Wrapping Up Summer Wonders Session 2

2 more days left in session 2. It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve been teaching Scratch programming again (my 4th year doing so I think) but this time I’ve got older students than I’m used to teaching. I always forget to account for the level of independence they have compared to my usual 2nd – 4th graders. They absorb information a lot faster and don’t ask a lot of questions. It’s been tough writing their evaluations because there are students who have never needed any individual attention from me so I’m having to seek them out to look at their projects instead. I’m really looking forward to next session when I teach my first ever comic book class. Should be a lot of fun.

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What I’ve been doing with my Summer “vacation”

After the school year ended I took some much needed time (about a week) to do nothing and deflate before the Summer season officially kicked in.  Having another kid around the house has meant not getting nearly as much done as I’d like but I’m trying.

  1. Summer School.  Since 1996 I’ve been teaching summer and sometimes winter classes for The Center For Gifted.  This year I’m doing three sessions at the Summer Wonders program in Buffalo Grove. We just moved into a new building which has been nice because it’s in my own school district. This means I have a lot more control over and access to the technology I want to use.  We just finished our first session where I taught a class on Podcasting for the first time.  I think it was mostly a success although I’ve already thought of some new ideas for next year if we do it again. As usual, my students surprised me with some of the clever ideas they incorporated into their work.  Next up is a class on creating computer games in Scratch.
  2. Reading.  Still waaaay behind on this one but Im trying hard to catch up on all the books and comics that have been piling up while I haven’t had time to read them. I finally managed to trudge through the Hunger Games Trilogy (not impressed) and am not working on the latest Andrew Vachss novel before the next one comes out in a week or two and hope to finish the latest Darwyn Cooke Parker adaptation this afternoon.  Then there’s a whole bunch of comics to get through somehow.
  3. Writing. I’ve got three scripts due at the end of August for Grayhaven Comics.  first up is a 2 page superhero story reteaming me with MAK from my first ever published comic story (available now!), then a humorous spy story with a new artist to be named, and finally a kids fantasy story once again with MAK
  4. Movies. Also falling waaaay behind on this one. I still haven’t seen Brave, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Ted, and a couple other smaller movies that are out right now.  Managed to see Spider-Man the other day which I really enjoyed but I still have a lot of catching up to do.

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The cover the hides my first published comic book work is on online

I didn’t draw it and I don’t know if the dinosaur is related to any of the stories inside but here’ s a link to the cover of the issue that contains my very first published  comic book story.

The Gathering Volume 13: Young Readers | GrayHaven Comics.

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Center Ideas – Google a Day

Sometimes it’s difficult coming up with ideas for centers that make good use of technology. We often fall back on flash card apps and sites that don’t challenge our students or give them any control over their learning.

Google a Day is probably best used with older or gifted students. The premise is so simple I’m surprised Google didn’t think of it sooner. Each day, Google poses a question and times the user to see how long he/she takes to find it using Google. The question remains in a frame at the bottom of the screen as you search and hints are available for the easily frustrated and answers can be revealed when you’re stumped.

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Cool Comics – Why Don’t They Sell This in Comic Shops?

I’m not talking about selling cool comics in comic shops, that already happens. I’m talking about selling Cool Comics, a book about comic book collecting by Pam Price.  While kids are the target audience, the information could easily be digested by an adult who wanted to know more about the hobby.  The book’s been out since 2007 but just appeared on my radar when a couple of new copies showed up in our school library.  I checked it out immediately to see what it was about and I was impressed.  While it doesn’t go into too much detail, it gives a nice overview of the hobby and why someone might choose to pursue it.  It talks about the different ages in comic book history, grading back issues, how to choose what you want to collect and where to buy them and how to store them. The only thing I felt was missing was information of the different creative jobs that go into making a comic.  Writers and artists are discussed but there’s no mention of inkers, colorists, or editors.

The drawback with this book is that, as far as I can tell, it’s only available in library bindings which are too expensive for the consumer.  I’d love to see affordable paperback copies of this book in every comic book store.  It would be a great way for retailers to help parents understand and the hobby their children are getting into and give them some good information to help them make good choices when finding new titles.

You can check out the first few pages in a preview on Google Books here.

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Web Sites to Keep the Creative Juices Flowing – Ana White

One of the ways I try to stay creative is through woodworking.  My dad was into woodworking as a hobby when I was younger and I have quite a few memories of the projects he built for the house outside.  I’m not as good or as interested in it as he is but I’ve amassed a decent collection of power tools and inherited a few from my dad when downsized to a condo in the city.  If there’s something I don’t have, I’m fortunate to have a few friends with nice collections of their own.

I’m not the greatest and my projects have their flaws but I like building things for my daughters rather than buying them if possible.  The amount of effort I put into them doesn’t really offset the savings but I like the idea that they’re playing with something their dad built for them.  So far I’ve made a grocery store playset, a swing set, and a bed and I’ve got my eye on a couple other projects for this summer.

Note the little version of her bed to the left. While we were waiting for some of the wood putty to dry, she and I built a mini version for her dolls using some of the kids tools we bought from Lowes. I eyeballed the grocery store and the swing set but I used plans from Ana White for the bed and for some of the future projects I’m working on.  It’s a great resource for people who are just starting to get into woodworking with usually simple to follow instructions.  Each plan comes with a materials and tools list and images to help you along in the process.

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Grayhaven Comics

A lot of my current thinking on creativity started around this time last year when I finally bit the bullet and submitted a story pitch to Grayhaven Comics.  I’d read about them through some postings on the Bendis Board and was curious but nervous about the whole thing.  I dropped out of a creative writing class in high school 1 day after finding out we had to share our stories with the rest of the class.  But their open submission policy and new kid-friendly title intrigues me so I wrote up a short pitch, requested an artist and hit send.  That was back in May or June.  A little over a year later, my very first published comic book work will appear in The Gathering’s July issue.  I have no ambitions to become a professional comic book writer.  If those three pages are the only work of mine that ever see print, I’ll be a happy camper to finally have become a part of something I’ve loved for the last 30 years.  But it was a lot of fun and I’ll have another 2 page story out in early 2013 and just submitted 3 more pitches in the latest round of submissions.  I may have even roped another comic-loving friend to try his hand at a submission as well.

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