Category Archives: Teaching with Tech

Using Symbaloo in the elementary library

First things first: I did not create this brilliant idea.  Shannon McClintock Miller was the one who showed it to me, and it’s changed my library teaching for the better.

Symbaloo. A funky word, a brilliant product.  And when paired with your Destiny library catalog: a game-changer in regard to students and teachers utilizing library resources and accessing information.

Today, a few questions about Symbaloo in the library get answered.

What is Symbaloo?

Symbaloo helps to organize online resources in an intuitive, app-style format.  According to the company, Symbaloo is “a cloud-based application that allows users to organize and categorize web links in the form of buttons”.  It looks like this:

Why should I use Symbaloo in the library?

  1. It’s intuitive.  Students know how to use apps. This looks just like many of their home devices – click on the “app”, and it takes you to the appropriate website.
  2. It’s visual.  Many students in an elementary school are pre-readers.  The standard list of weblinks many libraries provide does not meet their information need.

    The original home screen in Destiny. No visual appeal, too much text, and no student input.

  3. English language learners are able to successfully access and utilize this format of information.

    A grade 2 student uses Symbaloo to access links in the library.

  4. Icons = color.  Humans like colorful things.  This is fun to look at.
  5. It’s relatively easy to set up an initial Symbaloo.  Once it’s done, updating it is simple.
  6. Teachers will actually use it.

How do I make something like that picture up above?

  1. Create a FREE Symbaloo account.
  2. Decide how large you want your Symbaloo grid to be.  Changing the size is easy – under Options, Edit webmix – Resize webmix – then click the arrows to make the grid larger or smaller.
  3. Download images to use as the icon pictures (if you care about such things – I do).
  4. Have links to websites / databases handy.  If you’ve got them, embedding direct links to databases allows students to access resources at school without typing in pesky usernames/passwords!  And if you don’t have direct links: email the company and explain what you need.  So long as you subscribe to the resource, they’ll send the direct link (I’ve done this a few times, and it works).
  5. Bonus: searching Symbaloo for other webmixes can give ideas on links to use within your own grid!

How to I embed Symbaloo into my Destiny catalog?

  1. Read this post from the aforementioned Shannon McClintock Miller at Van Meter Schools.
  2. Do what she says.

So, do I have to update the Symbaloo link in Destiny every time I change the original Symbaloo?

  1. Nope!  That’s the brilliance of Symbaloo.  Because it is web-based, so long as your click the “share” button at the center top of the screen, then “republish webmix”, your Symbaloo will update on any platform that uses the original embed code.  The ‘republish webmix’ button is the small gray circular arrow to the left of the ‘Share this webmix’.  

This seems like a lot of work. Is Symbaloo really that great?

  1. Yes. It is. Don’t believe me?  Believe my students.  In two schools, in two countries.  I gave my grade 4 students the task of redesigning the Destiny library catalog home screen when teaching in London.  Their biggest wants?  More color and pictures.  When given 3 choices of how the redesign could look, students overwhelmingly selected the Symbaloo home screen.  And they used it.

But teachers/students rarely use the library catalog, so why does something like this matter?

  1. Remember this scene from FIELD OF DREAMS?
  2. The baseball slogan was: if you build it, they will come.  The library version with Symbaloo: if you build it, they will use it. Believe in it, and the users will come.
  3. This is a just-in-time resource.  When teachers come scrambling to the library, looking for books about red pandas and narwhals and emperor penguins (my life this year) and the library doesn’t have the exact book they need , pull up the eye-catching Symbaloo on Destiny’s home screen and search within the linked resources.  Having PebbleGo and an encyclopedia database really helps.  Quick, easy, just-in-time.
  4. PRO TIP: When sharing a library Symbaloo for the first time, allow teachers & students to suggest links to incorporate.  Then take their suggestions, add the links to the webmix (don’t forget to share the webmix!), and share it out to the whole school.  My Symbaloo has Google Earth, Typing.com, Newslea, Prodigy math, and Khan Academy based on the recommendation of teachers and students.

