A QR Code Grammar Activity for the ESL Classroom

Book drills can make class time boring and monotonous, especially when practicing grammar concepts. Creating fresh and engaging activities for English Learners helps students find meaningful connection to the concepts learned in class (Jensen, 2000). Thankfully, as technological advances bring about a myriad of educational web and mobile applications, teachers can incorporate these to enrich common classroom activities and to adapt the usual assignments for better student interaction.

One of these tools, the QR Code, has given me another strategy to implement in my ESL classroom.  Students of various levels have given me positive feedback, which encouraged me to share this idea with other teachers. For more information on using QR codes, check out Karen Mensing’s Ted-Ed video here.

It should be noted that as with all manipulative materials, apps should also be carefully introduced to students as not doing this properly might increase the likelihood of frustration and confusion. Give students some time to get to know their QR Reader app. For best results, have students download a free QR Reader a day before the assignment.

Adverbs of Time Grammar Activity

  1. Take 6-8 events with different times or dates for each. Make a QR code for eachPairs collect clues together until they've gathered all the clues needed. event. Print and cut out the codes (glue on index cards for future use).
  2. Make duplicate codes and mix them up.
  3. Tape the QR codes around the room and pair up students.
  4. Tell students that they are to walk around with their partner to gather clues about an incident that happened.
  5. Once they have gathered all the clues, they will narrate what happened using adverb clauses in a paragraph.
  6. Encourage pairs to collaborate to write a creative paragraph by saying the class will vote on the top 3.

Variations:

  • Assign paragraph for homework and ask pairs to read their paragraphs in small groups.
  • Ask students to type up their paragraphs and submit them the next day. Teacher can make editing assignments based on the paragraphs submitted.
  • Instead of adverb clauses of time, use cause and effect clauses, adjective clauses, or noun clauses.
  • Make QR codes out of the students’ final paragraphs and ask them to edit a paragraph of their choice as a group.

Free Online QR Code Generators:

Some Free Phone App QR Code Readers:
Apple: Red Laser
Google Play Store: Red Laser
Blackberry World: QR Code Scanner Pro Free

References
Jensen, E. (2000). Brain-based learning. Corwin Press.

Mensing, K. (2013, June 20). The Magic of QR Codes [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRgWRXFXLQs

*A version of this article was published in the CATESOL Quarterly News here: http://www.catesolnews.org/2014/03/qr-code-grammar-activity-esl-classroom/

How-to use the new Explore

You may have noticed that ShowMe has changed lately. We’ve completely redesigned the app to making learning easier!

To get started with the new ShowMe Explore here’s a guide:

  1. Browse your recommendations! We’ve provided personalized recommendations for you
  2. Browse by categories! Now, when you tap on a category, all of the subcategories will be revealed. This is a great way to browse featured ShowMes by subject.
  3. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Tap the search box to type what you’re looking for. Your search results can be filtered by topic, people, or ShowMes!

ShowMe and Google Forms

Last week, I wrote on this blog about the advantages of using Google Forms with your ShowMe videos. Well, I must say that Google Forms is a powerful intuitive tool for the classroom. Even if you are not in a 1:1 school (with iPads or computers), Google Forms presents an opportunity to get real time information from students not delayed through exit slips or problem sets. The common question that I think that lingers is how are the students responding if you are not using iPads or computers; the answer is smartphones (and it doesn’t matter the operating system or carrier of the phone.) If you have a class website, links can be set up so that students can respond to questions or you can send students emails with the link of the form so that students can respond at the end of the class period or complete questions for homework while watching their ShowMe or simply completing their reading of various materials.

The reason that I mentioned these applications two weeks in a row, even though most people may already be using Google Forms, is that it is important that teachers receive data (which is an important part of the Common Core) and use it to meet the learning needs of their students. On a recent episode of 60 minutes, Kahn Academy was highlighted for the use of formative data to help teachers create a customized learning experience for each student, but what was at the heart of Kahn Academy was a program that allowed teachers to see precisely where the students were in their learning and the teacher could then direct the classroom based on the needs of students instead of creating a one size fits all curriculum approach. Why wait for Kahn, when the program already exists with Google Forms, especially since cash-strapped districts are not going to purchase expensive software, teachers need to plan what they want their students to know, understand and be able to do with the content of their ShowMe or their classroom and develop a form to help collect the data so that every student learns. Then with the data tailor lessons that meet the needs of every student in the classroom and the best part is the fact that it does not add any more planning time. By creating ShowMe lessons and assessing students knowledge with Google Forms, you are creating a truly enriching experience that benefits every student in the classroom.

New ShowMe Feature: Adding student accounts!

We’ve been working hard this summer to add some new features for the school year. We noticed that many teachers wanted the ability to manage student accounts and that students often do not have access to email. So, we built an easy way for you to create student accounts! Email is not required and teacher’s have total oversight over what kids are up to.

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Just follow these steps to get started!

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First, open up ShowMe and tap Activity. Look for the green button that lets you Find more people to follow

 

 

 

Second, in the bottom left corner side of the screen that appears, tap Create a student account

 

 

 

Next, enter your student information. Remember to indicate if they are under age 14! Tap Create Account when you’re ready

 

 

 

You’re done! You’ll receive and email with the login information and password which you can give to your student.

