband Josh, and two sons Aiden and Luke. She has a B.S. in Biology and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction both from Texas A&M University. WHOOP! She loves coming up with new and engaging ways to teach her students, which usually means they have to get up, get moving, and get talking!