I want to learn more.  Any additional resources?

  1. Yes! Again, I direct you to Shannon’s blog: author Symbaloo pages & an intro tutorial.

That’s it. Know that Symbaloo doesn’t give me anything to share this – no badges, no money, no freebies.  I write this because the product has been that good since I started using it in 2016. Questions? Please ask!

Cheers, y’all! –arika

Library Lessons: Oct 23-27, 2017

Week 9!  All should be fine…but this is real life.  See 3rd grade!

PreK:

We kicked off our BEARS unit with two of my favorites that I brought to London from the USA.  The good: the stories were well received. The bad: they need more movement, and the riddles weren’t the best for this group.  Hmm…  Reflection and revision is needed.

Grades K/1:

The final week in our Peter Brown author study!  Being that it was the week before Halloween, we read the 2017 release Creepy Pair of Underwear.  The goal? To compare/contrast it with Creepy Carrots using a Venn Diagram.  Result?  Success, even though they’d never used a Venn Diagram before!

Grade 2:

Week 3 of our Haiku Animals unit.  This week: accessing PebbleGo and writing 3 bullet-point notes on a chosen animal. And citation, in limited form.  Students had a mostly-complete citation on their note-taking form, and they had to discern the part missing…then fill in the blank.  It was a developmentally appropriate way to introduce citing sources.

The 2nd graders are across the board in their ability to read/write/note-take.  This was a surprisingly successful lesson which had everyone engaged and focused.  Next week: videos with ChatterPix Kids!

Grade 3:

Okay.  So, these were the best laid plans.  Students were going to use Destiny and write reviews using SWBST.  BUT.  Destiny was being a bear (not its fault…something deeper).  Passwords and usernames were changing overnight, and I didn’t know why.  When 25% of the class can’t log in, it doesn’t matter how many students there are – the lesson still goes to pot in under 30 seconds.  Suffice to say, of my two 3rd grade classes, we only attempted logging in with one.  The 2nd did this lesson orally.

Grade 4:

You know those moments when a one-off lesson turns into something more?  That’s what happened here.  Last week, students gave feedback and input regarding our library home page in Destiny.  Little did we realize that the SINGLE link every student chose as a “good” link to keep was this one:  Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children

Click the link.  What do you notice?  As we shared in class, the list was created by the NEA, which is trustworthy organization.  However…when was it published?  Not one child noticed this little detail: the list was 18 years old! This was the perfect way to teach copyright and checking to see when a website was created.  I absolutely love when lessons like this create themselves!

This is going to lead into our next unit: FAKE NEWS, using Laurie Thompson & Ammi-Joan Paquette’s Two Truths and a Lie, where looking at a site’s author is a key skill.

Until then…

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Oct 30-Nov 3, 2017

Week 10!

PreK:

Week 2 of the BEARS unit.

Two stories, one set of riddles, a giant bear walk around the library…and I should have had more.  Note to self: 40 minutes with 4 year olds requires a LOT of activities, especially when they take less than 5 minutes to select books and check out!

Grades K/1:

Week 1 of a new author study with MAC BARNETT.  Mac is one of my favorite

Each week in this study, I’ll be teaching how to read a spine label on a book. With LEO, the 2 questions listed are WRONG! (I saved the wrong slide…oops!). Students reacted to what they wondered about the story.

Grade 2:

Week 4 in our Haiku Animals study.  Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3 are here.  (note: this would be a 3 week unit if students are already familiar with PebbleGo. Mine were not.)

This week, students used their notes to share information learned.  They created short videos using ChatterPix.

Here were the directions, made using ChatterPix:

And here was a sample video I made using the notes I took during one of the classes:

At the end of the lesson, students uploaded their videos to Seesaw.  Want to know more about how I use Seesaw in the library?  INFO TO COME!

Grade 3:

Goal: students will brainstorm wonder questions following a reading of Katherine Applegate’s Ivan: the remarkably true story of a shopping mall gorilla.

