Monday, September 23, 2013

Velveteen Digital Paper Pack

Velveteen Digital Paper Pack on TpT
Velveteen is the new digital paper pack now available in my TeacherspayTeachers store.  This features 8 richly textured 12x12 papers.  Each are 300dpi, suitable for printing or digital layouts.  These papers have a gothic/steampunk influence.  The textures come from my own stock, combined to make a unique texture.

Creating Seamless Textures 

I used 4 stock textures I've made to create a layered effect.  First, I made each texture into a seamless pattern in PhotoShop.  There's two ways I generally do this, usually I can get away with the easier method.  I open my file in PS and create a copy from the background layer so I have my original to work from.  I make a second copy.  On the top layer copy I go to filters and choose Offset.

I go 50% on both axis or one at a time is easier, since I may repeat these steps several times to get a smooth texture.

So easy no hassle method...  I use this for textures that the lines are not precise and can easily blend.  We just need to get rid of the edges.  I click on my layer, which now has a sharp line (or two) visible in the center.  I use a rectangle selection tool to select that area, then invert my selection.  You can feather the selection at this point, however the gradient isn't very smooth.  Then click the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel (or go to the Layer menu to add a mask).  This will make a big gap in the middle where the line once was, and you will see the layer below.  Now we will need to smoothly make a gradient.

Use the gradient tool with the gradient set to solid to transparent.  Select 'reflective' to do just the edge, and shift+drag your tool across the edges of the masked area.  Use white to reveal and black to hide.  Blending should be smooth so you cannot see any sharp edges.  You can now merge copy 2 and copy 1.  If you did horizontal and vertical separately, then duplicate your layer again and offset and mask and blend.  Otherwise, your layer should be completely seamless.  You can run the offset again to test this.

To set it as a pattern, simply go to the Edit menu and select "define pattern".  Name your pattern something easy to remember.  You can go into the preset manager later to remove or save your patterns.  I no longer need this work file and do not save any changes, I just close it and go to my digital scrapbook page instead.
Create a new file, 12"x12" at 300 dpi for printing.  I like to work on a transparent bg, but it really doesn't matter for our purposes.  I create a new layer for each texture and name them accordingly.  Simply fill each layer with the patterns I created and it will fill to the size of the document.

Preparing the Digital Paper

I've desaturated each layer so I won't have any strange coloration effects when I add my colors.  As you see by the names of each layer, you can find some wonderful textures on everyday household items, so long as you have either a good camera or a decent scanner to pick up all your bumps and patterns.

Tiling patterns work best with a large image to avoid repetitive patterns.  The dryer sheet was a small file, so zoomed out, it's pattern is discernible.  Ideally, you will not be able to notice any patterns.

I adjust the layer blending style for each layer as I see fit to get the effect I want.  Adjusting opacity and layer orders.  I have them all i n a group so I can duplicate the entire group, hiding the originals.  I always do this to avoid mistakes.  Also, save often.  Now is a good time to.

Adding Color Effects

Now, here comes the fun part.  Adding color and effects.  I do this via the fill or adjustment layer button beside the layer mask button.  It looks like a half white, half black circle.  This pops up a huge menu of choices, but we'll just go with a solid color.  It gives you a color picker, or you can input the hex code for your color.  The whole screen will turn that color.  Choose color blend from the blending options to make the bottom layers your new color.  You may need to adjust opacity or switch to a different blend mode if the effect is not what you are looking for.  Repeat this with any other colors, toggling the visibility off of previous color layers.  In my example below, I added a brightness adjustment layer to lighten up some of my dark greys.  I also made some gradient color splash layers for an added effect.  You'll see the layer mask for these have white to black gradients.

Finishing Touches

Now, go ahead and save again for good measure.  And make a duplicate of all your visible layers used for each paper and merge the duplicates.  Repeat for each version.  I have 8 versions in my example.  I wanted to add a vignette to the edges, which I did a very simple one.  I added a new adjustment layer above all the layers, set to exposure.  I added the gamma and subtracted the exposure.  Then I selected my entire document and shrunk the selection a bit for a nice border.  I feathered the selection and filled it with black to clear out the center, leaving only the edges.  I came in with a brush to add/subtract as I wanted, then blurred it for a smoother effect.  Once finished, save your PSD again.

Saving the Papers

Toggle on the paper you wish to save and hide the rest.  Choose "Save for web" instead of regular saving.  This gives you an optimized file size that is still high quality.  If you were printing enlargements, you could just save each as a jpg, but I prefer to optimize.  Choose jpeg, quality should be the minimal 'high' setting and optimized.  You'll see the file size in the preview window.  Click save and name your file.  Repeat for each paper.

