Being the yearbook adviser allows me to spend time being creative alongside my students. We have a very open environment where we share ideas and issues openly. However, building up this type of environment does take some time and nurturing. Even though students take a lead role in yearbook class, it is important to set the stage for a structured class right from the start. Here are 5 ideas for back-to-school in yearbook class!
The idea of teamwork cannot be considered cliché in a yearbook class, if things are going to run smoothly. While I do typically assign students individual tasks to complete regarding pages and photography, etc. if we are going to make the most out of everyone’s talents and time, the staff must learn to lean on one another. By the same token, each staff member must step up to the plate to be reliable. Doing a few teamwork challenges at the beginning of the year can really help students get to know each other and build up trust. One successful teamwork activity I have done is The Marshmallow Challenge: Can you build the tallest tower to hold up your marshmallow before the clock runs out? After the contest, I have students reflect on their process afterwards. It was crucial that they talked through the process to determine what worked and what didn’t. Another fun teamwork challenge for back-to-school in yearbook class is an escape game. I have a few ready-to-go escape games that would be perfect for a yearbook class. Click here to check those out.
When I first was asked to be the yearbook sponsor, the staff consisted of only seniors and so were the pages of the book. It was my first goal to stress that the book we create is a book for everyone. The yearbook staff’s job is to tell the story of the entire student body, not just the story of a few. We wrote this motto: “Everybody’s Story. Everybody’s Book” — and I held them to it. To ensure we were covering more people, we made lists and checked them off. I assign each staffer a group of students in the school that they have to reach out to and cover throughout the year. The entire student body is covered that way. Staffers write welcome notes to their new “families,” and throughout the year we plan gifts for the entire student body. Staffers worked to attend events they would have never attended before, and we reached out to different friend groups. It took our staff a while to build up trust from the student body after having an exclusive book for so long, but we got there.
One teaching activity that I do every year back-to-school in yearbook class to remind the student body that we care about them is my Yearbook Class Back to School Activity: The World’s Smallest Interview, which is part of my Journalism Interviewing Complete Teaching Pack. Another activity that works really well is my selfie project. This informational hot topics lesson gets my students thinking outside their own circle of friends.
GIFTS AND GOODIES
Yearbook advisers and veteran staffers know that taking yearbook class is no cakewalk. It is a 9-5 (to give a little Dolly shout out here) commitment. It is a huge responsibility to be on yearbook staff, and I believe my students deserve to know that I value them! Each year for back-to-school in yearbook class, we design a staff shirt that suits their personality and alludes to the theme of our book. We always put our “catchy saying,” book name, and year on the front. On the back they love for the word STAFF to be written across the top! So, I happily oblige them. I even order myself a shirt, too, and we wear them throughout the year. You can usually order custom t-shirts for around $10 each at a local shirt shop. Another thing I like to do for the staff is periodically bring them treats. Sometimes I include a message. Other times I just have chocolate and coffee handy.
A little bit of order promotes fairness and reduces anxiety. We already have enough of that, so we don’t want to create more. There are so many moving parts to operating a successful yearbook staff. Without proper organization and a plan in place, things, and people, are forgotten.
- To ensure all ads are evenly distributed and sold and that all pages are assigned evenly and are being maintained we keep tally in Excel.
- Having a plan and process for checking and storing equipment is also vital for a yearbook class.
- Be sure to keep a printed copy and an electronic copy up-to-date of the ladder! It is tragic if something happens to the ladder!
- I also publish all due dates and assign photography beats at the beginning of the year so staffers can take ownership in managing their time getting pages complete. Tools to do that are included in my full Yearbook Curriculum.
For taking yearbook class in the high school where I teach, students get a fine arts credit for taking the class. I submit paperwork to the state each year, and they are approved for FA credit rather than elective credit. Therefore, I have worked the past few years to develop lessons that meet those requirements and improve the quality and content of the book, too. Even before students were getting the fine arts credit, we worked through lessons each day to improve our photograph, design, writing, and more. One of the ways I do that is with my yearbook bell ringers. They not only deliver mini-lessons and materials, but also they are perfect for kicking the class off on the right foot. Bell ringers are huge for class management and structure. The yearbook bell ringers I’ve created come in three formats: projectable, printable workbook, and digital workbook format. I begin the bell ringers on the first full week of school to set the stage that we will be treating yearbook class like our other academic classes as well.
If you are a new yearbook adviser, check out my blog post here: Tips for New Yearbook Advisers. I also have a video for tips for getting your yearbook going over on my Facebook page. You can also get more great tips, freebies, and access to webinars for yearbook/journalism by joining my Yearbook Advisers Facebook Group. It’s free to join!
Love this content? Join a group! There are already tons of ideas, freebies, and fabulous teachers in my new groups, and joining is simple. Just click over to the following links, answer a few questions, and voila! Thanks again for following along my classroom stories and small-business journey. I really do hope you to see you over in my new “backyards” where we can chat and share all things English and Yearbook.
Written by: Julie Faulkner, updated 2020