 

 

If you’d like to change the username or password, just login and navigate to the student’s name in the top left corner of the app. Tap it and select Settings to make changes.

Stories (An Epiphany)

The thing about stories is that they don’t have to fascinate the storyteller. I mean, the event doesn’t have to be fascinating or extraordinary to you to have meaning to your audience.  Sometimes it’s the mundane that provides a lesson worth telling. I tell stories to my students all the time, some entertaining some not so, and I’m often struck by what they connect with in the story.

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A story I have shared often with my students is the story of a bowling class I took in college. It’s not an interesting story, but I tell them how when I learned how to throw a hook and count boards, I immediately lost 30 pins on my average. I share that story with them to say, “Sometimes when you learn something new or develop a new skill your overall ability suffers in the short term, to make you better in the long term.” I tell them I’m a better bowler now than I would have been had I never learned these skills, but I was a frustrated bowler as I continued to practice. I use the story in math or coaching basketball because sometimes students need to know that learning often comes out of struggle. You backslide and grasp to old habits, but when the challenges get more difficult, you realize the old habits don’t help you, but the new skills and knowledge will. Once I tell the story to a room of fifth graders they start asking me about what my average bowling score was and is now, and I tell them my scores and say, “I’m far from a professional and I don’t play much anymore.” That’s irrelevant because usually when I tell that story it’s for the  benefit of the kids who think “Why do I need to show my work when I can solve it in my head?” or “Why should I shoot the ball from above my head when I make plenty of shots shooting it from my hip?” As teachers and coaches we can see the bigger picture, and our stories, especially ones that tell of our struggles, can help them learn a little more about that picture. Share.

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Three Strategies for Teaching Grammar in ESL

Grammar can often be frustrating for ESL students, partly because many grammar texts contain exercises that use the “drill” method with sample sentences out of context. While the drilling method can be very helpful for students who are in beginning stages of learning English, it may become difficult for more advanced students to apply the structures in their own writing. To help students incorporate their newly learned grammar skills into their writing, teachers can ask students to practice specific skills in a paragraph. As students re-write drafts, the teacher can ask students to focus on another skill. This way, students will not feel overwhelmed or frustrated.

Student Mashari reviews independently

ESL student Mashari, reviews independently whenever he can

Showme has helped me to cut down on the time I spend lecturing on grammar structures in class. With the Showme tutorials, students can watch at home what they do not understand. In class, I can focus more on using the structures in context by asking students to write their own pieces. It is not completely “flipping” the class, but it has made a huge improvement in the way I structure my class sessions; they are no longer just grammar lectures with a bit of time to practice at the end.  I would like to share three strategies that I find successful in the ESL classroom.

First, it is important to collect errors unique to the cultural group(s) a teacher works with. For example, Chinese students tend to have trouble with articles because their language may not have a need for them, while Saudi and some Middle Eastern students tend to have difficulty with Subject-Verb-Object order. As teachers collect work samples, it is wise to also make a list of all the common errors. By using lists of these common errors, teachers can point them out to students so that they become aware that they are incorrect. I normally explain a grammar structure, and after the students have practiced it independently, I often make a list of errors made by previous students and ask them to correct them. Error-correction helps some students understand certain structures better. Creating Showme tutorials for common errors helps students to review them independently.

Second, use a lot of self-talks. This means that as I correct an error on the board, I talk out the steps: “First, I check that my subject and verb are correct; then, I see that the pronoun is “she” which is third person singular, and I see that this needs a third-person-singular‘s’”. I often ask students to do this at the board along with self-talks. Because they are ESL students, they have to internalize these steps. By speaking them out loud while they analyze, their brain has another chance to remember the steps. Of course, the structure of self-talks will depend on the students’ level. I have successfully done this with beginning, intermediate, and advanced English level students, both children and adults. I model self-talks in my Showme tutorials and have noticed that the students who watched them at home often use self-talks on their own in class.

Third, guided note-taking can help students who don’t have the best note-taking habits or lack note-taking experience. How does one take notes for grammar? In addition to what I post on the board and students’ individual notes, I ask students to circle, underline, and draw arrows just as I draw them on the board in their independent homework assignment. I have, over the years, noticed that students who practice this will also do it on an exam, and those students tend to score higher because they caught an error they made and erased it (this also takes years of collecting samples). A teacher will also be able to easily see which students are struggling with a concept because they will often circle or underline incorrectly. Note-taking helps to reinforce students’ memories. The Showme tutorials often show my own underlining and circling which helps encourage students to try out sample exercises the same way.

 After all these strategies have been practiced by the students, I often show a video clip and ask students to write a summary using specific structures from a unit (i.e. parallel structure, adverbs of time, etc.). I like to use Mr. Bean clips or Wallace and Gromit. They are short, funny, and usually have no complicated dialogue, so they’re ideal for any level (writing activities should be tailored accordingly for beginning levels). Finally, this is what Showme has enabled me to do more! I used to never find the time to show a video clip, but now that students get to review common errors in my Showme tutorials, students look forward to writing those summaries! Who would’ve thought? Many of my students used to groan whenever I mentioned a summary. With a video clip, they have something concrete to write about and although the class writes about the same clip, I end up with very original samples that students are proud of!

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