A Second a Day

A Second a Day

Photography reflections tips

Sunday Sit, Sip, and “Sync” ~ 6-16-2013

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

Shannon and I began taking a picture and posting it every single day starting on January 1, 2010. We posted our collective images here and wrote about it here.

I couldn’t stop.
And so I continued to take pictures and post them in my attempt to collect and keep my memories.

Then, sometime this April, I posted a link on Facebook to this video by James Bernal. 

I was captivated by it, and proclaimed that I knew exactly what I was going to do next year instead of my 365 Project.

The comments under the Facebook post encouraged me to start now,
and to not wait until January 1.

I looked closer into the project and found the TED Talk and the originator of the idea behind the project. I watched Cesar Kuriyama’s audition video and decided right then to begin.

Kuriyama’s final project looked different than the original Bernal film I watched.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of background music.

Although I loved the “film score” of the Bernal film,
I wanted to preserve the sounds of my memories along with the images.

So, on May 3rd, I began collecting second-long clips of my life.
It has been different than my photos.
The film clips are more about experiences, than photography,
and as a result, more about the memory than the image.
The most difficult part was keeping it down to a second.
Some things just need more time to be remembered.
And that is very alright.
It is my project.
I did decide to continue the 365 photography project,
and to combine the two each day as separate experiences.

I was asked to offer a “preview” of my video with the month of May,
which is shared below.

I don’t know if I will “publish” my project each month separately,
or save it as an annual film.
Regardless, it has absolutely pushed me to do more, plan more, and look forward to each day a little more.

Shannon and I have presented this project in our most recent workshops,
and have suggested that this might be a wonderful way for teachers to preserve the memories of each year for themselves and for their students. They might even have their students decide which seconds are “film-worthy”.

1secondAdayAnd there is an “app for that”.
It’s free.

So with this post,
we encourage you to begin today and to take a second to save a memory,
whether it is one second, or more,
of this Father’s Day,
and to make a promise to make each day just a little more memorable.



Reinvention vs. Resolutions

reflections tips

Sunday Sit, Sip, and “Sync” ~ 12-18-2011

Only one more week.

A short week.

You can do it.

I took two subbing jobs last week, and I felt your pain.
Indoor recesses + Christmas programs + Christmas Season + a “Sub” = Ugghh!

So, let’s move on and look ahead.

I’m going to share two sites that might give you something to think about and possibly motivate you to get through the next couple of weeks.

One of them has become my “friend”, but the “Day Zero Guys” have added a “new twist”.

Day Zero was a site I shared with you back on October 3rd. I created my “Bucket List” and have been slowly adding to it, checking things off of it, and it has kept me focused on so many goals. Some, I admit, are frivolous, but some are very, very important. I have kept my “List” open to share with others, and that has helped me stay accountable.

Now Day Zero has added “7 Things X 2012”.
Rather than the standard resolutions,
Day Zero suggests seven goals for the new year and a platform to share those goals with others.

The seven areas that they suggest are:

  • learning something new,
  • developing a new habit,
  • breaking an old habit,
  • taking a vacation (maybe someplace different?),
  • searching for something (possibly something new in your life?),
  • trying something new, and
  • improving a personal characteristic.

I am very task/goal-orientated, and this is something I would definitely share with my students. It seems that by the time we return from our holiday break, the New Year has begun and it feels too late to begin personal goals. This site might give students something to think about over their break, and a way to share the personal goals they have set for themselves.

The lessons we teach in our classrooms aren’t always about academics.

The second site is “The Daily Nudge”.
This is a free site without advertisements that promises to help you make changes by emailing you daily reminders to stay the course.

“Change takes time and repetition, like drops of water changing stone.”

Hopefully, these ideas will give you a fresh way to view the New Year as you close your classroom doors this week to join your families in celebrating the holiday season.

I’m going to do the same as I “unplug” and focus on Christmas and family.
With that, Shannon and I want to wish all of you the very best Holiday Season filled with priceless memories and for those traveling, a safe journey.


App Review iPad2 reflections tips workshops

Not Just Another App

Last spring I was asked to check out a couple of apps from a local company called Spinlight Studios.
AlphaTots and TallyTots.
I did.

Now, I’ll be honest.

I have absolutely NO personal background in teaching early elementary.

I filed the apps in the back of my mind, but retrieved them during workshops as suggestions for early elementary educators.
They were good.
Just not the kind of apps to which I could relate.

Then came TableTots,
an app by this same company that was released this week.

I downloaded the day it was released,
and I immediately became the “Spinlight Studio” stalker.

I emailed Spinlight Studios to let them know how excited I was about the app.
I played with it a little more,
and I called Mom to tell her to download it immediately.

I emailed the company again to back up my initial thoughts with more exciting praise.

I know what you are all thinking…

Mom and I have been downloading and playing with apps for use in the educational setting for quite some time now.

We are pretty selective when it comes to apps that we add to our presentations.

I must say, this one is a “no-brainer”.

