Monday, December 28, 2015

Calling All Teachers! Find Your Motivation... Your Students Deserve it.

The Holidays are coming to a close and the weather is entering it's "less-pleasant" phase. Though I love my job, jumping out of bed, full of excitement can be difficult to do this time of year. 

However, I will be entering 2016 without excuses. My students deserve better than a teacher with a Holiday spirit hangover or a case of the weather grumps. 

My students deserve a teacher that is as excited to come back to school as they are. My students want to know what new and interesting things we will learn about. My students deserve a teacher that is focused on student engagement and innovative learning. Your students do too.

Finding that motivation can be intimidating. However, it can be much easier than you think. Here are 6 quick ways that I get my educational groove back:

1. Find Your Tribe

If you have heard the fabulous Kristin Ziemke speak lately, you have heard her talk about her tribe. Your tribe is your group of people that inspire you, motivate you, challenge you, and excite you. You trust them and they trust you. 
In education, your tribe members can be next door to you or hundreds of miles away. While some of my tribe is in my district,  I choose to have most of my tribe come from many locations so that I can be inspired by people who hear and see education differently than I do. 

I have found my tribe through conferences, classroom visits, twitter chats, edcamps, and daily hallway conversations.  

Your tribe can help you through almost any jam but most importantly, you realize that you aren't the only one with these "crazy" thoughts about education. 

Call to action: Go to your prefered social media outlet and interact with an educator that inspires you. #somethingnewedu

2. Try Something New

If you are like me, you begin each school year with a long list of amazing new tools and ideas to implement with your new group of kiddos. 

Again, if you are like me, that list is sitting on the top of your desk with very few items crossed off. Well, it's time to dive in and cross another one of those items off. Feeling ambitious? Try to tackle two items. 

For me, I tackled my first one over break and am really excited about it. I created an easy, streamlined Pinterest board for my families and fellow teachers. 

You can follow me here:

The second item I would like to tackle is a way for students to recommend books for each other. I'm still working through pieces in my head though. I can't decide if I would like them to write it on their blogs, someplace a little more visual like our board, or just a quick post-it note to a buddy. When my students and I return, I will pose this situation to them and get their feedback as well. 

Call to Action: Leave a comment below or tweet it out. What will you try in the 2nd half of the year? #somethingnewedu

3. "I'm listening to a freaking TED talk!"

Wait... am I the only one who has screamed that at her husband as he interrupted her precious TED Talk time? 

You know how it is... You are pacing around your kitchen, listening to your favorite Ted Talk. You are not sure how you got there, you know you are not cooking anything. However, it seems as if the speaker is talking directly to you and reading your mind. Then your husband walks in and asks who you are talking to and shouting at. Gosh! Can't he see that I'm in my zone!

Oh, maybe it's just me...

TED Talks are a fabulous way to regain your motivation and learn about some very interesting speakers. They are short, sweet, and to the point about innovative teaching and learning. 
Here is a great link to some seriously inspirational TED Talks.
 TED Talks from Inspiring Teachers

TED Talks - Re-imagining School

Call to Action: Listen to one and comment about it below or Tweet about it. #somethingnewedu

4. Clean

This is an easy one. I know you... I know how teachers are... We are all the same...
We see that pile of crap on the counter and think to ourselves, "Now, If I can just make it to Winter Break, I can sort through that pile then."

It's true. We only have so much time in our day. I choose to focus on student-centered tasks during school hours and teacher-centered tasks on my time. So, all of my grading is done at home or after school so that I can take the time to comment in their observation notebooks or pick the perfect guided reading books for the next week. Cleaning is obviously pretty far down on that list. 

However, remember when the year started? The day before the students came? The room was spotless and organized. Remember how good that felt? Remember how you knew that this year was the year that you would actually keep it that way? Well, now is your chance to get back on track! Go in and clean. It will be worth it. 
B.S. (Before Students 2015-2016)

Call to Action: Tweet out a picture of your newly cleaned classroom. Even better, try and before and after shot! Those are SO satisfying. #somethingnewedu

5. Connect With Your Students

I can't 100% distance myself from my sweet students while on break. I choose not to, I suppose. My students have one shot at 2nd grade and it is my job to make it the best that it can possibly be. So, to say that I am going to turn it off for 2 weeks is not possible. My mind is always going. 

Well, why not get the minds of your students going as well. Each break, I invite my students to stay connected with each other through our Kidblogs. They can blog casually about their daily happenings or participate in one of our challenges. This is our current classroom challenge:


Kidblog not an option for you? Try something different like Today's Meet or Padlet. It still offers you a way to stay connected but it is a bit more casual and those options are free. You will be surprised at how much your students have to say and how motivated they are when they return to school. 

