Using QR Codes with English Language Learners

I was sitting in a training session yesterday where the presenter reiterated an idea that I stand on my soapbox about rather frequently: All means ALL. All students deserve access to a rich and meaningful education. At my table this brought up a lot of lively discussion, not because anyone disagreed, but it was clear that many people did not know how they could differentiate for the variety of learners in their room, and other were so weighed down by the concept of time, they would not even consider it.

So I wanted to highlight another way we can differentiate for all learners, and provide students access to things they need to be successful. In light of my district going BYOD, I am going to highlight a tech tool: QR Codes. There is a fantastic QR generator template created by Tammy Worcester at Tammy's Technology Tips for Teachers. It is very easy to use, and makes creating and organizing QR codes a breeze. Students just need a barcode scanner or QR scanning app on their device.

Scannable QR codes provide students with opportunities to quickly and easily access and interact with a variety of content. QR codes can open web pages, launch videos, and give access to files to download. Here are 7 uses to use QR codes in your classroom to help English language learners.

1. Vocabulary lists

Previously, I have written about Read&Write for Google and its ability to create a vocabulary list, with visuals in your drive. Provide students who need extra vocabulary support a QR code linking to necessary vocabulary for the lesson.

2. Word Walls

Have a QR code attached to the word that links to a pronunciation of the word. This of course could also be done with a vocabulary list. Depending on the students first language proficiency, it could link to a translation of the word too.

3. Audio support

Previously, I have written about Snapverter and its ability to turn any writing into a readable document with Read&Write. Provide students with a link to this converted document for additional audio support. This could be directions for homework/projects as well as reading assignments. You can also record yourself reading directions in the same way.

4. Building Background

One of the largest challenges with English language learners is building background knowledge. The older the ELL, the larger the gap may be. It is important to build background for all students, but English learners may need more support. You can provide QR codes that link to videos, articles, every resources in their native language to give them additional information about a topic. This could also be used to extend and enhance information.

5. Student Response Cards

Most of us in the classroom have tried different ways to elicit student responses to check understanding. White boards for students to write their answers, even those little ABCD cards students hold up. One problem I saw was students would look around and change their answers. Plickers is a simple tool where teachers pose a question and scan students QR code answer cards, no one can look around and see anyone else’s answer.

6.  Scavenger Hunt/Treasure Hunt

This idea could look a lot of different ways. Simply put, place QR codes linked to questions around the school and have groups of students search for them and answer them within a set time. has a nice QR treasure hunt generator you can use as well, it does not require the internet on the students phones.

7.  Talking “Museum”

We live in a multimedia world, so why not let students share their knowledge in such a way. QR codes allow for student to attach an audio explanation of their learning to a physical product. We used this is a lot of ways in my classroom. One of my favorites was a project designed by my students to welcome newcomers to class. They created videos introducing important people around the school, and explaining things like how to go through the lunch line, and check out a book from the library. We posted these QR codes around the school and when a new student would come they would get a school tour with instructions from my students.

Along this same line we have created an interactive bulletin board outside our office that highlights many of the students at the Newcomer Center. It is still a work in progress but a quick scan of the QR codes around the map bring up videos of the students talking about themselves and the things they are learning in school. 

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