Five Simple Ideas for – