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Bootcamps! A Great Way to Prepare Your Yearbook Staff!

Three students sit together  at a table and work.

Summertime and the living is easy…or so the song goes. Summer is an odd time for teachers. Teachers are paid for 10 months of work, and that pay is spread over 12 months giving the illusion of 2 months paid vacation during the summer. Teachers I knew worked throughout the summer. Sometimes they worked in their summer jobs augmenting the notoriously low pay scales of teacher salaries. More often than not, my teacher friends and I could be found being students ourselves improving our knowledge base and skill sets to become more effective teachers. A significant amount of time was spent preparing our curriculum for the many classes we would teach in the Fall. What time was left during the summer was spent in much-needed self-care. Good, effective teachers spent that time wisely balancing self care and aligning curriculum and daily lesson plans with resources that activated curiosity and stimulated minds to find out more. As teachers, our mission was to do everything possible to insure greater access to success, which became the guaranteed topic at get-togethers. Our spouses and partners would look knowingly at each other and excuse themselves when our conversations went the way of schooling. Shoptalk was the inevitable outcome of the networks and support systems we had in place for each other.

I recall at one of these summer get-togethers, fellow teacher/mentors and yearbook teacher/advisers kicked around ideas for getting students and staff ready to hit the ground running at the very beginning of the year. One big idea was to run a bootcamp of sorts. Administration supported the idea. The teachers involved with student leadership were given a long weekend–a 3-4 day retreat, and I, the yearbook teacher and adviser, was given a half day. I am not complaining. I loved that I got even that much time to prepare a handful of students for the critical first two weeks of school. I found it was just enough time to wind us all up in preparation for the work ahead.

A flyer for United Yearbook's 7th curriculum

Between bootcamp and my already specified time to prepare my curriculum for the Fall semester, I would have been more than ready to use a prepared curriculum guide and resources such as the one United Yearbook offers. United Yearbook has published a series of Curriculum & Resources Instructional Guides that incorporate lesson plans, interactive links, and learning activities. The instructional guides and lesson plans are aligned to the CA ARTS STANDARDS, the identified four artistic processes, which form the basis for artistic literacy, and the anchor standards and enduring understandings per process. Each instructional guide offers topical arrangements of researched content with cited sources. These guides lay a foundation from which you can draw and integrate the material to create your unique touch in the classroom. To jumpstart, Curriculum & Resources No.7, is the Yearbook Staff Workshop. This details how you can put together a ½ day bootcamp with a timetable for the essential topics, support activities, and a shared meal.

Bootcamp Timetable

Shared Meal & Building Student Investment 60-75 minutes

Whether the Yearbook Bootcamp is scheduled for the morning or the afternoon, it begins with a shared meal and a series of activities that build student investment in creating a yearbook. A welcome and description of the day can be completed during the meal, and then transition into the work of the morning with icebreakers and team building exercises. The instructional guide shares community building icebreakers via online icebreakers resources. Teachers/advisers are free to select or create the icebreakers perfect for you and your staff. Before the first 10 minute break, two team building exercises that focus on the purposes of yearbooks should already be completed. The first of these exercises has teams reviewing previous yearbooks to answer questions like: What was the yearbook’s theme? How do you know? What were some School Community Stories? Did you find any unfamiliar Faculty, Coaches, Staff? Who is still teaching/coaching at the school? Who has been at the school the longest? How many faces in a typical page spread? What were some interesting ideas in the yearbook? By all means add as many other questions as you desire. The teams will analyze at least 3 different yearbooks drafting a written review itemizing what they discovered. A group reflection of what they learned about yearbooks can be posted on the classroom whiteboard. The second of the two team building exercises answers the question, why a yearbook? Or What’s the purpose of a yearbook? This is a ‘power writing’ or timed writing activity. Once everyone’s thoughts are transferred to the whiteboard, and other thoughts added, a discussion can be facilitated about which thoughts are similar, combine those, and rank them in order of importance.

Then students take a 10 minute break. It’d be great if a cart or area were provided with an array of snacks and drinks.

A group pf yearbook staff members sit in a circle discussing their yearbook together.