Call to Action: Leave a comment or tweet about how you connect with your students or plan to. #somethingnewedu

6. Finally, Read a Good Book...Then Read Another. 

Take this time to find yourself as a reader again. Read a classic, try something new, reread a favorite, or a great trashy novel if you wish. Anything that reminds you of what it feels like to get lost is a great book and how impossible it is to put it down. Not only will this be fun and enjoyable but it will make you a better reading teacher as well. It will remind you of why you enjoy reading and help you guide your students that way as well. For me, I am rereading the first Babysitter's Club book.  It was the first chapter book that I read and it made 10 year old me (a hater of school and all things involved) love to read. I need to find this piece for some of my students as well. 

Now that I have you motivated to read, think about the stack of professional books that you have been dying to put your nose it. My stack is getting higher by the minute. Take this time to dive into one of those books that you wanted the day is was released (Amplify), the book that you purchased after hearing an amazing speaker (Invent to Learn and Passionate Learners), the book that you ordered after meeting the author at an EdCamp (Learn like a Pirate), or the one that will help guide you toward conquering a tricky subject area (The Reading Strategies Book). The amount of professional books out there can be overwhelming. Try ones that you know will speak to you directly and authors that you trust, know, and respect. When you are able to picture them saying the words that they have written, the book will become one of your staples. 

My Current Must-Read (or finish reading) List:

Amplify by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke
Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez
Passionate Learners by Pernille Ripp - Join her Facebook Book Club Here
Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz
The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serrevallo 

Call to Action: Tell us what you are reading! #somethingnewedu

I hope that you find something from this list that works for you and your students. 

I would love to hear from you. 
What gets you ready for the 2nd half of the year?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mrs. Bright on Pinterest

Shiny Object! 

This is how my brain works when I am working on a new blog post. Something that should take me just a few hours, ends up taking me days. 

It all started when I set out to start a post on finding the motivation to dominate the 2nd half of the school year. One of my five points will be "Try Something New". 

Well, while writing about trying something new, I became motivated to... Try Something New!

So I would like to share with you my new Family and Teacher centered Pinterest Board. 

I would like to offer my families and fellow teachers a resource that allows for a stronger school-to-home connection. 

I would like to offer my families the opportunity to find great books to enjoy, get inspired by amazing science projects, and just try something new!

Please feel free to follow or share. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Feeling the Need for Better Professional Development? Get Out!

Sounds harsh, doesn't it?

No, I don't mean get out of the profession... However, haven't we all sat through a PD session that was either mandated or just simply something that didn't meet your needs? You get sleepy, grumpy and various other versions of the 7 dwarfs. 

That is because you are not challenging yourselves or being challenged by others. 

Sound familiar?  We make this argument when talking about our students. 

Am I challenging them enough?
Why aren't they engaged?
How else could I present this?

We need to start thinking about our own education in this way. With the surge of social media sites like Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Facebook being used by teachers, we are connected like never before. We no longer have to rely on the local university or our own districts for our PD. 

So, when I say "Get Out!", I mean it. 

Get out of your building.

Get out of your area.

Get out of your comfort zone.

It is time to hear what is happening in education from our growing and vocal educator community. 

"Getting out" has not only changed how I view quality professional development and how I collaborate but it has totally changed me as a teacher. 

I now understand what kind of learner I truly am and how to foster that within myself. 

So... do you need to get out?

Well, lucky for you it's EdCamp season!  The perfect time for you to get out and hear from some amazing educators and realize your voice is so important to the future of our profession.


EdCamps and PlayDates are free and put on for teachers by teachers. You are the focus and an essential part of the learning day. 

I encourage you to find one of these great PD sessions in your area and encourage your educator-friends to travel with you. 
My PLN representing at #SAMRiCamp

#Playdate Chicago

Explain to them how cool it will be to play with the coolest ed tools!

Tell your friends how amazing it will be to bring this new learning back to your students!

Be careful though... you might even have a lot of fun! 

Rocking our Faux Google Glass at the EdCamp After Party

Chicago area friends, I highly encourage you to check out the amazing FREE PD opportunities that are heading our way. 

EdCamp Illinois

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Maple School
Northbrook, Il

EdCamp Chicago
(I'll be there! Let's Tweet Up!)

EdCamp Chicago Fall Edition

Libertyville High School

Saturday, September 26, 2015

 SAMRi Camp
(One of my Favorites! You will definately see me there.)