Why are we doing this?  Well, Destiny has been a beast, and not all students are able to access it at this point (I’m working on discovering WHY this is).  Until Destiny allows all students equal, successful access, we are taking a break. A mini-unit on nonfiction and research is just what the librarian ordered!

Next week, we’ll do a group research lesson on identifying trustworthy websites and using keywords as we search online for answers to the questions.

Grade 4:

Week 1 of a 5 week unit on FAKE NEWS!

This week, prior knowledge of fake news kicked off our discussion.  Students knew A LOT and kept bringing up certain US-based examples – even in an international school!  We played a short game of “two truths and a lie” to get them prepared for the 3 stories we read in Ammi-Joan Paquette & Laurie Ann Thompson’s book, as most had never heard of it.  Interestingly, two students were able to correctly identify my LIE using nothing but reasoning.  Hint: it involves knowledge of history!

As a class, I read aloud Chapter 5 from Two Truths and a Lie. Recognizing the challenge of reading a book like this aloud, I scanned the pages into a PPT so that children could read along (another idea: use a doc camera…I don’t have one, so scanning worked).  This lesson allowed discussion on how nonfiction books are read (one can skip and choose) and text features in nonfiction (captions, bold words, photographs, etc). We talked about keywords to search, which we’ll be doing next week.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Oct 9-13, 2017

Week 8.  It’s great!  Routines are mostly set.  Expectations, too.  It was a short week (2 days of conferences AND book fair).

NO PreK / K / Grade 1…due to conference days.

Grade 2:

Week 1 in a research unit, designed to fuse PebbleGo, note-taking, citation, and video creation with haiku poetry.  And while this book was a bit young for the 2nd graders, it worked really well with Claim-Evidence-Reasoning…which was the goal of today’s lesson.  Next week: RESEARCH with our newest database, PebbleGo!

Grades 3/4:

So, the Destiny home screen is in need of an update. When  a handful of students per class  don’t realize they’re on the wrong catalog because most of the 11 in our school group look identical, there is an issue.  Step 1: survey the students to see what they think of the current set-up. They are the end-user, so their voice and opinions are the most valuable!  Using their iPads (we are 1:1), they could work independently or with a small group to answer 3 questions: what is GOOD, what SHOULD be here, how should it LOOK?   Following the discussion, three options for a Destiny home page were shared:  one from Van Meter in Iowa (thanks Shannon McClintock Miller), one from my former school (thanks, Nanette!), and our current screen (a list of links).  With little fanfare but much enthusiasm, they were most impressed with a home screen setup like at Van Meter.  Next: a redesign using Symbaloo!

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Nov 6-10, 2017

Week 11!

PreK: Week 3 of our BEARS unit.

As always, we begin with the Hello Song.  This week, the bear unit included a bear walk around the library, with Teacher Bear and Student Bears. Why?  More movement!  More interaction!  More BEARS!  And what a coincidence that they’ve started bear walks in PE!

For this week, there was a lot of action.  After reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, we acted out the story with these fantastic (free) printable cards. I handed each student an animal card (duplicate if needed), then they came up to the front when their animal was read in the story.  In We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, we moved our hands (and bodies!) all around to the motions of the story.  It was a wiggle-free, yet movement-filled, class!

Grades K/1:

More Mac? Yes, please!  Connecting Mac Barnett’s Count the Monkeys with our newest database, PebbleGo, was a seamless lesson.  Students loved the interactive story (more than the pre-k students a few weeks ago) and were captivated by the content and features in PebbleGo.  Can’t wait to have them explore whales with Mac’s Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem next week!

Grade 2:

With students studying Homes Around the World in their Social Studies curriculum, it was time to introduce the Learners Around the World unit.  This will incorporate stories, map skills, databases, research, and – if we’re lucky – coding and creating media.  This week’s database: CultureGrams.  It’s a bit high for the average reader in the room, yet it has sections for “life as a kid” and “school”…so I read it aloud and we make it work.

