This reading challenge has really spread to the whole family. Our oldest son has been asking lately if he can do the reading challenge next year. I don't know if there will be a next year for me, but I know that reading has now become a big habit that will stay with me, even if not at such an intensive level. It would be fun to create a small one for him, though. One friend was also telling me this month that all of this reading has inspired her to start up a small reading group in her new city. How cool! This month's reading was made possible by the 40+ hours we spent traveling by train, and has left us with 18 books to complete the challenge.
Reckless Magic by Rachel Higginson (Book You Own but Have Never Read) - I have had this book for around 2 years without reading it. It is the first book by this author, who was an acquaintance from our college days. It was definitely geared more toward teens and I can see why it has been so successful with that demographic. I doubt it would be as successful with adults as Hunger Games or Harry Potter. But the story was engaging enough and I loved the fact that it took place in Omaha.
Mao : The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday (Book about a World Leader) - This was the most challenging book I have read this year. I hesitated to pick it, because it is 768 pages and the end of the year is coming quickly upon us! But I am so glad that I did. It was fascinating, informative and well enough written that I didn't get bored or bogged down in all of the details. She wrote that a lot of her findings contradicted the long-held stories that had been promoted especially in Chinese history. But everything seemed incredibly well researched and documented and it would be no surprise that propaganda efforts would have severely distorted the truth. It can be hard to process the senseless violence and starvation that so many people suffered, but it is certainly better than being ignorant, as I previously was on the topic.
Complete Indian Cooking by Hamlyn (Book about Food) - I've read through this book a couple of times throughout the year and have tried two recipes from it - the Samosas and Kabobs. They were not very close at all to what I have had in India. First, I would need to at least quadruple the amount of spice to get it somewhere close. But it has a nice variety of recipes and some good explanations of different spices, flours and lentils that are common to Indian cooking.
Being There by Dave Furman (Book about Relationships) - While there are a lot of books about suffering, this book is written for people who are caring for someone who is suffering. I have often found myself unsure of how to really help or encourage people who are in a situation that I do not understand. My biggest take-aways were that suffering people need friends who will speak the truth in love to them, who will let them grieve and grieve with them, and who are willing to die to their own physical and emotional needs for their sake. Easier said than done.
Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Book by or about a Russian) - This is a really well-written book. You see elements of philosophy, religion, ethics, politics all rolled up into the story. It keeps you guessing until the end, which wasn't exactly what I was hoping for but made me think. I can see why it has its effect on phycology even today.
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis (Book Written in the 20th Century) - It wasn't as good as the first book, a little dry through the middle and the kids didn't stay as engaged as I read it to them. I enjoyed how he described faith through the story, with the dwarf who stopped believing that Aslan was real and coming back. The others held their faith and when Aslan returned, he rewarded them. It was a unique and thought-provoking way in which Lewis articulated that reality.
Star Struck by David Hart Bradstreet and Steve Rabey (Book about Astronomy) - I had never given a second thought about space and the exploration of it since my school days in science class. NASA has come a long ways in the last 20 years. I loved hearing about space exploration from a Christian point of view. The authors had a few agendas that strayed away from the book's purpose, such as constantly driving home the defense of old earth and how that is most compatible with Christianity. They made too much huff about it. But overall the book was a good experience and I am glad that I was challenged to read because now when I look up at the stars, I have a renewed sense of awe and worship of the magnificent God who created it all for His glory!
As a veteran packer and traveller, I have nailed packing for my family down to a science. For me, its all in the list. I start my list a week in advance and then begin packing only hours from departure time. Its my fail-safe way from forgetting essential items.
As I started my packing list last week for our trip to Bangalore, India, I began toying with the idea of going digital. Luke tried for a good three years to get me to go digital with our grocery list, but I thought it overcomplicated things to the point of inconvenience. I liked my pen, my paper, and the joy of physically crossing off each item on the list. But the definite advantage to a digital list is that it does help you think through the items that you need to put on the list. I decided to at least give it a try for this trip.