TableTots immediately went to the “Top 10” portion of our workshop.
This app is the first app I have seen that allows teachers to use the iPad for interactive INSTRUCTION.
Effective interactive instruction, I might add.

Don’t get me wrong.
We are pretty creative girls who can turn almost anything into a learning experience for kids.

Can anyone say Virtual Bubblewrap for number patterns?

“Autotunes” and the Gettysburg Address?

But, what we have encountered is a slew of educational apps designed to review specific, individual skills, many in a Q&A format followed by some sort of game or incentive.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Quite frankly, that might be all that a handful of students needs to motivate and reinforce a skill with which they are struggling.

THAT, however, does not represent the style of teaching we advocate using on a regular basis.
TableTots DOES reflect our style of teaching…
and learning.

This app starts with a “Table” which reminds me of a “placemat” for the iPad.
At least that is what popped into my head as I was playing.
There are quite a few of these from which to choose, which is fantastic.

Mom and I love to mix it up!

After you choose your table, you move on to the type of manipulative you want to use.
Letters, numbers, shapes, money, place value pieces, or dominoes.
Are you seeing the potential here?

Once you choose your manipulatives,
you can start teaching and interacting with your students.
Allow the kids to come up with problems and solutions of their own.
Customize it for YOUR curriculum, the skills YOU need to teach!

What a concept!

Honestly, the sky is the limit with this app.
There are so many applications that can be used for DIFFERENTIATED instruction.

Take for example, sorting coins.
Beginners could sort the coins by size,
while higher achieving students could combine the sorting into different amounts of money.
Even higher achieving students could create money math problems using these manipulatives.

I love the versatility!
Go download it…
and no, I am not getting paid for this review.

Instead, the Spinlight Studio Staff,
(I love alliteration…yes, I am a geek),
might be in the process of acquiring a restraining order.

Just sayin’.

More Than a Bucket List…

Blog reflections tips

Monday Morning Message ~ 10-3-2011

On the Home Page:

“The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal.
The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”
Benjamin E. Mays

For all of you “task/goal oriented people”, this is the to-do list to end all to-do lists.

is a project that allows you to set 101 personal goals to be accomplished in 1001 days. That is 2.75 years taking you over several seasons that include multiple “teacher breaks”. The best part is that you can find other lists and suggestions that provide inspirational, motivational, and creative suggestions to add to your list.

Never mind the fact that, as I look at other people’s goals,
I gain some feeling of satisfaction knowing how much I have actually accomplished in my life.

Been there, done that.

Drive through a giant redwood?
Been there, done that.

But wait; there’s more…

This site is “FREE”.

(You know how we love “free”!)

The “Day Zero Project” was started and is maintained by Michael Green from Christchurch, New Zealand,

and Michael loves lists, movies, and photography. Oh, and traveling and technology, too.

What’s not to like about Michael Green???

Your list and your profile is open, but you do have an option to make it private,
or individual tasks private.

I, however, will choose to make mine open so I keep myself accountable for my goals.

The whole idea of setting goals is to accomplish and reach them, and my ultimate goal is to accomplish my goals.

What a concept…

So, Goal #1:
Make a list of 101 goals.

Come on. Who’s with me?


Let’s do this thing together!


( aka = http://dayzeroproject.com/user/nbrach )

The Old New World…

classroom management reflections tips

Monday Morning Message ~ 5-16-2011

Our district has just adopted a new Language Arts series,
and it will require lots of room to house and store.

So it began…
the cleaning of the shelves.

I have had a set of encyclopedias on one set of shelves for over 25 years.
I honestly cannot remember the last time we used them.

Last Tuesday I piled them high on a table,
wondering what should be done with them.

“Mrs. Brachbill, can we have them?”

Reply: “May we have them…”

And after investigation/permission,
the “Great Raffle” began.

Now here comes the amazing part.
I told my students that as I pulled their names,
and they didn’t want one,
just to say, “No, thank you,” and I would continue on.

Looking up, I saw 25 students with their eyes closed and fingers crossed.

And the excitement when they got a 2-for-1 (a.k.a. “The Q-R Volume”) was amazing!

At the end of the day, I asked them to please take them home.
(We are near the end of the year, and are trying to clean out, right?)

And, indeed, they did take them home, but returned the next day, carrying them with little slips of paper marking places they wanted to investigate.

They took them outside to read during recess.

They were reading them under their desks when they should have been following along in their Social Studies book.

They carried them almost reverently;
not in their book-bags.

So on this Monday morning, if you are in need of space, and you have one of these old sets taking up valuable room on a shelf, make a memory, and give a book. 

Revisiting the “Little Book”…

reflections tips writing

Monday Morning Message ~ 4-25-2011

These next few weeks will find our students busy with year-end activities and field trips.

With that, I have been thinking about the “Little Book” that was featured in our March 28th Tip.

I am planning to use this “Little Book”, but my students love lines on which to write,
and they often love to include their own drawings.

So on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I designed two templates to give them a choice.
One I will use for a book on Geometric Shapes with definitions, and they can use the blank pages to construct their shapes using the templates that are provided with our Math series.

