Tuesday, January 19, 2016

QR Code Quick Start Guide


The rowdy kids in 3 love using QR codes. It makes them feel very tech savvy! I've incorporated QR codes into our school day in many different ways. One way that is mutually beneficial to me and the students is to add the QR codes to task cards. I link the QR codes to the answers to each task card question. It is super simple and allows the students to check their own work and works so much better than simply printing the answers on the back of each task card. I know the students can't check the answer until I give them a device with an app to scan the qr code. It eliminates any temptation to take a peek before solving the original problem.


There are several websites to generate QR codes, but my favorite is QR Code Generator. This site is completely free. Most only offer a limited amount of QR codes for free or limit how many characters you are able to use. To link an answer, click on the icon of a page and enter your answer in the box. The site automatically generates a QR code. Hit the download button and choose jpeg. An image of this unique QR code is downloaded to your computer. Just insert that image into your document. If you are using a ready-made worksheet, just print out your QR code and paste it onto your worksheet before copying for the students.


Once the QR code has been generated, in theory it should work indefinitely. I have yet to have a problem with QR codes no longer linking to the original information.  The QR Code Generator site also allows you to make color QR codes, but I prefer to work in black and white for most situations.


To see an example of task cards with QR code answers, check out my Multiplication Review product on TpT.com. If you have any additional questions about using QR codes in the classroom, just leave a comment below or send me an email.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Learning Games

Kitten Rescue

As a third grade teacher, I find multiplication terribly frustrating. Having my students truly master math facts, seems to be just beyond my control. I can teach the concept of multiplication and provide practice, but nothing seems to work like old school drill and kill. Many students need to practice every single night to accomplish mastery and most 8 year olds just don't have that level of dedication to school work. Of course it comes easily for some students, but I have a soft spot for the others. I was one of the others. I try to explain to my students that math will be easier for the rest of their lives, if they take the time to learn the facts now. I explain that I took too long to memorize my math facts. I don't always admit that there were a few facts that I still had to think twice about until I started teaching multiplication in my late thirties. Yep 7 x 8, I'm looking at you.

Kitten Rescue Multiplying 0 - 6

As education shifts away from simply memorizing information, math facts remain one of the areas where rote memorization is still necessary. We now attempt to teach students to think for themselves, find solutions, solve problems, and become independent learners. In the area of math, this is infinitely more difficult if a student is still trying to count out 7 x 8 on her fingers.

Kitten Rescue Domino 
Playing Cards
I love knowledge. I love passing new knowledge on to my students. I even love math now, although it was my absolute worst subject all through school. I blame it on not mastering my math facts in third grade. I believe with the right attitude learning anything can be fun. I don't create games for my students to make math fun. I believe math already is fun. I create games for my students, because I believe a happy child at play remembers information better than a bored, stressed child.  A roomful of happy children at play soaking in new knowledge they will use for the rest of their lives. Is there anything more beautiful?

To add a little fun to your multiplication practice, visit my TPT Store to purchase my latest product, Kitten Rescue Multiplication.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Learning to Work Smarter, Not Harder

My co-teacher and I work too much. If we were both single, it might not be too much. However, our lovely families would prefer we cut back significantly. We have had many long discussions about why we work too much. It seems to be a combination of our ridiculously high expectations of ourselves, the lack of a curriculum in any subject except math that fully meets the needs of our particular students, and a mild deficiency in organizational skills.

We've tried to lower our expectations a bit, but we are overachievers. It is in our DNA. After a great deal of searching, we've yet to find an ela curriculum that is any better than the one we have now. Like many teachers, we find ourselves constantly supplementing. If you know of a third grade curriculum that incorporates grammar, writing, and reading skills into novel studies, please let me know. One day, Cathy and I may write it ourselves! Finally, we had to admit that the only solution was to become better organized.

The Rowdy Kids in 3

Luckily, Monday and Tuesday were work days and the children didn't return until Wednesday. It gave us a little time to reorganize. We are both the type of people that will do anything in the world for someone else, but tend to put off anything for ourselves. The beauty of being in your forties is that you know enough about yourself to make realistic goals. Cathy and I made a list of all of the planning duties for the week and divided it up evenly. I knew this would not be enough to keep me on task. I am easily distracted. So, I made a list of all of my planning periods. These are arranged around my students' enrichment classes. I assigned a few tasks for each planning period being careful not to overfill any one slot. I still need time to go to the bathroom, deal with a student issue or return a parent email. Each task is for the following week, so we will always be a week ahead.  This should allow us some extra time to come up with those wacky, creative, last minute ideas we love. Since we were doing the tasks for each other and not just for ourselves we are hoping it will help us hold ourselves accountable.

It was a wonderful and workable plan. I was very proud of myself. Unfortunately, I became very sick on Tuesday morning... very, very sick. I will not go into the gory details, but I assure you I was not going anywhere near my little darlings. It was Friday before I returned to school. Missing my students coming back from Christmas break was the worst and I was so sad that I hadn't been able to keep up with my lovely, little schedule and plan for the following week. Refusing to be defeated so quickly, I stayed until 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon catching up on all my tasks. I was tired, but it felt great to walk out of school completely caught up. 

The Rowdy Kids in 3

On Saturday mornings, I usually wake up before everyone in the house and work on plans. Since that wasn't necessary, I took the time to improve a science activity. Every year as we review the water cycle, I let my students write and produce a play explaining the process. Sometimes we do it in small groups. I usually film it and call it a movie instead of a play. They create make-shift costumes and backdrops. It takes about three class periods to complete. In years past I've just explained the assignment to the kids, but yesterday I created a cast list, task cards for each student job and a rubric to judge their final product. I added teacher directions and posted it on TeachersPayTeachers. My students love creating movies and hopefully other students will enjoy it now, too.  Wish me luck! Perhaps 2016 will be the year I finally find my inner organizing neat freak.

The Rowdy Kids in 3: Task Cards