Since it was an experiment, I didn't want to spend any money up front. I downloaded three free apps before settling on one that suited our needs.
Pack by Dejal Systems - This was the first app I downloaded, which I quickly deleted. I didn't like how it organized the items by alphabetical order rather than category and the overall look of the app didn't give me enough motivation to try to re-sort it.
SimplPak by Simpl Studios - This one appealed to me, because as the name says, it is simple. It gives three categories, which is how I also categorize my packing (clothing, accessories, essentials). But it ended up being too simple. I could not figure out how to change the category names or even how to mark off packed items.
TripList by Enabled Apps LLC - This one was a winner! While there are quite a few functions available only with the in-App purchases, it was versatile enough to suit my needs and simple enough to navigate.
Pre-built Item Catalog - There are 8 categories, which can only be changed with the paid version, but they were pretty accurate to my list anyways. Inside the categories, there was no option of adding different items, but you can add new items to the packing list and have them directly saved to the catalog.
The Packing List - Once you've added items to your packing list (either manually or by selecting them from the catalogue), you can adjust the quantity and even make sub-items with the item. This was my favorite!
To-Do List - I liked that the To-Do list was incorporated into the packing list. You inevitably have a to-do list before any trip, so its great to keep track of them in one place. You can set deadlines and reminders for these to make sure you don't miss anything. What a great feeling to see all of the items crossed out!
The Paid Version - If you upgrade, you can access features like weather forecasts, color and theme customization and adding your own categories. For the time being, I don't need it, but if I stick with the digital list I will probably upgrade.
Two years ago, one of my long-time clients asked me to design a Donuts and Pajamas party invite for her daughter’s birthday. I thought it was brilliant and am not surprised that they have exploded in popularity. However, my girls didn’t really see the appeal and despite begging and pleading from me, they insisted on Rapunzel, Hello Kitty and Princess Sofia. But this year, I was finally able to convince Evelyn, who was turning six, to go for it.
That was just the first obstacle. Where we are currently living, birthday parties operate a little differently than in the US. Here’s what I was up against. One - Parties are never in the morning! I scheduled it for 10am, assuming people would come around 11:00. I actually had a parent call me and ask if it was supposed to be 10pm! Two - People do not eat donuts for breakfast. There is only one donut shop in the city that is even open before 11:00am. Even though they open at 7:00, I had to beg and plead for the donuts to be ready by 9:00. Three - Pajamas? Really? Most girls get decked out for their birthday party. We are talking BIG, frilly dresses! I wasn’t sure if people would think pajamas at a party was too weird. Four - You simply cannot not have a cake. The cake cutting part of the party is a big deal. Donuts would not be a replacement for cake, I would still need to make one.
All that aside, the party ended up being fabulous, and one of my favorites! Every kid came in their pajamas and no one had issues with so much sugar, so early. Here are some pics of our donut bash.
Decorations - The donuts are pretty much decor of there own! I found these donut shaped balloons online and couldn’t resist. However, I was definitely disappointed when only 3 of the 6 were usable.
Craft - I love starting with a craft, cause it gives the kids something fun to do when they first arrive, but allows time for everyone to come in before we start the games. The kids made Donut Tic-Tac-To Boards. Here are a few more of my favorite party crafts, and why I like them more than games!
The Disappearing Donuts - I let the birthday girl do the honors of picking the first donut, and then in one minute flat, all of the choclatey, sprinkly, donuts had vanished, leaving only a handful of original and cinnamon for the stragglers.
Pass the Donut - Here’s Luke demonstrating pass the parcel - donut style! You’ve got to put your whole body through the inner tube, pass it on, and when the music stops on you, you’re out. By far my favorite moment of the party was 20 incredibly hyper kids rocking out to "All About That Bass."
The Cake - Since cake cutting is a must, I made a donut cake. I was originally planning to use this tutorial since I didn’t have a bundt pan, but I stumbled upon a clearanced one for $3 and decided it was worth it! The surrounding truffles were my attempt at cake balls. After getting frustrated by the dipping process, I gave up and mixed the cake, icing and chocolate all together in one bowl. They were delicious!
