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119: 5 Creative Ways to Use QR Codes in ELA

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I was late on board the QR code train. I saw them floating about at museums and on the back of my cereal box for years before I really paid attention. 

Then as I prepared to speak at a conference, I read somewhere the advice that I could add a QR code to my first slide and enable everyone in the room to grab all my supporting materials simply by opening the camera on their smartphone and scanning the code.


That was my first QR code experiment, and it went off perfectly. From there, I was hooked. Because here’s the thing, using QR codes is waaaaaay easier than I thought it would be when I first saw those weird black and white scramble squares looking back at me above my bowl of cinnamon Life. 

Since then I’ve begun to experiment with fun and creative ways to build QR codes into the classroom, though I still recommend the QR code trick for presentations! No need for photocopies or email address gathering anymore. 

Today, on episode 119, you’ll discover five fun ways to build interactive QR codes into your ELA classes. Try one, or try them all!

You can listen in on the player below, or on Apple Podcasts, Sticher, Blubrry, or Spotify. Or simply read on for some top takeaways.

First, let’s get a couple of key bits of info onto the table. It’s important to know that you don’t need any kind of special QR code reader on your phone to use a QR code. All you need is the camera. When you point a smartphone camera at a QR code, it will pop up the link, which you can then click to visit whatever it is that is linked. It’s a very simple process!

Second, you’re probably wondering how to make a QR code, and if you need a special program or app for that! Nope! I use this free website and it’s super simple. All I do is grab the URL I want to link to and drop it into the big box, then click the green “download” button over on the right. It takes about ten seconds, and there’s no need to click anything else as you wait. Soon enough, your QR code will pop up as an image on your screen and you can export it onto your desktop to use in your curriculum, posters, presentations, etc. 

Finally, you might be worrying about letting kids take their phones out during class. I hear you! They can also scan QR codes using an iPad, or you can keep QR interaction for special circumstances – like before or after class, in certain specific windows of availability, or for kids to snag a link on their phones before taking the class outside for something like a walk-and-listen-to-a-podcast experience. 

OK, now you know the basics and you’re ready for fun! Let’s dive into five creative ways you and your students can make the most of QR codes at your school. 

#1 Create a Menu

There’s nothing like having a CHOICE, am I right? If you want students to explore digital media, a QR-code based menu is a fabulous option. You could create a menu of Ted Talks, political speeches, Khan academy grammar videos, podcasts, First Chapter Friday videos, or news articles. Kids can scan their choices and listen/watch on their devices before doing whatever paired activity you have set up. You can make it a one and done, or come back to it over several days, having them make another choice from the menu and another. 

#2 Design an Interactive Bulletin Board 

You can find this podcast listening bulletin board here on TPT

QR Codes are perfect for this! If you’d like to see your students exploring certain videos, websites, podcasts, Instagram accounts, etc., create a bulletin board that takes interested students straight to where you want them to go. Use Google Slides or the free online design tool, Canva, to house your QR codes on little mini posters and throw them up on a pretty background on your bulletin board, and voila! Interactivity! 

#3 Showcase Student Work in your School Halls 

Are your students working on something epic? Yep, I thought so. When they create something wonderful, QR codes give you a chance to share it with the school! Maybe it’s a class podcast, a virtual travel research project, digital literary food trucks, or passion blogs, but whatever it is, you can have students create their own QR based posters to put their work out there in the world. 

#4 Create a News Wall

If you like to have students interacting with interesting journalism from across the internet, QR codes can make it easy to provide choice to your students. String up a ribbon and add news QRs as you notice interesting pieces online. Kids can always check them out before or after class, or when finishing early, but you can also use the cards as an interactive during class. 

Invite students to walk the line and take one that interests them back to their desk for some kind of reading response activity. This plays off one of my favorite concepts for creating an interactive classroom space, called Literatura de Cordel. I first learned about this concept from Eileen Landay, head of the teacher education program at Brown, and I love it! By sharing ideas and images strung out visually along a line, you enrich your classroom space and surround students with layers of interactivity. 

If you’d like to use the little mini-posters you see above, you can grab a free copy of the templates here. 

#5 Share Summer Programs, Writing Camps, Writing Contests, Internships, Scholarships

It’s always a good time to help your students connect to the wider world of English. QR codes help you connect them DIRECTLY. While I’m all for writing contest posters and summer program brochures, a quick QR code will take them there in seconds. They can see an internship they want, scan it onto their phone, and be applying for it as they walk out the door. Pretty cool! 

If you’d like to try this, you can grab a copy of the templates you see above right here. 

Hey, by the way, are we hanging out together on Instagram yet? I’m loving this visual platform so much lately, and I’d love to share ideas with you there too. 

Want to save these QR code ideas for later? Pin them below!

hey there!

I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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One Comment

  • Hi Betsy!!! LOVE your podcasts! And SUPER loved this one! And I have some GREAT NEWS for you! Making barcodes just because easier, DIRECTLY THROUGH YOUR CHROME BROWSER!!!! Here's how!: https://youtu.be/iiG1-GOZ9RQ

    (I will also cross link your blogpost to the description of my Quickie tutorial!!!)

    Thanks for being here for us – LOVE listening and learning from you on my morning walks. You TOTALLY spark MY creativity!!!!


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