Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

February 24, 2014
by leesensei

QR for Curiosity – Encouraging Students To Be Curious

qrtellagamiAs smartphone use/ownership among students rises – so has the use of the QR codes. I add them to unit packages for links for Quizlet sites or my YouTube channel  – hoping that the ubiquitous phone in the teenagers hand will help them find support outside of class time. Some educators use them as a required part of the lesson. I know that not all of my kids have smart phones capable of reading codes so I don’t require them. Even when I provide them for support I also provide a shortened link to the same material. In a previous post I wrote about a number of practical ways to use them but I didn’t really focus on another reason to use them in your teaching.

To me, the fact that they are a visual, and don’t come with any ‘words’ attached also means that we can use them to reward the curious. This year I am trying an ‘experiment’ in my room – just to see who is curious enough, or aware enough to want to know more. I won’t be giving out extra marks for this, but I will wait to see if any students comment on what I have done.

A QR code on my door – I used an app called “Tellagami”  to create a short animated video introducing who I am and what I teach. Then using a free QR code creator I generated a QR code (it’s the one at the start of  this post). It’s on window of my door – right where students might notice. If they are curious they will find out a bit about who I am. Almost as important to me is the message it sends “We try new things in here!”

A visual/QR code bulletin board – One of the reasons that I like QR codes is that they don’t come with any words attached. This semester I set up a bulletin board with areas in Japan – outside of the major cities. I dug up some older picture cards I had and put tbulletinboardhem together with a map. The only information provided is an arrow to a part of the map and a QR code. The code links to a page for the city or region. This bulletin board will come into play later in my grade 12 course but for now I notice kids looking, pointing and sometimes scanning.

A ‘What is This’?  – I receive a magazine a few times a year and one of its pages features objects/items that are photo(2)unique to Japan. In this case I have the picture/explanation but I remove the title (and black out the word in the text if needed). Instead I substitute an audio QR code. They are easy to make via the qrvoice website and available for many languages. Students can read about the object but won’t know what it is until they scan and hear the word.

If you need a code reader on your phone – search your appropriate app store – there are a lot of free ones there. Making QR codes is easy too – there are several sources out there including:

  • kaywa  – make sure you select “static” not dynamic for the easy creation
  •  – it’s a url shortener and, if you click on ‘details’  create a QR code
  • qrvoice  – type your text, select your language and the code is generated

I’m hoping that the lack of information, and the ease of scanning the code, will reward the curious. And curious learners will, I hope, be more willing to risk in my classroom.



August 7, 2013
by leesensei

What If Your Bulletin Board Could Speak? QR Codes in the Classroom….

Language Sensei is on summer break until I return to school September 3rd. Just as I spend time rethinking my teaching and learning anew, Language Sensei will be revisiting past posts concentrating on professional change and ‘easy to implement tech’.
We are, as teachers, always looking for a unique way to either engage a student, or facilitate their learning. Linking to a piece of text, a website or even an audio clip, one of my most useful tools is becoming the Quick Response (QR) code.  Easily scanned by any smart phone, iPod Touch or tablet with a free reading app, these codes provide a new ‘tool’ in getting information to students but also empowering them to seek information themselves.
What if your bulletin boards could speak? Imagine a group of students armed with a device in a vocabulary lesson treasure hunt. Pictures for words or phrases with a code below that provides audio information. No dictionary, just learning by experiencing.  You can even practice verb conjugations – with a picture of people doing a particular action and a code that correct verb form – in short audio clip or as a text-based message.
What if you could put video or an actual website on your worksheet? Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words – or at least not visiting the dictionary.  I typically hand out my unit book on the day of the previous unit’s exam. For my Japanese 12 class a unit on travel includes the code for the National Tour Organization right on the schedule – students had already visited the site, and were primed for the work prior to my even beginning the section.
What if your student’s work could be seen and heard? Are your students encouraged to introducing themselves in the target language? Magnify the impact by placing a code below a student’s picture to allow classmates learn more about each other. By experimenting with longer audio clips students could narrate a story about their daily routine. Another possibility is to use the code only – as a ‘mystery student of the week’ – students listening or hearing about someone and guessing who it is.
What if you found a way to help kids access more information on a topic?  Learning new verbs in class and need a quick review – then scan the code to be taken to a video (selected by you the teacher) that reviews the content. One student finally accessed assistance because “I didn’t need to type in that long url”. In my class each unit handout includes codes that take students directly to ome of my YouTube video reviews and the Quizlet vocabulary cards.
I know that all students do not have access to this technology. For my classes any ‘QR’ use is done in groups and the key is not reading the code – but what happens with the information it provides. All codes are accompanied by a corresponding ‘shortened’ link for the same information – easily accessed on one of our school library computers. How might you use them in your class?
Want to know more? Visit the link here for my ‘how-to’ presentation for codes/shortened links.

April 30, 2013
by leesensei

“Song of the Week” Part 1: Sourcing & Using

Music is a powerful tool in world language learning. As an ‘authentic resource’ it’s accessible to students, timely and full of language that speaks directly to students. I don’t allow students to use headphones and listen to their own music at any time during class so a music collection for me is essential. This year I have made a concerted effort to add more music to my class experience.

Sourcing: On a matter of principal I won’t use illegal downloads for this. Granted I have used music ‘supplied’ by my students without question in the past. However, as I am featuring these songs, I make a point of getting them legally. While songs for some languages are easier to find, for others it may a bit tougher. As a Japanese language teacher I make good use of iTunes for this. Japanese iTunes cards can be easily bought over the internet from reliable sources. Opening an iTunes account in your country of choice just requires an email address and any local address. Each song costs me $2 but for me its worth it.

Selecting: Each week I go to iTunes and scroll down the “Top Singles” section. Sometimes I do this by myself and at other times with my classes. It is motivating for kids to recognize artists that they know on the list. Equally bonding for us as a class this year  was  “Call Me Maybe” that doggedly remained on the Japan Top 10 list (groans all around)! Then the name of the song/artist and a QR code to the band’s website is put up on the board. Also a copy of the lyrics – in the Target Language only – is posted on my site, and on the board as fast as I can get to it.

Playlists: I have a master playlist of my entire collection of songs (about 500) that we also listen to. However I also keep a separate playlist just for “Songs of the Week”. When I want to I can use it to have students revisit past songs from the semester. If I have time I also project the cover as the song plays – providing students with a visual reminder of it as well.

Using as a “Cue”:  I use the song of the week as before class music (set iTunes to ‘repeat’) as well as during time at the end of class. I have started using it during activities as well as ‘background music’. Once students start on an activity it plays  – quietly – in the background. I find that a bit of noise seems to encourage students to talk with each other more. When I need their attention it is turned off. After a few weeks of doing this I see that they are noticing when I need their attention.

It’s great to know that we are listening to current language in the songs we hear. And I am enjoying seeing how much my students like to listen as well. In my next post I plan to expand on how I use musics in class…Oh – this week ? It’s “Spark” by 三代目JSoul Brothers!



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