Grade 3:

With Destiny being a royal pain in the rear (not it’s issue…a school-wide issue resulting in usernames/passwords changing at random), I ditched Destiny for a research-fueled/nonfiction lesson.  Katherine Applegate’s Ivan: the remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla captivated the students last week.  This week, I led the students on a research journey.  Focus areas included keywords, reading web summaries, and looking at the source of information (Pinterest website vs Zoo Atlanta?).  A pretty good lesson – and one that was my drop-in evaluation.

Grade 4:

This was busy, y’all.  Following last week’s reading, students were ready to research.  Armed with their iPads, they set off after a review of the 3 “articles” and a discussion of keyword and search strategies.  I created my own handout – asking students to write keywords for each story, locate websites that are helpful (or not!), and decide if the story was TRUTH or LIE.  More resources are found on the publisher’s page.

Cheers, y’all!  –arika

Library Lessons: Sep 11-15, 2017

Week 4: International Dot Day!

Last year, I missed out on the chance to connect with other teacher-librarians celebrating Dot Day across the US / world.  This year, remembering missed opportunity, I had a prime opportunity to connect with schools in North America…and I didn’t miss out!

Due to time changes and class schedules, only 3rd and 4th grades were able to Skype/Google Hangout for Dot Day.  How’d we do it?  This Google Doc.  And by getting my name and location out there, other t-l’s across the US have been in contact so that we can connect over Global Read Aloud and other events.

In a lovely turn of events, all technology worked for each Skype/Hangout!  I’ve had some serious tech hurdles at the new school, making this turn of events much appreciated.

What’d we do?

PreK

Theme: CATS

It’s not on the white board, but we warmed up with The Name Song, followed by the storytime favorite Einy Meiny Miny Mouse flannelboard (which I do with magnet pieces).  LOVE that I saved some of these from my long-ago years at YCL in South Carolina (and brought them to London!).

Our story: Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon.  Why this?  It not only fit the theme of CATS (a kitten is a baby cat, which we discussed), and the full moon looks a lot like a DOT!  This wiggly bunch was mesmerized by the kitten’s story.  After, each child made a dot for the kitten, which was then brought to life as part of a whole-group experience using Quiver’s AR app.

K/1:

International Dot Day!  We read The Dot, then created dots as creatively as possible.

As the school library is crunched for space, I sourced clipboards for children to color on and handed out 2 crayons per child.  They could share their crayons (or not) and color anything their hearts desired. As a whole group, I used the Quiver AR app to bring their dots from flat circles to 3D spheres for the whole group to see and appreciate using an iPad that connected to the AppleTV.  Bonus: the K’s are studying shapes in their classroom!

Grade 2:

More Dot Day fun!Learning from my first lesson – where students brought their own iPad to the library to use with their dot – the second lesson I structured like the K/1 lesson in that I brought their work to life.  Similar to last year, students wrote a word to describe who they wanted to be this year. Favorite words included: kind, nice, respectful, creative, happy.

Grades 3&4:

With 40 min (grade 3) and 60 min (grade 4) class times, lessons weren’t the same.  If we had time, students made AR dots; if not, dots were sent home after a quick how-to tutorial (all students in grades 3&4 have school-issued iPads that can go home, and the app was pre-downloaded).  All classes heard the The Dot and connected with a different elementary library in the US.  Some classes had a Mystery Skype, others had a co-reading of The Dot, while still others had a share session of Dot Day creations.

We were lucky enough to connect with learners in Maryland (2 schools), Vermont, Kansas, and Alabama.  And, in case you’re wondering, these were all new connections for me – I knew no one at these schools!  My students guessed that the connections were coming from places I’d lived – WA, GA, and LA – and they were so surprised to discover new places across the US.  One of the best moments was when a student here in London realized the school in Vermont was not far from where he used to live! Another great one was when we were asked, during a Mystery Skype, whether we lived east or west of the Prime Meridian.  We’re almost exactly on top of it AND a student was wearing a t-shirt from the official Prime Meridian gift shop…making for some amazed looks.