The Printables - Here are the printables I used for the party, which are all available in my shop. The Tic-Tac-To and Bingo are new additions. Just click on the pics for more info!
Step Two : Brainstorming
As we move on through the Creative Process, we are at Step 2, Brainstorming! We are going to spend a lot of time here. Brainstorming is an often over-looked but vital part of the creative process. I stress it a lot to my young designers. First, because I know there is so much creativity locked inside their brains. Second, because I know they can be impatient to get to the next steps of designing.
Brainstorming is as easy, or hard, as thinking! It is the process of imagining all of the possibilities for your design. If you don't do justice to this step, your students will use the first idea that comes to their mind, and it will probably be the first idea that comes to everyone else’s mind as well.
When done right, brainstorming can be a whole lot of fun!
Here are 5 Brainstorming Acitivities that can be adapted for any age :
Simple List :
For starters, have the students start throwing out every word that comes to their mind when they think about the project. Set a number goal of at least 50, and they can’t stop until they have that many words.
Complex List :
For older kids, you can organize your list into columns. Here are some examples as we continue with "The Farm Store" project from Step One.
Taking a Break
If your kids seem stuck, just move on. You can brainstorm more the next day. A good break can often help you look at something from a new angle.
These activities are designed to get your creative juices flowing! The kids always love these. They can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes. Even if it is unrelated to your project, it will provide a good break and the kids may come up with a quirky, but brilliant, connection to their actual project.
Here are a few creative excersise that I love :
5 Mini Design Excercises to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
12 Icebreakers to kick start your Brainstorm
Geometric Art Worksheets
Roll-A-Dice Story Telling
My favorite place to look for inspiration is children's books. The colorful illustrations and creative stories can spark an idea in my head for something completely unrelated. For this particular project, you could bring in a few children’s farm books or a food pyramid nutrition guide. Or maybe google “farm photography”. What you do NOT want to do is google “farm logo” as it will be too tempting to copy something you see.
If you have the time/space, you could take the kids on a short walk outside. Have everyone bring a paper and pencil so that they can write and sketch ideas that inspire them. If space and time do not permit, assign it as a home project.
In class you can prepare a list of questions that the students can ask their parents, relatives or neighbors. If you have identified the “Who” from Step One, encourage them to talk to people in that category. In "The Farm Store" project, it will be primarily women who grocery shop . Sample questions for this project are :
“What grocery stores do you shop at and why?
“What is your favorite color?”
“What do you think of when I say “Farm?”
“Which foods do you buy the most?”
The students can bring back their answers and discuss with the class about any new words or thoughts that they hadn’t thought of, and if there were any patterns in the answers.
Once that you feel the topic has been adequately explored, you can move on to Thumbnail sketches. The brainstorming process isn’t actually over, but it will take a different turn in the next lesson!
The Holiday Season is already well on its way in our neck of the woods. In India, the months of September and October are flooded with holidays. India is really diverse, with so many different people groups and religions. This makes for a lot of holidays and festivals, many lasting several days. Diwali, the festival of lights, will mark the end of this crazy season in the beginning of November, which is when we will start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas!
Of course, when it comes to Christmas cards, it doesn't hurt to start thinking about it now. October is my favorite month of the year, and also a perfect time for a great outdoor photo shoot with your family. And once you've got the perfect shots, you can start thinking about your perfect card.
The advantage to getting an early start, is you can also consider doing a custom, uNiqUE to YOU photo greeting card. Yes, we can design a card just for you, that compliments your photo and captures your year perfectly. And it won't be re-sold by us! Here are a few reasons why its better than the standard big-box template :
You are more than trendy design fads. Express yourself with a design that is truly your own.
Superior Fonts and Graphics
Fonts that you see often become boring and cliche. We have invested heavily in professional fonts that, coupled with our hand-drawn graphics and embellishments, will keep your card fresh and unique!
