big feelings

For Educators

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Author • Speaker • Instigator of Hope


Bright Thought Bookmarks

For Educators

March 19, 2024

When kids are preoccupied by tough stuff happening outside of school, friend struggles, or other worries, there’s not much room for math facts and grammar lessons. That’s a topic I explore in the first book in Your Magic Backpack series, What’s Inside Your Backpack?. Here’s the thing, though…we can help students learn to be the boss of their brains. 

We all have hard things from the past or uncomfortable feelings that can weigh us down. Let’s think of those as metaphorical “books” in our backpacks. As teachers and counselors–even as parents sometimes–we can’t take those books away for the kids we care about. 

We can offer helpful tools and practice using them over and over again. 

That’s what you’ll find in the activity ahead. It’s perfect for that first week back from spring break or whenever someone’s “backpack” is especially heavy, even adults!

The story begins as Zoey is getting ready for school. She was finally feeling settled in her new apartment with her mom, when she learns of yet another change! Here’s a short excerpt:

“You look a little worried, kiddo,” Zoey’s mom said, giving her a squeeze. “Sometimes I need a bright thought to help me when I’m feeling upset. Here, try this.”

She slid a bookmark into Zoey’s hand. Zoey looked down and read Imagine with Hope. “What’s this?” asked Zoey.

“When we don’t know what to expect, worry wants us to imagine with fear; to think about all the worst possibilities.

This is a little reminder I use to think of the good things that might happen when I imagine with hope instead.” Zoey tucked the bookmark in her backpack and headed to the bus stop.

If possible, start by reading What’s Inside Your Backpack? 

Even if you work with older kids, you can still use the book! Acknowledge possible objections by saying something like, “I know, guys, it looks like a dopey picture book, but hang with me because I think we’ll find some good stuff in here!” 

Talk a bit about the backpack and bookmark metaphor.

There’s some stuff that we carry that we can’t necessarily get rid of forever, but we can put a bookmark in it and set it aside. Maybe it’s worry, maybe it’s feeling upset about something that’s going on outside of school, or maybe it’s a frustration that is throwing off the day. We can use our brains to help our bodies be ready to jump back into learning. 

Give the students some time to reflect.

What thoughts might help them get past what’s weighing them down?

What might help them find the calm they need to move on to the next part of the day?

Here are a few ideas:

  • I can imagine with hope that this difficult situation is not going to be as terrible as I think it will be.
  • I can remind myself of what’s true.
  • I can choose to do my best.
  • I can think about three good things around me when I feel myself slipping into my downstairs brain.
  • We are a team, and we are in this together. I’m not alone.
  • I’ve got this!

Next, turn your Bright Thoughts into bookmarks! 

You can cut cardstock into thick strips like a bookmark or order some inexpensive bookmarks and tassels like these.

Not feeling the “bookmark” thing? No problem!

  • Use Post-it notes.
  • Use full pieces of paper and create a banner for the hallway or for around the classroom.
  • With older students (or staff) try scheduling a reminder in your phone, or set a regular alarm that pops up with your Bright Thought.

These Bright Thought reminders will help everyone stay in their upstairs brain, setting aside those things that hold us back from our full potential! 

With 17 pages of activities and printables, the digital resource pack has plenty of options for individual, small group, and whole class application. Make sure you have a copy of What’s Inside Your Backpack? – it’s available in my shop or wherever books are sold.

In the meantime, I will be imagining with hope alongside each of you.







Author • Speaker • Instigator of Hope


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