Shared Decision-Making 70-90 total minutes

Mission & Vision Statements

Based on the discovery of the purposes yearbooks offer to a school’s community, individual students, and groups of students, the next series of activities gets into the how and why of creating a yearbook. The first group task is to develop a Mission Statement. A Mission Statement reflects a 2-3 sentence description of the yearbook staff’s purpose and how the staff plans to accomplish that purpose. Working with partners in this timed exercise, students are tasked with drafting what they feel will be a compelling Mission Statement that will guide the work of the Yearbook Staff throughout the entire year. The second task reflects the shared vision of the Mission Statement. The Vision Statement looks at how to accomplish the Mission Statement. A thorough discussion should precede any draft of the Vision Statement with students looking at questions like: Who is our audience? What is our story? Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging--how will we guarantee all student groups are represented? How can we assure ALL students are in the book more than one time--how many times is the minimum number? Once the discussion has closed, students need time to process. A timed writing activity either individually or in teams is a good way to activate a range of possibilities. Wordsmithing all possibilities into a single 7-12 sentence Vision Statement may take some time, but at the end, both the Mission and Vision Statements should be posted in the classroom. These two statements will act as guideposts for every action that impacts the development of the yearbook.

The Work of the First Two Weeks Event Coverage

Review together the first 2 weeks of school schedules using both calendars from student planbooks and administration (including the sports calendar). Identify all possible assignments. Make color coded lists of these events on the white board, and ask all students to make sure their calendars reflect all potential events that will require photographs/notes for the yearbook. Invite students to select assignments. Keep inviting students to volunteer until all events are covered. Keep a record of student assignment commitments on the board. This should help visualize how much each student is taking on, too. Create a policy with students about what to do if someone can’t keep their commitment. That should be posted as well.

Archival System for Photographs

For the first two weeks of school, the photographs that students are taking need to be stored in an organized way for ease of accessibility for all involved. Recommendation? Simplify the process as much as possible and use the school's digital platform. Most school’s have access to something like Google Drive, if not that online platform itself. The infrastructure for storage can be determined by both the teacher and the students. Make certain that both uploading and retrieval are thoroughly explained and practiced.

Basic Communication Procedures

For school wide communication or for emails with teachers and/or administration, determine together who needs to be cc’d on all emails. Suggestion: teacher reviews each email to administration, faculty, coaches, and parents/guardians and is cc’d on all emails once approved. For creating Social Media pages or content, identify the school’s social media coordinator and include that office on approval of all information prior to posting (if that is the school or district policy). Student to student communication might need a designated yearbook staff for particular communications, i.e., Senior Superlatives. Suggestion: teacher reviews each communication and is included in the group emails, surveys, forms, etc.

A 10 minute break before the last part of the Bootcamp–Basic Photography–begins.

Picture of a camera set up to take photos

Photography Basics 60 minutes

Believe it or not, smart phones have cameras that often meet or exceed the performance of some school DSLR cameras. If you have some, consider keeping the school cameras for those students who do not have access to a personal smartphone.

Suggestion: Prior to the Workshop prepare a camera/kit inventory and Sign-out procedure. Requiring parent signatures to guarantee return of camera is appropriate. Like textbooks, students can be held accountable for the care and return of school property like cameras. United Yearbook has a number of useful items in its Curriculum & Resources No.7, Yearbook Staff Workshop instructional guide, including, a parent letter of authorization for their student’s use of the school camera and kit that you are free to use as it is, or customize as needed, a ‘Parts and Purposes of a Digital Camera’ worksheet, and an Abbreviated Aesthetic Concepts photography presentation. There is also a team effort photography activity that is included in the presentation. Students will be taking photographs as part of the activity and may need to use cropping, a basic photo editing tool. Most presentation software offer basic photo editing tools like crop. Make sure to review that skill with students before they begin to take pictures for the guided practice assignment. To complete the photography assignment, teams present images according to Aesthetic Concepts, and the group votes on which they think is the ‘Best in Show’ for each concept presented. Prizes may be awarded!

Bootcamp Closure

This newly trained cadre of students will act as the core group of staffers taking on the bulk of responsibility for the yearbook during its most hectic time, the launching of the new year.

Modeling an attitude of gratitude with these young people will set the tone for the leadership qualities the yearbook will need throughout the year. Coaches and their locker room talks to bolster the spirits and hearts of their teams can work miracles on a field or court. The way in which an adviser sends his/her staff out to cover these first two weeks will send a deeper message to the entire yearbook staff: this is THEIR yearbook! Trust in their abilities to responsibly follow through with their assignments and encourage their intuition in meeting challenges,

Enjoy this Bootcamp time together and celebrate the coming year!

Former yearbook advisor, Lucy McHugh

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.

Editor, Donna Ladner

Editor: Donna Ladner obtained a B.A. in Education and a minor in English from California Baptist University, and a M.S. in ESL from USC, Los Angeles. After she married Daniel, their family moved to Indonesia with a non-profit organization and lived cross-culturally for 15 years before returning to the U.S in 2012. Donna has been working as an editor and proofreader for TSE Worldwide Press and its subsidiary, United Yearbook since 2015.


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