Professional Photo Correction
Was the lighting off? Big zit on your nose? Our custom cards come with free photo retouching & enhancements.
We can color match the exact colors from your photo to use as accents in your cards design. This gives your photo card an overall look of unity and perfection.
One size does not fit all! Families start with just two of you and could grow into the double digits! With a custom card, you get a layout that is tailored to your clan, without looking too crowded or too empty.
Custom Messages and Signatures
With a personalized card, we can design any message with style and flair. We can also use your actual signatures to create that extra-special finishing touch!
You know, its kind of like wearing the same dress to the prom... A custom greeting card ensures that you won’t be sending out the same card design as a bunch of your friends!
Custom Cards start at $24.95 for a front and back design. That's a great deal, but...
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Check out our Photo Card page for more information, or go ahead and contact us to get started.
We've also got tons of pre-made designs in our Etsy shop that will be updated daily! So go on over and check them out, then start dreaming up your perfect photo card!
All of my graphic design lessons are geared toward 4-8th graders and are flexible enough to be adapted to a wide range of classrooms.
Last week, I started talking about teaching the Creative Process.
Now let's look a little deeper at:
STEP ONE: Gather Information
One of the most challenging things about teaching graphic design to younger students is getting them to stay within the boundaries of a project. I am always telling them that in regular art class they get to express their own personalities, but in graphic design they will usually be expressing someone else's identity.
At the beginning of a project, it is crucial to gather as much information as possible about the design. This often comes in the form of a DESIGN BRIEF.
A DESIGN BRIEF is a summary explanation of the goals and guidelines for a design project.
No matter how clever or amazing your design is, if it doesn't not meet the client's goals for the design, it will not be a success! Sometimes clients have a hard time communicating what they want. As designers, there are a few basic questions that we can ask to clear things up. It is as easy as the usual investigative questions.
WHO - Who is the client? Do they have an existing logo/brand that the design needs to adhere to?
Who are they targeting? Kids, Adults, Boys, Girls?
WHAT - What needs to be designed? A logo, flyer, website, etc.
WHERE - Where will people see the design? Outside/Inside? Billboard, magazine, book, store, etc?
WHEN - When is the deadline for the design?
WHY - What is the purpose of the design?
HOW - Are there any ideas they already have? Any images/colors that they want in the design?
Briefbox.me is the best place to find free Graphic Design sample design briefs for students. For the first assignment, I did a variation of this brief. You can scroll through their hundreds of projects to find one that interests you, or you can start with this one. I simplified it since I'm teaching younger students.
"A local store, The Farm Shop, needs a new logo. The Farm shop is a store where customers can buy local, farm fresh foods in a convenient location. Their logo needs to reflect their commitment to natural, organic foods, their partnership with farmers, and the convenience they offer. They would like their logo to be a simple graphic with their store name."
After giving them the brief, write the following questions on the board to discuss them as a class.
WHO - The Farm Shop. They need a new logo, so we are starting from scratch! They want to reach people who buy groceries and who care about natural foods.
WHAT - A Logo
WHERE - A logo will need to be seen in all sorts of places. It should not be too detailed, so that it can be big or small.
WHEN - In this case, you, the teacher, will get to set the deadline!
WHY - They want to communicate their natural foods, partnership with farmers and convenience.
HOW - It should be a simple graphic with the store name.
This may seem repetitive, but it will ensure that everyone understands the object of the assignment. In the real world of design, there is nothing more embarrassing than forgetting a key part of the project. Gathering as much information as you can at the beginning will make designing much easier and prevent unnecessary do-overs.
>>>> Now, stay tuned for Step Two : BRAINSTORMING.
Here we are at the letter G! For my flashcards and phonics teaching, I only teach the hard G sound that is in Gorilla, not Giraffe. This keeps it simpler for now. I do incorporate books and videos that mention the other sound, but I don't explicitly teach it.