Details Coming Soon

Downer's Grove

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Please tell me... Where do you go when you need to Get Out?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tech Savvy in Primary

My students and I will innovate.

My students and I will redefine our learning environment.

My students and I will remove the 4 walls of our classroom. 

My students and I will infuse technology in our day to take our learning to the next level. 

The start of the year is the time of year when setting up routines is so important.  The first few weeks can make or break a school year. We, as teachers, painstakingly help our students build their reading stamina, discuss the writing process and show them all of their writing tools and choices, and review math skills from the previous year to help prep them for new information. 

Are we doing the same with the technology tools in our rooms? 
Not always.

When I think of a parent, administrator or fellow teacher walking into my room, I don't want them to say,

"Look at the students using technology!" 

I want them to say, 

"There is amazing learning going on in this room. Oh, and they are using technology to help with that." 

The learning should always come first in the conversation and the tech should come second.

However, to make that happen, you have to include it in part of your routine. You have to put in the time to get the reward of a smooth, tech-infused classroom. 

My tech infusion philosophy: Technology should be a tool that your kids use to help elevate the level of their learning. Just as your students grab for a pencil or pen when they need one, they should see their tech device as a tool to use when needed and when it makes sense. Students should not see the device as a place for games but instead as a place for creativity and information sharing. 

In my classroom, you WILL see:

  • students focusing on a few creative-based apps.
  • some students choosing to use devices and some choosing to accomplish their goals in other ways. 
  • students collaborating and actively discussing their current projects.
  • clean and organized iPad screens so students can easily find what they are looking for. 
  • iPads that contain a 10-12 apps. 
  • iPads being used in reading, writing, math and science. 
  • iPads that are not being used. 

In my classroom, you WILL NOT see:
  • an app specifically for each subject area or center. 
  • students "plugged in" and not talking to each other.
  • students always using devices at the same time. 
  • students spending time looking for apps. 
  • iPads filled with apps.
  • iPads being used in centers only.
  • iPads always being used every minute of our day.

To help get our tech infusion going quickly and efficiently, I follow up our Digital Citizenship Boot Camp with an App Boot Camp. During this App Boot Camp, we go over the five apps and few web- based tools that we will use all year. These tools can be used at anytime and in any subject area. 

I don't want to spend our time going over apps that do just one thing, like a spelling app or flashcard app. I would prefer my students become experts at these 5 creative apps and use them to accomplish their goal.

So, it's time to pick your 5 favorites!

Here are my 5 favorites:

1. Drawing Pad - great multi-function drawing app  - $1.99
2. ScreenChomp - perfect for explaining thoughts - free
3. Pic Collage - nice presentation and organization tool - free
4. iMovie - the best movie making app out there - free
5. QR Reader - needed for getting information to students - free

A Few Web Tools:
1. Today's Meet - backchannel resource for sharing thoughts - free
2. Padlet - great place to hold and share information - free
3. KidBlog - our go-to location for our academic portfolio - $29.99 

In the next few weeks, my students and I will be showing you why these apps are just right for us and the many great features of these apps. 

What apps or web tools are in your top 5? 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Message We Send in the First 3 Days

The jitters, the excitement, the nausea, the anticipation...

All of these are feelings that teachers, administrators, parents and students are feeling prior to the start of the school year. 

I am lucky to have a job that has a start and an end date. Not because I am anxious for it to be over, but because I am anxious for it to start. How many people can say that, without fail, their jobs re-motivated them and challenge them to become better each and every year? My job is never the same and is constantly changing. Therefore, I am never the same and I constantly change. 

As teachers, we think about the next year constantly. Whether it be after a particularly tricky unit where we say, "I will be doing this differently next year." Or when we learn something new and decide to make it a part of our class, "next year". The "next year" is always in our thoughts. 

Well, that "next year" is upon us and it is time for us to put all of those jittery feeling aside and decide how we are going set the tone for the new year. 

My first 3 days have come and gone. As always, I reflect on how everything can be improved or celebrated. 

In my reflections, I asked myself...

What impression have I left on my students in the first 3 days?

What will they remember about the first 3 days?

What did I hope to impart on them in the first 3 days?

In thinking about this, I want you to picture yourself walking through a school during the first 3 days. You can be in any role you wish, parent, student, teacher, administrator, community member...

What do you want to see and hear? 
What would fill your heart with joy?
What would tell you that you are in the right place?

Would it be laughing and giggling during team-building activities?

Or maybe students sitting quietly, listening to expectations and rules?

