The current unit of study for my 8th grade Spanish students is directions. Being able to give and follow directions is a real life skill that they don’t have much experience with since they don’t drive yet. This activity helped them be more aware of what makes good directions and also following Spanish commands.
At the end of the year it is extra challenging to keep the students excited and engaged. I’ve contemplating creating a direction challenge for the students to complete around school for years. This year had the perfect combination of conditions: students who wanted to be challenged, a good ratio of students to devices, and school wi-fi that students could access on their devices.
There was a LOT of preparation put into this activity, but the thought was evident in the ease of delivery. Many people have blogged about their experiences with using QR codes in education, this is my story. This blog post is as much for me as random readers, because I want to be able to replicate the success next year.
- Student behavior in the hall
- Ability to navigate
- Challenge without frustrating
- What students do in class
General directions and how the considerations were addressed:
- The students were polled ahead of time so I was aware of the ratio of personal devices with QR reading abilities to the total number of students. Because it was a high interest activity, I calculated a 75% remembrance of devices, which was accurate.
- On a copy of the school map, the general route of each group was traced. From the map, detailed directions were written from point to point with varying level of difficulty. Some details were extremely specific (In front of the office, under the table) others were more general (across from the art room). I tried to incorporate as much of the directional vocabulary, but did not limit it to words presented in the textbook.
- To prevent follow the leader syndrome (aka taking the easy way out and cheating), three sets of clues were written. All started and ended in the Spanish class, but the steps in between were unique. Each path had a unique end code, so I could tell by the final message if they followed the correct path all the way through or if they crossed to a different set along the way.
- The students were motivated to behave in the weeks leading up to the direction challenge because they wanted to be given the freedom to wander outside the classroom, and they knew they had to earn the opportunity by behaving. They were motivated to complete the activity by points and an Edmodo badge. The task was worth points (just 3 points). It was an authentic reading assessment. If they followed directions to the end, they received 3 points. If they followed the correct set of directions all the way through, they also earned an Edmodo badge for excellence.
- With 3 sets of hints to manage, I set up a GoogleDoc chart to keep everything organized. There were columns for start location, end location, text of clue, and QR code. This was critical for when it was time to post the QR codes around the building.
- The QR Codes were automatically generated online. The images were cut out and pasted on bright card stock. The codes are relatively small, so the card stock made it easier to spot (but not easy). I placed the clues at varying heights, so they did have to be aware of the environment: Some clues were up high, others were almost on the ground.
- Communicating to the other staff members in the building was important. Our AUP allows for BYOT as long as the devices are being used for educational purposes. I sent out a building wide email with a brief explanation and mentioned that the students would have their devices with them to capture the QR codes.
So what did all this planning actually look like when implemented?
- The vast majority of students were in pairs, with a few groups of 3 so everyone was involved. The groups were not prepared ahead of time because I had to see who actually had devices. I did split up friends, which helped with conduct in the hallway.
- I used normal hallway passes to track who was partnered together, what time they left, and which direction path they were following. A group of students was sent out every 2 minutes, which was enough time for the group before them to round the corner and be out of sight.
- The students were also aware of what time they left, so they knew when they needed to return (the target time was 10 minutes). The majority of the groups made it back in the 9-12 minute range. Some groups who finished with the incorrect end message requested (and were granted) more time to re-track their steps. I could look at the history of their messages and tell them their last correct clue.
- Since not all the students were out at once, there was an in class task for while they were waiting to wander or after they returned from their adventure.
- Overall, the direction activity in the target language using QR readers when amazing. The students returned an immediately requested we do something like this again. Because they were working in partners, everyone had to participate, there was no avoiding the task.
- It took longer than anticipated to set up and also for the students to complete. The 10 minute deadline was a randomly, pulled from the air guess. I wanted them to feel a time crunch so they stayed on task.
The positive reaction by the students made the time spent setting up the activity worthwhile. It even balanced out the frustration in the morning when someone (or multiple people) stole the same clue twice.
Changes for next year:
- Have a test QR code for students to try before their designated leave time. There are so many free QR Reader Apps, but no all work equally. Two students had to download an alternative app before they could leave.
- I failed to count classrooms on both sides of the hall when I told them how many rooms to pass. In my mind it made sense to count the sets of rooms, but I need to make this clearer next year. Either specify pass five classes on the left or include both sides of the hall in the total.
- I need to spread out the codes even more. There was some accidental scanning of the wrong code – if they followed the directions into the stairwell, they did not pay attention to if they should be at the top of the stairs or the bottom.
- Double check which direction the students would be walking when searching for clues. One was on the back of a pole from their walking perspective, the intent was it to be on the front.
- Extra guideline to provide students: they do NOT need to go into any rooms. Everything is in a common, hallway area.