Ms. Gillian Ivy's Class

Ms. Gillian Ivy's Class

The Classroom site is up and running.  We're using Google Sites, as that seemed the easiest as far as handling things like privacy and connection to the blogs.  Though the RSS feeds aren't as easily embedded as I would have hoped with both of them being Google.  And I couldn't find a decent widget to work with their sites.  So many codes like javascript do not work there.

So, here is how I'll be running it.  I'll have my blog here where I'll host my TpT items and just general about homeschool.  The assignments, etc for Chase to read will be on the class blog.  And he will have his blog that I co-admin to post his assignments to.

I'm nearly finished designing his blog.  It is red and dark themed as well, though not as dark as here.  His has a screenshot from one of his favorite games to play, Sanctum 2.  I'll have to teach him how to easily swap his backgrounds when he wants to change them.

In order for the RSS feed to work from his blog to the class blog, his blog is Public, however it is not listed on Google's blog lists.  Also, commenting is restricted and will go through me.  His online persona is XtroyX0r because he used to say 'Xtroy' instead of 'Destroy'.  And it's a cool name!  Obviously, he loves action and fighting games where destruction is a goal.  If you like Shooter/Tower Defense games, then Sanctum 2 is definitely recommended.  I used its mapping for Chase's class one day, with him designing a defense.  Well, here is XtroyX0r's Blog.  Unsure if he'll want to rename it.
XtroyX0r's Blog

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chasing Grades Redux

I've just finished a complete overhaul of the blog template.  I really loathe using default templates.  The bg is two textures I've made tweaked a bit and made tiling, then added a bit off CSS to fine tune the theme.  I love coding.  Had been meaning to do this for a while but hadn't really decided what direction I wanted to go.  I wanted to reflect my style and aesthetics a bit.  I'm not into all those hot pink and chevron teacher blogs.

Chase's favorite color is red, so I wanted to add that.  I'm working on a blog design for him as well and a new website to host the 'Class' blog.  I didn't really like KidBlog, though it served its purpose.  They've now updated their plans to actually reduce the things that were free before.  And there is now a premium option for custom blogs.  But we weren't able to post some of the embeds I wanted Chase to learn how to do.  Blogger is way more flexible and offers the same level of privacy.

I'm still tweaking Chase's blog preferences and privacy levels, so I'm not linking to that just yet.  Comments there will be moderated, and he will  be getting another discussion on internet safety, etc.  I want him to be able to use social media fluently, but he won't be allowed a Facebook until he's 13, as Facebook rules allow.

I'm trying to interest him in writing and blogging in different styles, such as audio and video and adding images.  Also, I'll be giving him assignments that teach him how to use the internet as a research tool whilst accrediting sources.  We watched a great video on Brain Pop about copyrights and attribution instead of copy and pasting.  It taught him about paraphrasing, and had a quiz at the end to remind him what everything meant.

Wednesday, I'm planning to do School Pictures.  We need to do something for Grandparents Day as well.  My Mom has been waiting for us to visit for too long.  And she is very sad right now, as her little dog of 13 years just passed away recently.  Borrowing the truck is never an easy feat.  We'll have to come up with something.  Her birthday is coming up soon.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Word Search

Here's a fun little word search generator and database.  I found this in Google Chrome's app store.  You can create your own word list or solve one from their site.  You can list yours publicly, privately, embed on your site or print them out.  Might make a good handout.  You can't edit the grid size though.  So it might be a bit hard for younger kids or those who are not practiced at word searches.  Chase has found them to be daunting tasks and not interested.  I'll probably need to make one using his favorite words like "boom", "gun" and "sword".

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hunting for a Good Book?

Sir Fartsalot
Yesterday I read to Chase from "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger" for his reading 20.  We left off on Chapter 5.  Today, after homeschool was all wrapped up he dove back into the book.  By dinner time, he read to Chapter 10.  He quickly devoured up his mega meal of turkey pepperoni sandwich and yogurt w/banana and sprinkles (I let him choose leftovers or a sandwich) and right back to the book.  And once I'd finished cleaning up and dishes, I'd come to check on him.  Chapter 26!  Wow!  I gleefully told his Dad and Grandpa and Great Grandma and posted how proud I was on Facebook...  And he had finished the book before bedtime with time enough to spare.  So I let him watch the amusing video in this post.  Highly recommend this book.  It is full of laughs and it's a gas.  (totally intentional pun)
He hasn't been getting enough sleep lately and has been giving us a terrible time for school.  It is pulling teeth to get him to brush them.  And getting dressed is a contest of wills.  I'm trying to keep his school work interesting and fun.  A mix of worksheets and hands on learning.  And games.  I'm on a mad search for games.

