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December 8, 2017

Christmas e-Cards in 6 Easy Steps

By Mary Blow
Grades 6–8, 9–12

    Let's revive the fading tradition of sending and receiving holiday greeting cards! In this six-step activity, students explore how to design Christmas e-cards and use the power of words to spread the Christmas spirit. Included is a SMART Board activity to guide your class through the six easy steps to success. The skills students learn in this activity are key to designing effective and successful presentations in the future.

    Materials

    Introduction  

    This activity can easily be completed in two forty-minute class periods.

    Start by discussing the different occasions that you would send or receive greeting cards. This is a fine opportunity to insert a discussion about the role graphic designers play in designing greeting cards and the role writers play in crafting the magical messages that somehow capture our personal feelings. Narrow the greeting card discussion to focus on Christmas cards.

    Step 1: Target Your Audience  

    As a whole class, brainstorm the people to whom your students would send Christmas cards: parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, mailman, etc. Use the SMART Board presentation to sort these people into three categories: people close to our heart, everyday peeps, and acquaintances. Emphasize that the audience and the occasion are important factors to consider. With this in mind, have the students select the lucky recipient of their Christmas e-card.

    Step 2: Explore Graphic Designing

    The day before the activity, students should bring in used or new Christmas cards. Students work in small groups to sort the cards by style: cartoon, serious, animal, scenery, religious, musical, family photos, text only, etc. Point out that some images consume the whole page, others are smaller and centered, and some run off the page. Students should conclude that they can be creative with the layout of the images and appreciate that white space has a purpose. It keeps the design from being too busy.

    Next, focus on analyzing font styles. Have students sort the cards by the fonts they really like and those that are not as appealing. Cursive fonts are popular with greeting cards, but some are difficult to read. Often the graphic designer mixes the style and size of the fonts. Discuss why the designer might make some words larger than others. (It is done to emphasize a word.) Some font colors fade into the background, making it difficult to read, while others contrast sharply. Have students analyze the pile of cards they liked best and determine what they like about the fonts: style, size, and color.

    They should have a better understanding of what makes some cards more visually appealing than others. Below is a list of criteria or checklist to consider when designing cards:

    • Use an image that is appropriate for the audience.
    • Balance the white space effectively.
    • Use fonts that reflect the style of the image.
    • Emphasize words by enlarging fonts.
    • Contrast the font with the background.

    Step 3: Send Heartfelt Messages

    Preface this step by stating that the message is the most important part of any card. Once again, students engage in a card sort — this one focusing on the messages. Working in groups, students sort the cards into two piles: 1) messages they would send to a person close to their heart; and 2) messages that are generic, appropriate for a friend or acquaintance. If they struggle, point out that some cards say very little while other cards are super sincere. Some messages rhyme. Some are funny. The style often depends on the audience. Many of my sixth graders chose the heartfelt message as their favorites. Wrap up by reminding them that the images and fonts should relate to the message. For example, use a formal font for an elegant card and a whimsical font for a humorous card. Don't forget to include digital signatures, so the receipient knows who is sending them the card. I used a cursive font to create mine in the messages below.

    Step 4:  Develop the Mood  

    Take advantage of the opportunity to review mood. Go over the definition of mood in terms of writing: the feelings the reader experiences when engaging with a book. This is the perfect opportunity to have students check that all the components have come together to create a specific feeling. Re-sort the cards by moods. Since they already explored graphic design, it is easy to detect when the fonts, images, and color schemes contribute to the mood. For example, scenery cards in muted shades of sparkly grays and whites create a serene or peaceful ambience. In contrast, a jolly snowman with whimsical fonts creates a happy, carefree feeling. Discuss which age group would most appreciate the fun snowman card versus a serene, snow scene card. Emphasize that all the elements combined: images, fonts, and message, to the development of the overall mood.

    Step 5: Design the e-Card in Canva  

    We used the Canva app for designing e-cards. It is intuitive and user-friendly. If you are a teacher who fears diving into a new app, play the YouTube video “A Simple Video Guide to Canva” (3:57) by Canva. The free version limits the choice of backgrounds, clipart, and photos, but there is still a lot to choose from. We spent some time discussing appropriate digital signatures. This, too, is dependent on the audience. I modeled signatures for them, noting that some signatures are more formal while others are personal. Spend the rest of the class time designing cards.

    Step 6: Share the Christmas e-Cards.  

    On the second day, students finish designing their work. Before sharing, they peer review, focusing on spelling and capitalization. They must get my approval before sharing them with the public. There are options for sharing in the Canva app, but we chose to download the e-card as images (.png) and attach them in an email versus sharing the link to the e-card. One of my goals was to show my sixth graders how to send attachments in an email, a life skill. We used our school Gmail accounts. Depending on your students’ digital skills you may need to plan additional time to teach them how to attach an image or document to emails.

    December Holidays Not Forgotten

    Although it is the Christmas card season, we do not want to forget those who are celebrating other holidays in December. Encourage students to share Hanukkah and Kwanzaa cards with family and friends as well.

