QR Codes: Non-Fiction Lesson

There are a multitude of great QR classroom uses out there already.  In fact the Daring Librarian has a great post from December of 2010 about different QR codes and a great video about how they were used in one high school for multiple classrooms.

Today, I’m going to offer one approach to using QR codes in the English classroom.  This is quite simply a teacher driven, small groups at stations, QR code assignment. Keep in mind this post is quite lengthy so as to give you an activity and an example of how to use this with Fast Food Nation.

The purpose: to extend student learning on topics that relate to a non-fiction book.

Things to consider: You may, depending on  your means, want students to use ipods, phones and ipads.  A bigger screen would be useful if you plan on having students use any of the articles below.  You may also want to encourage your students to share devices.  You’ll absolutely want them to bring headphones as some of the QR codes, when scanned, link to videos and podcasts.

Non-Fiction, Teacher Generated QR Codes

This activity could be used at anytime during the study of a unit of novel. The goal: create a deeper/broader understanding of the concepts studied.  Choose a series of articles, podcasts, images, cartoons, etc. that could be easily used for synthesizing a larger understanding.  I’ve chosen Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation as an example because non-fiction may be an easier way for you to attempt this type of activity.  Resources should also be easier to find.


  1. Choose a series of articles, podcasts, music, images, etc. to enhance your study of a unit or novel.  Using Kaywa create QR codes that you’ll print and use in class.
  2. Set up “stations” in your classroom.  For each table create a QR code that students can scan.  The smaller of groups you can create the better.  In my world 3-4 students per group is ideal.
  3. Each “table” should be equipped with a QR code and guiding questions to help students synthesize information after they’ve finished their “multimedia” experience.  Have students collaborate in small groups to discuss the questions and “create” some type of collaborative response.
  4. Have students rotate through all of the stations or as many as time allows.

Resources & Corresponding QR Codes

Use any or all of the resources below to create a Fast Food Nation QR code and Bring Your Own Device assignment.  Think big.  This is only one book and one example of what you might do!

Eat, Drink, Think, Change

An article from The New York Times that also includes a link to an audio slide show narrated by Michael Pollan.  The article itself discusses the idea of how we saw food in film prior to the 1990’s (feasting, decadance) versus how we see it to today (thoughtless consumption, cruelty towards animals).  Have students read the article and then use the following questions for small group discussion:

  • Identify the article’s primary argument about film and food.
  • What impact does this argument have on the society in which you live?

Writing Extension: Examine the Synthesis prompt from the AP Language Exam 2011 that deals with global versus local eating/shopping.  Using only the first page, construct as a group, a series of three different thesis statements you would make using your prior knowledge and the article you’ve just read.

Anatomy of a Hamburger

Vast infographic from The New York Times discussing how many different types of meat/byproducts are necessary in constructing one hamburger.  Have student read and assess using the following questions:

  • What is being argued about geography and the food we eat?
  • What is being argued about the makeup of food we see as being “standard” components of the American diet?
  • Discuss consumer concerns as they relate to this infographic.

Writing Extension: Write a précis paragraph, as a group, using the infographic as eat your “text.”

In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

This is an excerpt from the first chapter of Pollan’s book In Defense of Food Have them read the first two pages and then answer/discuss the following questions:

  • What is Pollan arguing?
  • What is the consumer’s responsibility according to Pollan?
  • What are the flaws in his argument?
  • Discuss his style as an author.  What does he depend upon?

Writing Extension: In Pollan’s style and voice, write a response that takes an opposing point of view to his.  Be appropriate and thoughtful in your response.  Write one paragraph.

Bill Moyers and Michael Pollan Video

About 25 minutes in length, you may want to have students only watch a portion of the video.  Just specify in advance or write beneath the QR Code.  I would say the first 10 minutes are perfect for in-class use.  Have students then complete the following:

  • What is Pollan’s primary concern?
  • What types of evidence does Pollan use to support his argument?
  • Identify Pollan’s tone.

Writing Extension: As a group, craft four questions that you would pose to Pollan based on the interview you’ve just watched.  For each question include a brief 2-3 sentence rationale explaining the necessity of the question.

What We’re Feeding Our Young Political Cartoon

A cartoon that characterizes a mother bird feeding her young with fast food logos.  Have students complete the following activity:

Writing Extension: Construct a well-reasoned, non-inflammatory critique of the cartoon.  Respond in one thoughtful paragraph.

Keep in mind that these are only a few of the numerous resources available for your use with Fast Food Nation.  More importantly, they are just one example of what you could do with QR Codes in your classroom.  


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  2. Mary Baker says:

    This is awesome! I just came across your work and love it!! Keep up the good work!!

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