Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sharing What Works: Symbaloo

I had this issue this school year. As many of you know, I work with students with autism in middle school. My students' academic abilities are not that of typical middle schoolers. So, a lot of things in the school that are set up for 12,13, and 14 year olds doesn't work the same as in my classroom. In this way I envy elementary teachers because there isn't such a large gap between students in regular education and special education (well usually). Not saying elementary teachers have it any easier then I do, elementary teachers are the reason that my students have made the the progress they have that I can work on even more complex skills!

 Anyways, so I had this problem. I tried to create ways for my students to be as independent as possible while all the adults in the room worked with students one on one or in small groups. Let me tell you coming up with things to do that were meaningful and not just busy work was not as easy as it sounded. Of course I have my wonderful work task system with the manipulatives that I have been showing you the last couple weeks but, I wanted more then that. I wanted many different outlets to practice skills that we had been working on.

So, I thought  to mylself that my students love technology. So, could I possibly come up with a way for them to be independent using the computer? Now for about half of my students giving them a website and having them type it into a Google search is no biggie and once shown a handful of times how to navigate the website to go where I want them to go is no problem. My problem was the other half of my students that loved technology but, had little skills in knowing how to use it. Of course, in middle school this is unheard of to have a pre-teen or teenager not know how to sign on to a computer, search on Google and go!

 I started by talking with the resident technology guru in my building about how to make it easier for my students to choose what they wanted to do and with one click they would be there. Let's just say that my tech guru was a lifesaver, like super cherry flavored! He had this website that had a way to show multiple websites in icon form (so the visuals were there) and all on one page so that my students could know their choices and click and go. The other best thing about it was I could customize it to get the websites that I wanted on there to show up. You can mess with font size, background colors and all the fancy things you want. You can decide where the symbols go on the page and everything.


 Alright, I've been dragging you through this post trying to build the exact same excitement that I had when I saw this. The website is Symbaloo !  I am not being compensated to share my thoughts on this resources I just love it that much that I wanted to share it!


All you have to do is set up a free account and then make it to custom fit your students and their needs. I'm not going to go into great detail about each item I have but, some of them I haven't heard anyone else in a blog talk about so I figured I'd share. Some items that I have on my Symbaloo are:

  • Joey's Locker- This is part of News-2-You that has games and interactive books and lessons. 

  • Reflex Math- This is a math program that I earned a grant for last year that helps students practice fluency with all their math facts. It has a way to keep data and see student progress. It does cost per student to get it for your classroom. If you have a small number of students that could benefit from it though it might be nice to have. I'm debating on asking my district to buy it for some of my students because it was a great addition to my classroom this year. I know there are other good resources for math facts that are free out there but, I couldn't turn down something free!

  • Seussville-  When we did our weekly News-2-You on Read Across America I made sure that this was a choice for my students to explore! 

  • Tumblebooks-  This is something that my local library offers. Check yours out to see if you can use it too! They have audible books that students can listen to. The nice thing is that it is not just all stories for younger kids there are chapter books too! There are also games that are related to the books that your students can play. 
Others that you probably know:

So, what I do to have this set up for my students that need the extra support is I have one of my higher functioning students type in the url to Symbaloo each morning as part of their morning jobs so that each computer has this up by the time any student needs to use it. Your other option is to set it up yourself or have a paraprofessional do it too!

Really the possibilities of this resource is endless! This is not just a gem for special education teachers but all teachers could use this! I know in my building since the rest of the teachers are one subject area only they create Symbaloo pages with websites that are based on their content area.

Please check this out! I'm positive you won't regret it! It has been such a big help in getting my kids to use technology more independently and make my classroom run even smoother.


9 comments:

  1. I use Symbaloo, too, and it's definitely a great resource not only for students, but also for teachers. I have collected a bunch of boards on my pinterest site: http://www.pinterest.com/jannikej/symbaloo/. No sense in reinventing the wheel if there's a board out there already that you can use.

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  2. Oooo! Good idea, never even thought of that!

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  3. That's awesome! I bet you might even be ale to set it as the homepage so it opens up when you click chrome, or whatever the browser is? Do you have to sign in every time though?

    This would be great to use for a classroom on a smart board too I bet! Students could then come up and choose the website the class would go to. Now I just need to get a smart board :)

    Thanks for all of the website suggestions! Can't wait to check some of them out!
    Breezy Special Ed

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  4. Yeah, I really like it. You don't have to sign in. If you copy the url address you can just type it in every time. Then eventually your browser will save it for you. I bet you could make it your home page. That would be much easier! I know I can't save anything like desktop items on my computers for my students and this was the problem solver! (So annoying..) Yes, that would be good for the smartboard!

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  5. I am in -l-o-v-e love with symbaloo. I have it set up that whenever i open google chrome it is the first page that i see! I have many webmixers saved that i got from Jannike Johnsen pintrests (Thank you by the way). I am also making a webmixer for each student. My vision is to target 4 of their IEP goals and that each corner of their webmixer are websites that are associated with their IEP goal. Each student will also have a choice/free time webmixer.
    I tried it on the Smartboard, one word, Amazing :)
    How are others using symbaloo for their students?

    Thank you for sharing :)

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  6. That is a great idea to make one for each student then you can hone in to what each student is capable of doing and not have websites on for other students that they may click on by accident. Also, LOVE the IEP goal idea too, totally going to work on this for my students next year! Let me know if you find any good websites that I may have missed...

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  7. I love this tool! I'm always looking for worthwhile resources to share with the teachers I work with. We have so many students who need to be independent and using Symbaloo is definitely one way to start. We already use board maker icons for student schedules and communication boards. I have a feeling that if we add a touch screen it will give students more accessibility to using websites independently. Great idea to use the Smartboard. Our teachers all have them and students love to use them. Thank you so much for all resources you have made available.

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    1. Great insight Karen! Thanks for checking out my blog and thanks for reading!

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  8. Thanks for poppin' over to my blog, Jenn. It was good reading another idea for how I could use Symbaloo in my classroom. My teacher friend and I were thinking that we could hopefully set it as our homepage so we could easily have access to all our most-used resources.
    :) Sarah from Mrs. Jones Teaches

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