    Other Christmas Activities for Middle School 

    Let's revive the fading tradition of sending and receiving holiday greeting cards! In this six-step activity, students explore how to design Christmas e-cards and use the power of words to spread the Christmas spirit. Included is a SMART Board activity to guide your class through the six easy steps to success. The skills students learn in this activity are key to designing effective and successful presentations in the future.

    Materials

    Introduction  

    This activity can easily be completed in two forty-minute class periods.

    Start by discussing the different occasions that you would send or receive greeting cards. This is a fine opportunity to insert a discussion about the role graphic designers play in designing greeting cards and the role writers play in crafting the magical messages that somehow capture our personal feelings. Narrow the greeting card discussion to focus on Christmas cards.

    Step 1: Target Your Audience  

    As a whole class, brainstorm the people to whom your students would send Christmas cards: parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, mailman, etc. Use the SMART Board presentation to sort these people into three categories: people close to our heart, everyday peeps, and acquaintances. Emphasize that the audience and the occasion are important factors to consider. With this in mind, have the students select the lucky recipient of their Christmas e-card.

    Step 2: Explore Graphic Designing

    The day before the activity, students should bring in used or new Christmas cards. Students work in small groups to sort the cards by style: cartoon, serious, animal, scenery, religious, musical, family photos, text only, etc. Point out that some images consume the whole page, others are smaller and centered, and some run off the page. Students should conclude that they can be creative with the layout of the images and appreciate that white space has a purpose. It keeps the design from being too busy.

    Next, focus on analyzing font styles. Have students sort the cards by the fonts they really like and those that are not as appealing. Cursive fonts are popular with greeting cards, but some are difficult to read. Often the graphic designer mixes the style and size of the fonts. Discuss why the designer might make some words larger than others. (It is done to emphasize a word.) Some font colors fade into the background, making it difficult to read, while others contrast sharply. Have students analyze the pile of cards they liked best and determine what they like about the fonts: style, size, and color.

    They should have a better understanding of what makes some cards more visually appealing than others. Below is a list of criteria or checklist to consider when designing cards:

    • Use an image that is appropriate for the audience.
    • Balance the white space effectively.
    • Use fonts that reflect the style of the image.
    • Emphasize words by enlarging fonts.
    • Contrast the font with the background.

    Step 3: Send Heartfelt Messages

    Preface this step by stating that the message is the most important part of any card. Once again, students engage in a card sort — this one focusing on the messages. Working in groups, students sort the cards into two piles: 1) messages they would send to a person close to their heart; and 2) messages that are generic, appropriate for a friend or acquaintance. If they struggle, point out that some cards say very little while other cards are super sincere. Some messages rhyme. Some are funny. The style often depends on the audience. Many of my sixth graders chose the heartfelt message as their favorites. Wrap up by reminding them that the images and fonts should relate to the message. For example, use a formal font for an elegant card and a whimsical font for a humorous card. Don't forget to include digital signatures, so the receipient knows who is sending them the card. I used a cursive font to create mine in the messages below.

    Step 4:  Develop the Mood  

    Take advantage of the opportunity to review mood. Go over the definition of mood in terms of writing: the feelings the reader experiences when engaging with a book. This is the perfect opportunity to have students check that all the components have come together to create a specific feeling. Re-sort the cards by moods. Since they already explored graphic design, it is easy to detect when the fonts, images, and color schemes contribute to the mood. For example, scenery cards in muted shades of sparkly grays and whites create a serene or peaceful ambience. In contrast, a jolly snowman with whimsical fonts creates a happy, carefree feeling. Discuss which age group would most appreciate the fun snowman card versus a serene, snow scene card. Emphasize that all the elements combined: images, fonts, and message, to the development of the overall mood.

    Step 5: Design the e-Card in Canva  

    We used the Canva app for designing e-cards. It is intuitive and user-friendly. If you are a teacher who fears diving into a new app, play the YouTube video “A Simple Video Guide to Canva” (3:57) by Canva. The free version limits the choice of backgrounds, clipart, and photos, but there is still a lot to choose from. We spent some time discussing appropriate digital signatures. This, too, is dependent on the audience. I modeled signatures for them, noting that some signatures are more formal while others are personal. Spend the rest of the class time designing cards.

    Step 6: Share the Christmas e-Cards.  

    On the second day, students finish designing their work. Before sharing, they peer review, focusing on spelling and capitalization. They must get my approval before sharing them with the public. There are options for sharing in the Canva app, but we chose to download the e-card as images (.png) and attach them in an email versus sharing the link to the e-card. One of my goals was to show my sixth graders how to send attachments in an email, a life skill. We used our school Gmail accounts. Depending on your students’ digital skills you may need to plan additional time to teach them how to attach an image or document to emails.

    December Holidays Not Forgotten

    Although it is the Christmas card season, we do not want to forget those who are celebrating other holidays in December. Encourage students to share Hanukkah and Kwanzaa cards with family and friends as well.

    Other Christmas Activities for Middle School 

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