Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Novel Collage: 1984

I love doing cross-curricular projects that connect literature and art. Throw in modern connections with a collage angle and you've got me hooked. Every year when I assign the 1984 collage project, I love the results. They make for such an interesting (if terrifying) classroom display. The connections students make between modern media and the ideas embedded in the novel are powerful, and since they can choose to do it with computer graphics or good old scissors and glue, I don't lose that element of the class that always claims to "just hate art stuff" as easily as when I take out my box of art supplies.

Here are some of my favorite results:

Do you do any art projects in your English classroom? How do you go about attracting the part of the group that always thinks art is for kindergarten?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Small Groups.. friend or foe? + FREEBIE

As a student, I HATED group projects. Not only did I end up doing all the work, I usually got blamed by my teachers for not being more inclusive of other students. But did my teachers TEACH me how to be inclusive? Or how to collaborate effectively? Nope.

As I look around the pedagogical world for good advice on group work, I mainly see the idea of using roles. Sure, one person can get materials, one can ask questions, one can take notes. This is somewhat helpful, especially for younger kids. But as kids get older, they are basically left to figure out group dynamics on their own, and my experience was that this really doesn't work.

When I assign major projects, I often give students the option to work in groups or alone. But sometimes that isn't possible, as with a project to perform a scene from a play. And I also want to encourage the students who dislike group work to dabble in it, because heaven knows, they are going to see a lot of group scenarios in their lives. Board rooms, faculty meetings, family dinners, PTA gatherings - group dynamics are everywhere you turn as an adult! So I feel like giving my students some clues along these lines is a really important service.

In an effort to condense my thoughts and experiences on group work into a curriculum packet for students, I created these handouts:

I've decided to give them away for the next week so teachers who want to can try them out in their classrooms. I'm hoping to get some product feedback on this new packet. I think it can really help a lot of students with something that was always hard for me. Please go and download them, then if you get a chance, leave a review to let me know what you think! 

For more group work ideas, check out a growing collection of resources on my Pinterest Small Groups page

Sunday, January 24, 2016

TPT Tip Series: Clipart!

I remember when I was a new teacher in California, searching anywhere and everywhere for ways to improve my classroom teaching. In the discount bin of my local school supply store I found two huge CD Rom packs (yep, that's right, CD Roms) labeled "10,000 Clipart Images" and "10,000 Fonts." So of course I bought them. And proceeded to dazzle my students with Halloween-themed fonts, fun headers, etc. Putting together handouts was so much more fun with good graphics, and as a visual learner myself, I felt like I was giving my students a gift by presenting the information in an attractive way.

Fast-forward ten years and one of the first pieces of advice I read for new TPT sellers was to "invest in good clipart." Pshaw, I thought, there's gotta be a go-round. And there was. Pixabay. I developed my initial products with fun free clips from Pixabay, searching for whatever theme I came up with.

But Pixabay, though free, had its limits. I began to shop around TPT looking for clipart freebies. And I found quite a few. You will too, if you look. That's when it's time to start a "Graphics By" section on your advertising page at the end of your product. Wait, you don't have an advertising page? Get one! I put this page at the end of all my products, just adjusting the graphics section to feature whoever's clipart I am using. This is a great way to share your social media information with other teachers, and to give them an idea of what else is in your store, as well as to show who is designing your art and give them credit. Just design a powerpoint with a basic title page at the front that you can redesign for any product, some blank pages in the middle, and this at the end and save it "TPT Template" on your desktop. Then you don't have to redo everything every time you start a new product.

After a while though, even clipart freebies and Pixabay weren't enough for me. I wanted to find some lovely clipart that I could use in a range of situations for older kids. After a lot of searching, I did. My favorite artist by far is Paula Kim Studio, so I'm going to go ahead and give her a shout out here. She makes beautiful designs, and she doesn't even demand a certain way of citing her in your products. Once you buy them, it's up to you whether or not to cite her store in your final page. 

Combining freebies, Pixabay, the small variety of fonts and colors available in Powerpoint, and several packages from Paula Kim and a few other clipart designers, has allowed me a great deal of graphic design freedom in my store, though I've probably only spent about $30 on clipart. You don't need a new package of clipart for every product you make. Just invest in some nice borders, papers, labels, and banners. Voila! Professional looking cover pages and lovely internal art. You can see my style by visiting my Spark Creativity Pinterest page where I put up all my products. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

PBS, A Valuable Resource!

PBS, it's not just for Downton Abbey. Though I must say, I'm pretty excited for the new season.

But I'm also excited about PBS's educator's resources. One that I have regularly used for teaching Mark Twain is the Mark Twain Interactive Scrapbook.

The clickable links guide students through a ton of great primary sources. It's perfect for a web quest or to help you introduce Mark Twain or Huck Finn via a projector or Smartboard. 

PBS has lesson ideas, videos, and fun tools like the Puzzle Builder, Quizmaker, and Digital Storyboard. Go check it out!