Perhaps, though, it was the reactions that were the best.  My students have the gift of experiencing a bigger world than most kids: almost all of them have travelled extensively and attended schools in at least one other country.  That wasn’t the case for the schools we Skyped – these were kids that, almost exclusively, had attended the same school since birth.  Watching the realization set in that we were not in the US – that we were in London – was a true gift.  I am so thankful I could help broaden their world while living and teaching abroad.

Now, back to reality.  Dot Day, I’ll be back next year. I cannot wait to connect with more learners across the US and world!

Cheers, y’all.  –arika

Library Lessons: Aug 28-Sep 1, 2017

Week 2!

New this week: students were assigned individual iPads as part of their tech. Hearing this inspired the activity for grades 3&4.

PreK:

No library this week, as there was an all-day LEGO community build on Thursday. Six hours of building, assisting, & supervision for all grades PreK-4.

K/Grade 1

Warm up: the name song (repeated from Week 1).

Continuing with bears & SEL in the library, I shared Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear: two friends, three stories. This has always been a hit with the young crowd, and this week was no exception.

Our white board introduced a new symbol:

Part of my summer professional reading was Disrupting Thinking by Kyleen Beers & Robert Proust. Inspired by their Book-Head-Heart questioning strategy, I tweaked it to become Book-Brain-Heart. Because it was our first time seeing this strategy and it was with the K/1 students, only one icon was introduced. I believe that you go slow to ultimately go fast, especially in teaching new strategies.

Our questions today were to inspire the BRAIN to connect the story with our SEL expectations of Be Kind, Be Safe, Do Your Best, Help the Rest. The students were asked to think of ways Dog and Bear were KIND or SAFE in their stories. After each short story, we stopped and had turn-and-talk discussions with knee-neighbors to share how either Dog or Bear was KIND or SAFE. Interestingly, the children also expanded their discussion to include how they HELPED THE REST.

Self-checkout was better than before, and most children remembered their books. If they didn’t and they still wanted a book, it was allowed.

Grade 2:

Stories with a SEL focus was today’s objective.  Inspired by the Mood Meter from Yale’s RULER SEL curriculum, I created & introduced the emoji Mood Meter. It looks fun and kicked off our discussion: we talked about what the emoji’s might mean, how moods can change throughout the day, and how – if we were OK – we’d feel.  Being OK isn’t bad or good – it’s medium, it’s OK. This led to our story: Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s The OK Book, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.

Side note: AmyKR is a favorite-favorite of mine.  Share books that you love. Your joy shines through.  Faking excitement or interest in a book? Kids can tell.

While reading, if students agreed with the character that they, too, were OK at ___, they tapped their head three times. This means “I know this” or “I agree here”. Lots of children were OK at kite-flying (must be the wind in London)!

After the story, students were asked to respond to a question on a sticky note: What are you OK at?  These were attached to their library passes so they could be easily distributed. 🙂  In the future, I hope to use Padlet and have kids use their iPads to respond to questions like this.

Grades 3&4:

Tech time! Somewhere in the readings or websites I’d seen in the first three weeks, I got the idea that a student survey was a requirement for my evaluation process.  Some Pinterest searches provided inspiration for our Reading / Library Survey.

Other goals of the survey: to learn reading interests (to drive purchases), to discover likes and questions, and to informally observe/assess overall tech skill and typing comfort. Results to be analyzed in the next two weeks.

Overall, it went well…but there were learning moments.  Too many of my questions required typewritten answers for this group.  Some questions, which were included to learn a bit about the student as a person, weren’t well-received. Others were poorly worded.  Here’s the version I’d use in the future (note: it’s a google doc).

For those wondering how they got to the survey: a tinyurl of our Destiny website, where a link to the survey was placed, made the process fairly painless. If the iPads had a QR code scanner, we’d have done that. By going to the Destiny homepage, we made a shortcut link to the desktop to use in the future.  Storing surveys and weblinks in Destiny is easy and kid-friendly.  Symbaloo would also work.

Both 3rd and 4th also had an intro to the emoji Mood Meter, and 4th had booktalks as part of their hour-long library class.  Another lesson learned: booktalk first, survey second.

Phew. Busy week! Cheers, y’all! –arika