If you teach writing, you know what I am talking about. That time when, in rapid succession, each student's drafting comes to a screeching halt because they need a conference before they are ready to publish. At this juncture, it is critical that you have something engaging, but manageable for the students to work on independently as they wait for their turn to conference.
I have an "I Need a Writing Conference" station set up where the children can place their "sticks" in a basket to indicate that they are waiting to see me. This is a new system for me, and I love it. However, it only works because I make sure I have LOTS of "waiting" work prepared in advance for my students.
Learning websites come in very handy at times like these. Sites like First in Math and Spelling City can provide hours of differentiated practice, and the kids love the programs. If you have enough computers and the kids can access these learning sites independently, you'll can buy yourself plenty of uninterrupted conferencing time. But, we all know kids aren't always totally adept at entering URL's into a computer address bar.
I have found a new way to circumvent the barrage of ("I Can't get on the website.") interruptions that can potentially derail a really good one-on-one writing conference. My newest lifesaving technology is called Symbaloo. Symbaloo is a customizable start page tool that lets users add all their most important links in a format that is easy to use. Symbaloo is a software application that enables learners to organize, integrate and share online content in one setting or Personal Learning Environment (PLE). The platform also allows educators to create mixes of tailored resources and share these mixes with students. Mine looks like this:
Each tile is a link to a site I have placed on the page. I have the option of adding and deleting tiles on an on-going basis, and I can lock the tiles in place so that other users can not change or edit my page. You can use Symbaloo for free. Check it out at www.symbaloo.com.
In this instance, the free service was not exactly what I was looking for. I wanted the ease and additional control that comes with a paid premium account. For just $34.99 a year, I get these advantages:
If you want to see SymbalooEDU in action, check out my "branded solution" at room202.symbaloo.com. Right now, my start page is set up with the general learning sites we use in class, but I am already envisioning how to customize tiles for independent research in the content areas, and how I can use the platform to enhance summer reading for my students. The possibilities are endless.