In our school arboretum, each of my students is assigned two trees for which they are responsible. They can make a book for each tree, and use the pages to draw the tree and leaf shapes, or to use for a rubbing of the new leaves as they emerge.
(As we wait for the rain to stop…)

If you need to refresh your memory as to how to make the “Little Book”, please visit the link above to watch the video.

I have uploaded a pdf copy of each of the templates.

You’ll find the links below.
Please feel free to use them and share them.
We would love to hear how you have used them in your classroom.

If you are returning to school after Spring Break,
we hope this next week finds you rested and motivated to make these last few weeks the very best.

Make sure you take time to have fun with your students.

Little Book With Pictures

Little Book With Only Lines

Japan: A Teachable Moment

reflections tips

Monday Morning Message ~ 3-14-2011

For as long as I can remember, I have subscribed to the United States Geological Survey to receive reports each time a significant earthquake occurs anywhere on our globe.

Early Friday morning, as I checked my school email account, the notices rolled in, and currently I have over 100 reports sent even up until today for the aftershocks. Each of those tremors have been significant enough to generate a notification.

Why would you subscribe?

As a fifth grade teacher I have used the reports for geography to teach, among other things, latitude and longitude. Each time I receive a report, a student has been responsible for plotting the points and marking the earthquake on a world map.

This leads into math and the use of coordinates, and distance in miles and kilometers.

In science we learn about earthquakes in our physical science units, their impact on our continents, and the different types of earthquakes. We learn about the history of major earthquakes and that even in Illinois, the New Madrid Fault is a sleeping threat.

Literature in our reading program contains a story about earthquakes. I supplement this with nonfiction books about such things as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Finally, these emails reinforce what is currently happening around the world, and teaches us that we are a family of international citizens. It helps students think beyond the borders of our continental United States.

To sign up to receive earthquake notifications, visit the USGS website:


Click below to view a copy of the revised notification for the first quake.


Monday Morning Message ~ 1-10-2011

Blog reflections tips

Monday Morning Message ~ 1-10-2011

With the new year, and some changes we foresee, the “Recess TEC Team” is making a new commitment.We have questions, too...

We are both asked many questions as we travel to different schools for training and presentations.
Our in-boxes are filled with more questions, and…
we often ask ourselves questions.

The difference between the questions we are asked, and the questions we ask ourselves is that;

1. most of the time we know the answers to questions asked, and
2. of the questions we have for ourselves, we know where to get the answers.

So Recess TEC has decided to share ideas, tips, suggestions, websites, and thoughts that might help you facilitate technology in your classrooms.
Our goal is to make technology fun for you and your students. We have worked with teachers who are frustrated with technology and have grown discouraged when they can’t get it to “work”.
What we do best is to break it down to the “least common denominator” and add fun and enthusiasm.
We always include things that are free, practical, appropriate, and relevant.

When we learn new things, we get excited about teaching.
And when we are excited about teaching,
our students are excited about learning.

So, check back with us each Monday, and we look forward to some “recess” time with you.

Blogging Maniacs

Blog reflections writing

The start of school is behind us and we are into our 2nd week.  I introduced the students to our class blog which is being hosted at www.kidblog.org and I have been amazed at how excited and focused they are on their writing.  Not only are they generating thoughtful posts on which they are experts.  They are also generating thoughtful comments on each other’s blogs.  Now I have never been an expert on writing by any stretch.  But I do know that in the past I have struggled to get kids excited about writing.  By weaving technology and writing together, I have been successful at getting  a much higher level of buy-in from the students.  This is year is no different.  Plus, they are writing for fun.  Fun…that’s right…fun.  I am only requiring the kids to post one entry on his or her blog each week as part of the overall spelling grade.  Most kids are posting more than that already.  My daughter included.  Not because I asked her to.  Not because she wants to impress me.  Not because she wants to have the most entries in the class.  But because she WANTS to post.  She wants to have content on which others will comment.  The comments of the other kids and the feedback received by the parents of the other students in my classroom are driving her to want to post more work.  Will this be a phase?  Will it get boring and end soon?  I have no idea, but I am enjoying it while it lasts!

If you want to head over to www.mrsssmith.com and check out our “student blog” link on the homepage, I am sure the kids would love to have even more comments.

Christmas in August

reflections SMARTBoard workshops

Cross-post from yesterday’s 365 Blog

Shannon and I have been hitting it hard on the road for nine days straight.
And have we mentioned that it is hot?
And that tomorrow is my first day back to school?

So, this morning when we arrived in Fairfield for our second day
providing SMARTBoard training,
one of their wonderful teachers met us with a gift to welcome in the new
school year.
We have never received a gift from a participant before, and we were
delighted with her thoughtfulness and generosity.

We wanted to share her gift with the rest of you, and to let her know
how much it is appreciated.

To all of the teachers who have shared summer days with us,
from Shannon and me…

Thank YOU for your
willingness to learn,
willingness to share your ideas,
your love of children,
and your love of teaching.

Have a great year and make it fun…

8-12/365 ~Nancy