Here are the lyrics to our favorite letter G rhymes!
Go, Go, Go,
How can you get where you want to go?
You can go fast or you can go slow,
You can high or you can go low,
There are so many ways to go, go, go!
The Green Grass Grows
Around the Gate
Around the Gate
Around the Gate
The Green Grass Grows
Around the Gate
In my Granpa's Garden
(To the tune of Wheels on the Bus)
Jolly Phonics - G
The water gurgles down the drain,
The water gurgles down the drain,
The water gurgles down the drain,
With a /g/ /g/ /g/ /g/ /g/
(To the tune of Skip to my Lou)
If you can't get your hands on these great books, you can at least find Good Night Gorilla and Giraffes Can't Dance on Youtube. I prefer reading them myself, because I often change words and simplify sentences. But at least the videos will hold their attention!
The coloring worksheet for the letter G is a great way to repeat the vocabulary. When the kids bring me their finished worksheet I ask them to point to each picture as I say the word. I love this "Goat in the Grass" craft because they can do the cutting completely on their own. Since they don't have to stay on any lines, even the weaker students can do this by themselves and come away with a great looking craft! You can download the goat picture from the end of the post, and then give each student 1/3 of a piece of green card stock. Make sure to ruffle the grass a bit after its cut!
This is also a good time to do some reviewing of all of the letters. I have included some review sheets to practice identifying the first letter sounds from the words we have been learning.
Download the preschool letter G activities and flashcards to use for personal and educational purposes. Do not sell them or offer them as your own. Do give proper credit.
The flashcards are formatted for A4 and can be printed back to back, cut and laminated. There is a color and a black and white version in case you want to save on printing costs and do the coloring yourself.
Now that we have covered the history and basics of Graphic Design, we are ready to explore the creative process! These lessons are intended for Grades 4-8, but could be adapted for other ages. I’ll be doing a separate post on each step, but for now, here's the overview.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Before you start any graphic design project, you need to understand what you are trying to communicate. This may come in the form of a "Creative Brief" from a client, in the form of an assignment from a teacher, or may originate with you! Whatever it is, we to answer the Who, What, Why, When, How of the project.
Brainstorm & Brainstorm Some Mo'
This is the most foundational part of the creative process. You may be a great artist, but if your design lacks planning and thought, it will never be anything extraordinary. Brainstorming is thinking of as many different ways to communicate your message as you possibly can. There are so many ways to do this, which I will cover later. For now, emphasize and re-emphasize how important this step is. Even when you THINK you have thought of everything, brainstorm some more and the really great ideas will start flowing. Now, you might meet resistance from your young designers. Even as adults, when we feel we have a great idea, we want to rush to see it to completion. Brainstorming requires patience and commitment. Once a student told me that it was “too hard”. I told him, “Yes, thinking IS hard. But it is good for you!”.
After you have thoroughly racked your brain for all of your great ideas, you can start putting them on paper and seeing what works and what doesn't. It can also be an extension of the brainstorming process, because once you start sketching ideas, you will probably think of a few new ones!
Ask for Feedback
If Graphic Design is all about communication, it is really important to make sure that people understand the message you convey. For small projects, the students individually ask for feedback of their thumbnails from their peers. For bigger projects, we sit in a circle and offer feedback as a group. I always explain to the kids that it is not enough to say “I like it” or “I don’t like it”. We need to explain what we like, or what we don’t. I also encourage them to get feedback outside the class, from other teachers, friends and family members.
Revise and Repeat
Once your students have received feedback from plenty of sources, they need to make changes based on that feedback. I say “Repeat”, because this may require additional brainstorming and additional feedback. For a big project, we should go through this process at least two or three times!
This is the time to get out your rulers! During the brainstorming process, don't be concerned with straight lines and perfect letters. But the final project should be our best. For an older class, this part might be done on the computer. Finally, its not just about the design looking nice, its also about presentation. Even an amateur design can look professional if it is presented well. So we will go over best printing practices and the basics of mounting our final project.
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Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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