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Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur - Step 8 Using Graphic Elements in Products

So far, we have covered how to create and secure products, previews, covers, and thumbnails, and Search Engine Optimization. But how about what goes into a product? Yes, a product can look like a simple worksheet, and that can be absolutely fine...but should it? For some products, absolutely. After all, we don't need to make an assessment (oh, let's call it what it is, a TEST) look pretty or inviting when it is a multiple guess or vocabulary matching format,  Unless, of course, you are using graphic representations for differentiation in a matching format. However, even on a worksheet or assessment, there are still graphic elements to consider.

Fonts and Font Sizes

There are always some exceptions to rules; we all know this. However, there are some basics which I hope you are already familiar with, but I still feel need to be covered. First, and this was a shock to me, the best fonts to use for assessments, worksheets, or other "reading heavy" products do not include Times New Roman! That was always my go to. As it turns out, the best fonts for reading, and therefore assessments and worksheets, are Veranda, Helvecia, Calibri, and Courier. These are, debatably, among the top choices because they are the best fonts for individuals with dyslexia. Now, does this mean you cannot use any of the other fonts? Of course not. Suzanne and I both love using KG Coffee, a font from Kimberly Geswein Fonts, as well as others. However, not for assessments. For assessments and worksheets, we stick to Calibri and Calibri Bold. 

Rumble Fish and our other
novel studies use a variety of
fonts types and sizes.
Does this mean that all of the products that we create for student use is in one of these four fonts? No. In fact, with our Rumble Fish novel study guide, we use at least 4 different fonts, and a number of different font sizes, depending on the needs of the page layout and readability. However, questions and information pages are still in Calibri.

So what about cursive texts and fonts? If it is for a student to use, I never use cursive unless it is to assess the students' ability to read and understand cursive or to draw attention. Why? We, as teachers, stopped teaching cursive for about 20 years. For many of our students, English cursive is equivalent in decipherability as Arabic is. And that is our fault, not the students'.

Almost as important as font type, and for some even more important, is font size. With Calibri, I find that 12 point is still adequate for my old eyes, but I prefer a 14 point. However, I am creating for my students, and not me. So, we have to find a happy medium that works for them, while it is still large enough that I can read it to grade it! But what about when you change formats? The same 12, or even 14, point font that is great for a sheet of paper becomes much to small in a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation. For these, a minimum I use is Calibri 24, or the same projected size equivalent for other fonts. For example, Calibri and Bradley Hand are close to the same size, but change it to KG Coffee or StLiti, and the sizes change dramatically. One of the great things about PowerPoint and Slides presentations is that we can use cool fonts that we don't get to use otherwise!

Clipart and Graphic Elements in Your Products

So, other than to make a product look more interesting, is there a reason to use graphic elements such as clipart in your products? Actually, yes! Keep in mind that even with assessments we may use other graphic elements without even realizing it. Tabbing and insetting text; using bullets, numbers, and letters to differentiate choices in an assessment; and putting an excerpt in a bordered text box are all graphic elements we use without necessarily thinking about them beforehand.

Additionally, some of the graphic elements are what make the product what it is. For example, could you imagine calling something a Venn Diagram without using overlapping circles? Yet, at its heart, a Venn Diagram is simply a series of 3 or more columns used for comparing and contrasting. The circles are simply a visual representation of what are separate features and what are shared features. Going back to novel studies, we include things like plot diagrams, idea webs for discussing themes, and columns for KWL and vocabulary charts.

What about the use of clipart? Does it only add interest, or can it help students learn? Again, there is actually a great pedagogical reason for clipart or doodle art and doodle frames. These allow your kinesthetic learners an acceptable, and encouraged, outlet for their creative learning. We use black and white line drawings on many products so students can color them in, expressing themselves, and/or doodle as they read or listen. Although I personally am an auditory learner, I see many of my students engagement in a story increase when they are encouraged to doodle as they listen. In fact, we have an entire line of Word Puzzles (AND DOODLES) for this very reason.

So, how much should be clipart or graphic elements as opposed to what you have written? Again, that depends. For most clipart, your Terms of Use from the individual clipartist will state that "the majority of the product must be of the teacher-author's (you) own creation", or something to a similar effect. This is to prevent someone from simply taking the clip artist's artwork and selling it without adding to it. However, it could be argued that you can have only a piece of clipart on a page, and still be within the stated terms of use...providing that the clipart page is part of a larger product, such as a color by numbers review.

Final Thoughts

So,  as always, the question isn't "do I add graphic elements to this?", but rather, "what graphic elements do I need or want?" Think about the final product and what it is. Does it need a graph? Will the clipart add to its usefulness, or detract? What do I want the students' end product to look like? I personally do not add doodle frames to assessments. After all, we generally do not want the students to doodle on a standardized test! "Make certain to erase any marks outside of the bubbles..." However, you might want to add paragraph and line chart to each of your assessment questions, just to get the students used to using them!

Darn. Now I have to go back and redo my assessments, because that is actually a good idea.

Don't forget to add an acknowledgement for any artwork, or clipart, frames, or fonts you use. Two reasons. The first is that you are modeling for your students a method of citing their resources.  The second, it is in your Terms of Use for the artwork, frame or font that you purchased. Trust me. It's there. And if it isn't, the artist will appreciate it anyway!

Click the link below to read the other posts in our series!
Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Steps 1 and 2

Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Step 3 - Creating a Secure Product

Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Step 4 - Creating with Encryption

Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Step 5 - Editable vs. Non-Editable

Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Step 6 - Creating Covers and Thumbs

Becoming a Teacher-Author Entrepreneur Part 7 - Pricing and Tax Categories

Guest Blog - SEO for Teacher Sellers


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