Tag Archives: Destiny

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!


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 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: Sep 8-11, 2015

15-16, Week 2!

Kindergarten: Audrey Wood, how we ♥ thee! The K’s checked out for the first time, and email introductions/expectations were sent to all K families.  Next week: more Wood and book care!

2nd grade: We’re getting ready for Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19! This is part one of a two-part mini unit. We are connecting literature/research to local/world celebrations, which adds joy and excitement to reading and researching!

4th grade: Oh, Destiny…we’ve missed you! Week 1 of a 2 part Review Unit. All students had to sign our school Code of Conduct prior to logging in and using tech this year.


Library lessons: Jan 13-17, 2014

Kindergarten:  Author study – Ezra Jack Keats, week 2.  Story – Hi, Cat!  Goals: recall questions, author/illustrator, TAG sentence stem, Rhyme Time.

A quick review of last week’s story and characters, and we were off!

Questions with Hi, Cat!

  • Willie and the cat are on this page with no words.  What do you think will happen?  Why do you think this – what do you know about dogs and cats?  (making inferences)
  • Where do you think the cat lives?

We continue to use TAG-inspired sentence stems to promote deeper thinking of our stories.  This week, they worked with “I like when __________”, and gave some amazing answers: “I like when the cat licked the ice cream off Archie’s face.”, “I like when Willie chased the cat.” “I like when Willie was on Peter’s head.”

2nd grade: A booktalk/shelf-talk as each class entered the library (a different series for each class).  A mini-lesson followed on finding the right library neighborhood (E, FIC, nonfiction) and using the author’s last name.  Then, Readolutions!  I realized that only students in 1st and 4th grades created readolutions in their classrooms, so I decided to have a week dedicated to goal-setting.


We talked about a resolution is as a group, then I introduced the idea of a readolution.  I had an example that I shared to the group:  I will read at least one chapter book each week.  I will also write a short summary of the book.  My readolution was both specific and reasonable, which is what I expected from them.  Classes brainstormed ideas for readolutions, and we discovered that the phrase “at least” was empowering.

Before setting them off to work, I explained what would happen with the readolutions: I would type each one, give a list to their teacher and our principal, and put it on each library pass.  With library passes being used each week for check out, this allows each student to see their goal weekly and allows me to quickly check-in with a few kids each week.  (Yes, this is a ton of work.  Yes, I will do it DID IT!)  I checked each readolution when they were finished, looking for specific and reasonable work.  (“Reading more books”, while a good goal, was not acceptable.)

I’m discovering that written work is more palatable when it is in a fun shape (today, hats) and can be colored.  Eventually, the readolution hats will be part of a library display.

3rd grade:  A booktalk, followed by a 10 min lesson on using Destiny to locate a book.  This is a huge weakness I’ve observed: students can use Destiny for everything but finding books.  I focused on two things: what is a call number and why is it useful, modeling how to find the book I just booktalked with Destiny.  I explained that our library is Library City.  A call number is the book’s address: it tells the neighborhood and location.  The best – BEST! – part of this lesson was when a student blurted, “That’s a hashtag.”  A short Twitter diversion later, the lesson was named #callnumber.  Next week, students will use Destiny to practice this skill.

These students also set Readolutions (see above).  I’m so proud of their goal-setting!


Library Lessons: Jan 20-24, 2014

Kindergarten: Author study with Ezra Jack Keats, week 3.  Story – Pet Show!  Goals: open and closed questions, author/illustrator, “neighborhoods of the library” with spine label, Rhyme Time.

The K’s filled in the spine label on the white board today.  After 1/3 of a year, they’ve figured it out!  I explain that our library is like “library city”, and the top of the library tells the “neighborhood” of the book.  Working toward understanding library organization is a big goal, and they’re starting to get it.

Open/Closed questions with Pet Show!

  • Who are the 2 boys that we’ve read about in Goggles! and Hi, Cat!?  Who is the dog?
  • (looking at the cover) It looks like Archie is on the front cover.  Who do you think he’s going to take to the pet show?
  • What kinds of animals do you think will be at the pet show?
  • (after looking at the title page) It says there will be prizes at the pet show.  What could the prize be?
  • Imagine you are Archie.  How would you feel if the old woman got the blue ribbon for the cat with the longest whiskers?
  • Should the old woman give the blue ribbon to Archie?

Keats is now on a 4 week hiatus as we start preparing for our Candace Fleming author visit!

