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It’s May! The Book is Done! We Still Have School! Now What?

A student is biting their pencil in frustration while looking at their computer.
The yearbook class is one place where retention of experienced students matters.

Does the title sound a little panicked? Depending on when the last day of the school year is for you and your yearbook staff, keeping students involved until the end of the year may present a dilemma for many teachers/advisers. Afterall, the yearbook is complete. The final event of the year is “Distribution/Signing Day,” which will take some preparation. However, with a capable student committee, it will not take many days to prepare. So the same dilemma remains. What to do with those continuing days and hours? Idle hands and minds can be a recipe for a disastrous ending to the year. Without a goal or focus, students will look for something to do, and it may not be a positive thing. If they choose to act inappropriately, it could harm the reputation of the yearbook class going forward into the new school year. Students can be fickle; students drop and add classes on whims and as a result of poor past experiences. The yearbook class is one place where retention of experienced students matters to the success of the next year’s process and product. United Yearbook has a few blogs that lean into good ideas for what advisers might need to think about or act upon once the book is completed. Some titles include It’s Done! Celebrate…Then What?, A Letter To Next Year’s Staff, and So, You’ve Submitted Your Yearbook By The Deadline And Are Now Waiting For Delivery…. It pays to prepare relevant, engaging learning activities especially at this time of year.

Here are some ways I invested my students in specific, graded, germane work.

Two students are looking at notes they took on post it notes.

Review the Book

After the celebration of the finished yearbook is done, and the ‘love fest’ for the book has simmered down, my students were assigned a graded Book Review. We practiced this critique process together. As a reminder, our Mission and Vision1 statements were still posted in the classroom. Our Style Guide2 with our Theme, Color Palette, Font choices, and Copy Styles (when to use a nickname, when to refer to someone by last name only, etc.) was digitally made available to each student. I projected reminders of the fundamentals of Functionality, Clarity, and Consistency3 which applied not only to each layout, but to the overall sections, and the entirety of the book. And I made copies of the Layout & Template Assessment Rubric4 for students who wanted to use that to help organize what they thought about the individual layouts in each section.

Armed with all these guardrails and the questions in the bullets below, we practiced reviewing a section of the yearbook together and used the whiteboard to show the kinds of notes that would help assemble a more formal written review of the section. We reviewed the structure of a well written paragraph. Students grouped together in 3-4 with their notes from the whiteboard. Working it out, they wrote formal written reviews of the section. A single student from each group read the formal review aloud to the class. I posted these group efforts alongside the common notes drafted on the whiteboard. Students were encouraged to use what they wanted or needed from this group-think experience for their individual section review for the Book Review assignment.

The parameters for the assignment were:

For this Book Review, please draft an essay that includes an introductory paragraph, a closing paragraph, and 3-5 additional paragraphs to relate a complete review.

The review must answer the following:

  • How important were Functionality, Clarity and Consistency in effectively communicating the story the yearbook told? Please cite specific examples, including page numbers, of both effective and less effective ones to support your thinking. Explain how Functionality, Clarity and Consistency develop starting with the 2 page-spread through to the overall section, section to section, then to the entire book.

  • How effective was the Style Guide? How do you know? Cite specific examples of a strong use of the Style Guide’s information. Cite specific examples of less commitment to the use of the Style Guide. Relate these examples to how the use of a Style Guide impacted the overall visual flow throughout the yearbook.

  • How well did the yearbook reflect the Mission and Vision of the yearbook staff? What were the successes; where were areas for improvement? Why were Mission and Vision statements important to use?

Do Over, Please!

As a practice for the Final Exam, I assigned my students a Do Over, Please! This graded assignment was an opportunity for students to rethink and redo a layout for which they were responsible in the yearbook. The steps for this assignment were straightforward. We created all layouts in either InDesign or Photoshop. So, students had access to their original layout designs. They also had access to all images, and could elect to change any or all of the images to more effectively communicate the spread story. Style Guides were available, students were allowed to use the Layout & Template Assessment Rubric5 as an advanced organizer. The goal was to create a layout that resulted in a more functional, clear, and consistent format in keeping with the yearbook theme and style design.

This rubric goes over grading a yearbook spread.

This rubric continues how to grade a yearbook spread.

A group of students work together around a table.
Each of these assignments also doubled as preparation for the Final Exam.

Compelling Captions and Copy!

Another practice for the Final Exam was generating Compelling Captions and Copy! This exercise was a graded practice that was gamified and competitive. A timer was needed for this review activity, and I projected the images (all from events from the school year) onto the screen at the front of the room. Prior to beginning the activity students were reminded or provided what was necessary to generate a “compelling caption”6 for a single photograph. Then we move to what it takes to generate a headline, captions, and a paragraph of copy that accompanies a related group of photographs. Everyone generated captions for the individual photographs by the ding or buzz of the timer. We used any number of ways to get students to call out their captions–Popcorn, pulling names from a hat, a randomizer list–and silent cheers usually indicated winners of each round. The game for the related group of photographs was played in teams, and those teams were put together in various ways. The timer was set longer, but when time was up, one voice from each team shared the headline, captions, and copy for the related group of photographs. Prizes were coveted, especially the bubbles and sidewalk chalk.

Each of these assignments also doubled as preparation for the Final Exam. It was important to make sure my students knew exactly what to expect on their finals. Throughout those final weeks I continued to give photography assignments for events, and you can do the same. Use those photographs and events as part of their final if you choose. For one final idea, continue to have the staff generate page spreads and create a digital yearbook supplement. This is another graded assignment and the supplement could be made available to the school.

Keep those students busy! As the year comes to an end, contact United Yearbook with questions you may have. We are happy to assist you any way we can.

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.

1Shared Decision-Making Learning Activity, Curriculum & Resources, No.1, Yearbook Basics, United Yearbook Printing, 2021.

2Style Guide Learning Activity, Curriculum & Resources, No. 2, Yearbook Organization, United Yearbook Printing, 2021.

3Layout & Template Learning Activity, Curriculum & Resources, No.1, Yearbook Basics, United Yearbook Printing, 2021.



6How To Write Photo Captions Well: A 4-Part Process Lesson Plan, Curriculum & Resources, No.5, Designing Written Curriculum, United Yearbook Printing, 2021


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