How about seeing study carrels up while a 2 hour pre-test is being administered?

What about silent lines of kids being lead through the halls?

Or could it be students happily greeting former teachers and old friends?

Would you see students enjoying the newest picture books together?

In my opinion, rules and expectations will come and be understood, data points will be collected and entered. But does it have to happen in the first 3 days?

Don't get me wrong. Students will push boundaries and need reminders about what appropriate school behavior feels like. However, that will happen regardless of when you drill the expectations into their minds. I would rather my students understand my philosophies on our classroom experience and learning journey. I don't want them to go home and think school is all about rules and tests. 

During the first 3 days, I want to be able to stand in the hallway, any hallway, and hear laughing and learning taking place. I want my students to be excited to come back the next day. 

Yes, it will be a bit loud and messy but great learning isn't quiet and controlled. Great learning is approached with excitement, energy and respect for everyone's ideas. 

So... I ask you to reflect on your first three days.

Have you set up a school environment that fosters great learning and  that you would want to come to as a child?

*I have been pondering this topic since reading one of Pernille Ripp's blog posts this summer. My husband and I were traveling and I was getting caught up on Twitter while he was driving. I came across her article on the first few moments of school and it stuck with me. Pernille, thank you for the inspiration.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Digital Citizenship - Time for Bootcamp

The new year is almost upon us. If you are like me, you are starting to think about those routines that need to be taught and understood to make the room run like clockwork. You are thinking of things like how to put books away, where do your lunches go, appropriate carpet expectations...

However, are you thinking about those technology and device routines? Done correctly, this can change the way your students view their learning this year.

 Let's face it, we all know many adults that could use a lesson or two on this. These adults likely did not have direct instruction on how to be a good digital citizen or the consequences of their digital actions. 

Imagine a world where people thought about their actions before they hit send or only posted things they were really proud of. It sounds amazing, doesn't it? Well, we can help make that happen. 

Something that is essential but often overlooked is a serious conversation about digital citizenship. This is not something to be glossed over or shortened due to time. Just as we would not overlook fire safety instructions, we should not overlook internet safety expectations.

In today's world, we are doing a disservice to our students if digital citizenship conversations are not part of our school environment.  I discuss digital citizenship in two ways with my students:

1. Proper Device Procedure and Care
Part of being a great digital citizen in our room starts with caring for our expensive tools in the proper way. We talk about how to hold and travel with the devices, what the purpose is for the device and what not to have around the device (snacks, food...). Once we have established this as part of our classroom expectations, we move onto the next step.

2. Safety, Accountability and Thoughtfulness
I talk with the student about the internet being a powerful thing. We can visit places in the world that we might not otherwise be able to visit. It can help us connect with people we may never meet face-to-face. It allows us to learn in a way that I wasn't able to when I was little. 

We talk about how going on the internet is like going on a field trip. It will be an amazing experience but certain safety rules apply. 

These are the rules we follow:

We discuss and experiment with these expectations during our week long Digital Citizenship Boot Camp.

Here is an outline of that week:

Monday: We start our week by talking about our new vocabulary words: Internet, Website and Online. The goal is for the students to understand and use these words appropriately. We achieve this by talking about how they have heard these words used before, illustrating their meaning and using them in conversation.

On websites, you can buy things. 
Tuesday: Breaking down the 4 walls of our classroom can be fun but also stressful for the teacher. The students need to know how the internet will be used in our room and what rules to follow. We spend time practicing our Internet Safety Rules by using the San Diego Zoo for Kids website. As a class we determine if it is student appropriate or not. They ultimately decide that it is. Then I have them practice asking me if they can use this site. Once we have this routine practiced, they get time to explore this site with a buddy. 

Wednesday: The Stoplight Game is my favorite. Students take a few quick minutes to color a red, yellow and green circle. These stand for (R) "Stop, this is not for me! I need to tell a grown-up.", (Y) "I'm not quite sure and I should ask." and (G) "This is a great choice for me".

I give the students possible scenarios and ask them to hold up the color that they think belongs to the scenario.

Sample Scenarios:

  • My teacher gave me a great website about sharks to visit. (G)
  • This site is great but it has some unusual ads. (Y)
  • Someone I don't know just tried to chat with me! (R)
  • I found a new website and I don't really understand it. (Y)
  • My mom and I are researching new plants for my garden. We found a website together. (G)
  • Mrs. Bright e-mailed a link to my mom. (G)
  • I'm at a friends house and he wants to visit a site that I'm not allowed to go on. (R)
  • I found a site that is not kid friendly. (R)

Thursday: Once we have our rules established, it is time to really have fun! I talk to the students about how we will be doing a lot of online communication this year. We will be commenting on the twitter accounts of other classrooms. We will be commenting on our friends blogs. We will be responding to questions and comments from the teacher. Before we start this, we need to learn the proper way to comments. We start by watching this video from Comments4Kids

Once we have discussed the video, we give it a try. Find a fellow blogger have your class compose a comment together.  Feel free to use my classroom blog:

Friday: Last but not least, we need to personalize our experience. We have watched an amazing video on how to comment but it doesn't quite feel like our style. So... Let's make our own! As a class, we brainstormed our way in our own language and came up with this:

Now that the learning is authentic and they have ownership over their ideas, buddy them up and share a blog with them. Ask them to comment using our new expectations. Your blogging buddy class will really appreciate the comments from their friends. 

*Many of my ideas were insprired by

Now, this is certainly not the last time we will discuss internet safety and digital citizenship. However, it does give us a common understanding for the rest of the years reinforcement and conversation. 

Please remember...

Please consider following me to read my next blog post on:
 Tech Savvy Primary Learners - How to Build the Tech Base

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Powerful Primary

I am proud to be a teacher and I love my job. 

I am immensely proud to be a primary teacher and I LOVE my job.

However, sometimes I wonder... "Can I handle the pressure?"

Think about that...
I can change everything!
You can change everything!
That is our superpower.

Primary teachers are reminded of this every time we meet with a new group of students. They are so moldable, so easily influenced. Often times, the students will take on our mannerisms and catchphrases. I can't count the times that my students said, "That blows my mind!" with their hands exploding near their heads (my signature move). Often times, they become little "mini-me's".

We are also  reminded of this every time we have a student whose data points aren't where they should be. We are reminded of this when we see our students desperately ask for help from home and receive none. 

However, most importantly, we are reminded of this when our students achieve far more than we ever dreamed they could. 

The pressure of this superpower is heavy. As a primary teacher, I have the opportunity to change everything about how my students see their entire school career.  I am their "make it or break it" teacher. 

My decisions can change the path of a child's life.

I'm not sure about you but that sits heavily on my shoulders everyday. I can feel it but I can't lift it off, I can't shake it. I can feel their data points. I can feel their parent's concerns. I can feel the incorrect answers and lack of understanding. I can feel my own shortcomings. 

I try my hardest to help my students and parents solve their problems, answer their questions and improve their scores. 

However, the one thing that sits heaviest of all, the one that I'm so worried I will forget... helping my students build the love of learning. 

Primary teachers are tasked with not only teaching and helping students master the standards but also the rarely talked about standards... wonder and creativity.

I hope and like to believe that everyone finds a teacher that inspires them, drives them to be better versions of themselves and teaches them the incredible life skills of wonder and creativity. Wonder and creativity are the building blocks for any successful job or passion. 

I found my inspirational teacher in high school, as many of us do. Mr. Schmink, my band director, challenged me to try new things and be a better version of myself. I have also found this inspiration in many of my teacher-friends and continue to work hard to follow my passion and become a better version of me. 

Now imagine if I would have found this inspirational teacher at the age of 5, 6 or 7.

Would I have still dreaded going to school for most of my academic career? 
Would I still have been marked as a struggling learner?
Would I still be insecure and intimidated by collegiate studies as a successful adult? 

I would like to think that I wouldn't. I would like to think that if I had an inspirational primary teacher, like the one I strive to be, that I would have become a confident and creative learner.

That is what drives me. I, and we, have the huge responsibility to help create a love of learning in each child we teach. Yes, we will teach the standards and assess our students but what good are data points if they are partnered with students who hate to come to school?

I want my students to jump out of bed, excited to come to school everyday. 

I want my students share their ideas for our learning day. 
I want my students to share their own learning with confidence and excitement. 
I want my students to light their academic fire. 

How will I do this?
I will build active learning into our day through questioning and discovery. 
I will remove the 4 walls of my classroom by helping my students connect and learn globally. 
I will make learning fun and engaging. 
I will love them.
I will trust them. 

They will know they are cared for and thought about. 

As we all begin to prepare for our new group of students, I challenge you to reflect on your teaching practices and the faces of the students in your room. 

These are the questions I will ask myself each day to help create lifelong learners. 

To help keep myself accountable and share my findings with others, I will be documenting my journey through this blog. We owe it to each other, in this challenging profession, to share our struggles and successes. That is how we learn. 

What do you want for your students in the 2015-2016 school year?