Mini review of one game.  The Lesson Plan Diva had a nice little "Where the Wild Things Are" book report trivia game modeled after Jeopardy as a freebie.  So I downloaded it.  Chase really enjoyed it, however, there's some flaws.  The answer and question sheets are incorrect.  One of the answers was wrong and the questions don't match the board.  Her stuff looks great, but I'll probably create my own material next time.  I want to make sure the problems and solutions are correct and not have to proofread every question.  There were many great reviews, however none mentioned the errors.  I'll have to give her a precise review, she'd probably want to know there are mistakes.  It is still a great resource and you just have to check the answers real quick before going over with the kids.  Where the Wild Things Are Trivia Game  I cut out the board for Chase's interactive notebook.  And worked out a prize system for his totals.  20 pts = 1 prize, 40 pts = 2 prizes and 100 pts = CANDY!  He liked that.

I mentioned before that I won Mrs. O Knows' giveaway for Trainer's Warehouse's wonderful Quick Response Whiteboards.  They arrived the other day and they are a big hit!  We received the 12 pk which has 4 of each color handle, red, blue and green.  We're keeping half of them.  Chase LOVES them.  We did a spelling/Pictionary inspired game where I would make a drawing and he'd write what it was and we'd flip our boards to see if we had a match and then switch roles.  Today we did some math stories where I presented him with word, number and picture problems and he would solve them on his board.  Then I did a spelling activity where he would pick the correct word to match the picture where I have several variations of a word written down.  (i.e. picture of a fan and choices were fun, fon, fan, fin and fen)  He would write it on his board and we'd flip.

He's been running around drawing on this and carrying them all over the house as a little sign.  I would highly recommend them!  I'll have to post up a picture of them in use some time.  The packaging for them was great, it arrived in a bigger box and padded with paper.  There was a catalog for their other products and website as well as a few free items.  They gifted me a small doodle pad for Chase to fidget and doodle in between working on assignments.  Hopefully, it will save his work from being covered in his wonderful art.  And a certificate/sign display holder that can adhere to the wall.  I'll figure out a use for it.  The whiteboards are available singles or there's snap on handles and other options.  So if a pack of 12 won't suit your needs, there are plenty of options.  The little dry erasers that come with each board are okay, but they leave a fuzz bit behind.  I end up wiping it down with a baby wipe afterwards to clean up remaining marks and fuzz.  I have heard using WD-40 will make your dry erase boards perform better and clean up easier.  I'll have to give it a try.  It is something I found on Pinterest...  ;P

Another very exciting thing, at least to me, since teaching is very exciting to me!...  Humanist Homeschoolers, will be lending us a Social Studies textbook for First Graders.  They're a secular free resources for homeschool provider.  They receive support via donations.  I'd like to thank everyone who donated books to them so my son can have a better education.  There isn't a 1st grade common core standard, but I want to keep him on par with his peers.  I'd been alternating between Geography, Biographies of Historical figures, Current Events and local/US histories, etc.  Now, I need science, which HH recommended Classic Science: Elementary Life Science as a free curriculum.  I'm excited to have a great start to his school year.

I absolutely gushed and fawned over his reading skills tonight, I hope he feels proud of himself.  He says he didn't have trouble with a single word, and it is the first chapter book he ever read by himself.  Maybe he won't feel so daunted by books like Harry Potter, since they have so few pictures.  This one had pictures every few pages or small pictures in the text.  But way more text than illustration.  He also admired the fonts and design of the cover art, saying how the black and grey border go nice together and he likes the color of the dragon, and color scheme.  I would have to agree.  Looks like he has an eye for design.  ;)
215 page Chapter book

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Labor Day Weekend

Planning my next exercises for Chase to study throughout the week.  Wanted to do a current event, and there is a lot going on in the news this weekend.  I made a Glog for the Current Events in Syria.  The images in the Glog do not depict the more gruesome details, though the links do go to articles which may have those images posted.  So if you wish to share this with your class, please look through the links first.  They may be more suited to middle school + students than elementary.  I've included a few timeline facts.  No personal opinions are added to this, just facts.  It was hard to find articles with little or no bias.
There's also information about the history of Syria, featuring a Glog about the "Cradle of Civilization".  For my first grader, I'm just having the Glog as a print out for him to learn a few facts from.  The print bg is a bit dark, but otherwise looks alright.  Much better as an interactive learning tool.  I hope others can have more use out of it.  I marked it for all grades, since it is history in the making.

I have Chase's notebooks almost filled for the week's worth of work.  I think I need a reward for that!  I have a gift certificate for Red Robin my Dad bought me for Mother's Day that is burning a hole in my wallet.  I think it is time I demand to go out to eat :D