2nd grade: 1. Readolution review – all library passes have individual readolutions, and I will be checking with a handful of students each week.  2. STEM/science connection.  Our school is one of 3 in the district to pilot new STEM/science lessons this year.  These students are working on building bridges in their classroom, so I found a perfect tie-in.  Story – Iggy Peck, Architect.  After reading, students will Ask a Question using the TAG strategy.  I hoped the questions would clarify and/or expand their thinking about building structures. (Thankfully, some did!)


  • (before reading) What is an architect?  (turn and talk, then class share)
  • (midway through story) Iggy’s teacher won’t allow students to build buildings in her class.  Do you have any questions or thoughts or wonders about this?
  • (almost at the end of the story) Iggy, his teacher, and his class are trapped on this island (show illustration).  Imagine that was you with your class.  What would you do?

The follow-up group discussion using TAG – Ask a Question – was outstanding.  The question that fostered the most discussion had to do with the chalk structure that Iggy built on his desk.  How did he build it?  The classes had a great number of ideas, many of which were successfully defeated by other classmates offering thoughts and ideas.  It was a surprising conversation in that most students were focused and thoughtful (which doesn’t happen every week).  Yay!

3rd grade: Readolution review (see above).  Part 2 of using Destiny to locate books in the library.  We reviewed last week’s mini-lesson, and I then modeled the new activity.  Working in teacher-assigned pairs, each group received a photograph of a book covers.  Using Destiny, the pair would type in the title, write down the call number (if it was checked in), then find the book in the correct neighborhood of library city.  One student stayed at the shelf with their hand as the place-marker, and the second brought the book and photograph to me to check.  Once located, groups received a new cover and began the process again.

In short, they LOVE this lesson.  They wanted harder and harder books to find (read: non-fiction), and competed among themselves to find as many as possible.  I didn’t give a set number to locate, though most groups found between 2-4 in the 7 minutes of this activity.

We regrouped as a class prior to check out to do a quick thumbs up/sideways/down assessment on comfort in each step of the process.  I also used the stoplight assessment during/after check-out.  Students were encouraged, but not required, to complete the assessment.  I love this method because it’s fairly quick on every level.  Plus, I get great feedback!

Elementary Library Lessons: Nov 11-15, 2013

Wow.  Time did escape – hard to believe I taught these lessons over 3 weeks ago!  Glad I have pictures to remember what I taught 🙂

Kindergarten:  The last week of our Arthur Howard author / illustrator study.  Goals: to build off last week’s introduction to the I Can Read section of our library, to compare/contrast a single character.  This was the perfect time to share another story featuring Mr. Putter and Tabby (I do love this series!): Mr. Putter and Tabby Catch the Cold.  Before reading, students would come up with one word/phrase to describe Zeke the dog from last week’s story using the sentence stem “Zeke is…”.  After the story, students would use the same sentence stem and compare/contrast Zeke’s behavior.  This is how it looked:

What a great job of coming up with words and phrases to describe Zeke!  I love using these two books specifically because they allow for a great comparison of how a single character can change.

2nd Grade:  This was our last lesson before a two-week library lesson break (bookfair + Thanksgiving).  Goals: give a book show and share, and review/reinforce last week’s introduction to the 000’s in non-fiction via a WCCPBA picture book.  I shared Larf by Ashley Spires, which gave a wonderful chance to talk about purpose: what is the purpose of announcing that a Sasquatch has been sighted?  Is it to bring in an audience…or lure an unsuspecting Sasquatch out of hiding?  Larf is a Sasquatch, it fit right in with the 000’s!  A non-fiction pairing that works great with this book is Tales of the Cryptids by Kelly Milner Halls.

3rd Grade:  Again, this was the last lesson for students before a two-week break.  After 3 weeks learning to access and utilize Destiny, I decided to use this week as a review and assessment (with some digital citizenship talk thrown in).  Goals: informal assessment of login / purpose of friending, introduce privacy settings in Destiny, instruct on lasting footprint of digital decisions.   Oh!  And booktalks!  Especially before break!

WP_20131114_002I informally assessed students with thumbs up/sideways/down. It works like this: I have students listen to my question (“Can you log on to Destiny all by yourself, with no help from Ms. Arika or a friend?”), then have students show me a fist when they have their answer.  When I say GO, students show either a thumbs-up (YES!), thumbs-sideways (SOMETIMES), or thumbs-down (NO).  I have them show me their thumbs for about 3 seconds.  Having them hold their thumb in their fist while the rest of the class decides how to answer has given more honest, truthful answers.  The big question this week was on the purpose of friends – we had a reteaching opportunity after only 50% of each class could say they knew why having friends was useful in Destiny.

And since we had a bit of time…during the last 5+ minutes of our learning time, I shared a clip from the Scholastic Book Fairs video, as next week the book fair would be in the library.  Fun!