Photo by: Hannah Smith

April 7, 2002 / Spring 2002 / Staff Management

All work and no play makes yearbook a dull deal

Written by Becky Tate

If your motto in the yearbook classroom sounds like this, it is time to tickle that funny bone and rekindle the staff’s love for each other and the work required to put together a great yearbook.

What better way to forge that bond than through laughter?

We have fun, yes we do! We have fun, how ’bout you?

Ask any spring delivery yearbook adviser what the worst month of the year is and the answer comes immediately: February.

For summer or fall delivery books, June can become a chore when it comes to finishing up pages and proofs.

For either adviser, yearbook becomes a painstaking task — tracking down students to finish work, proofreading until eyes tire — nothing that sounds remotely like fun.

Yearbook without fun, however, is not really yearbook at all, it is just work. If yearbook has become just work, then it is time to find a way to put the “YEA” back into yearbook and rejuvinate both adviser and staff.

Monopoly money — rubber chicken bucks — whatever you call this bartering tool, it might add some fun for the staff. Adviser Kathy Colvin, Red Oak High School, Red Oak, Texas, finds her students work harder when they know their money can be spent at an auction — a special auction, just for them.

“We have an auction with play money,” Colvin said, explaining her staff’s method of incorporating fun with getting work done.

“They get ‘paid’ for things they do and then there is an auction. I get auction material from samples, inexpensive things at Wal-Mart, donations, etc.,” she said.

“We auctioned a six-foot stuffed fish once that went for $49,900…. in play money.” Think about what just $50 in real money would buy – items yearbook students could easily earn. After a deadline, hold the auction, bring in a real auctioneer and make a big deal of the event.

Make it fun – so fun they will forget they had to work and get the job done beforehand. They will focus on the auction and fun will be a part of yearbook (along with work, but that will not seem so bad now).

At Olathe South High School, Olathe, Kan., adviser Gary Glenn’s staff celebrates the holidays along with the deadline days.

“We have secret pumpkins at Halloween, a bowling party/gift exchange for the winter holiday, secret valentines, and lots of pizza parties, especially on deadline,” Glenn said.

“When students are doing well, we say they are putting the ‘yea’ in yearbook.”

According to Glenn, the fun that keeps the yearbook staff going can also be used to help make students aware of work that is not getting finished quickly enough, or being done well enough.

“There are those that put the ‘boo’ in yearbook, also,” he explained. “We joke about that in a good-humored nature; it usually gets the point across without screaming and yelling.”

Educators and professional trainers around the country swear that humor and fun in the classroom increases learning. Not only does it increase learning, but the best coaches also know it creates a “team” atmosphere. If the yearbook classroom is fun, students will want to be there. And if they are there, the chance that work is getting done increases exponentially.

“We have a Leadership Workshop for one school day at the beginning of the year,” Colvin said.

“We play games like Mafia, Octopus, Murder, etc. all day long. These are fun, silly games that reinforce ideas such as making a deadline, working as a team, etc.

“There are team prizes at the end of the day (and every team gets something). They talk about this for a month afterward and their first question each new year is always, ‘Are we going to do Leadership Workshop this year?'”

Of course they are, and so should many other staffs throughout the country. Colvin’s staff understands the importance of fun, and has learned this while reinforcing “team” concepts. Fun, however, is not limited to high school staffs. Karla Sprague at Ray-Pec Middle School, Peculiar, Mo., finds fun motivates her students too.

“Adding fun to our work seems to motivate these younger kids,” Sprague explained. That fun begins with a scavenger hunt in order to find positions each fall.

“The students are divided into groups of four and each group takes a disposable camera,” Sprague said. “At each of the places, the students have to interview someone about the best ways to survive middle school (developing an infographic, which could be used later), perform a silly act of some sort (sizzling on the floor like bacon), anything that promotes teamwork and includes skills they will need later.

“At each stop, one group must take a picture of the other group doing whatever they are doing. The hunt goes on until all stops are completed, including signatures of interviewees, photos of activities, etc.”

This hunt helps spur conversations about topics like how to interview and take good photos.

“We talk about what happened on the hunt. Some of the students are shy and do not want to go anywhere or do anything without someone else to go with them,” Sprague explained.

“Some of the activities are embarrassing, but if they do them as a group, they are not so bad. Interviewing for my young staff is sometimes very intimidating, so this helps break down some of the reservations shy students have.”

Because it is almost guaranteed the flash will not go off when it is supposed to for every photo when using disposable cameras, Sprague said she uses the pictures to talk about low lighting and the need for flash. They also use this as a springboard to talk about the qualities of a good photo.

Once again, yearbook and learning have become fun.

At Mt. Whitney High School, Visalia, Calif., adviser Pam Corliss credits the yearbook program’s fun reputation with attracting a top-quality staff.

“I believe the success here is due to the fact that kids love to be on yearbook. More than 100 students apply yearly for our 30 positions,” Corliss said.

“We make them feel like it is a fun place to be, but they also strive hard to produce a quality product. It really is self-sustaining.”

Regardless of how you decide to incorporate it, it is imperative that fun find its way into any yearbook program to help foster unity, hard work and good feelings all around.

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Becky Tate

Becky Tate, CJE, is the newspaper and yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas, where her staffs have consistently earned All-American and Medalist ratings along with CSPA Crown and NSPA Pacemaker awards. Tate received a CSPA Gold Key in 2010, the JEA Medal of Merit in 2008 and the Jackie Engel Award for the Outstanding Kansas Journalism Teacher of the Year in 2001 from the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press. She was named a newspaper Special Recognition Adviser by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund in 1997 and a JEA Special Recognition Adviser in yearbook in 1999.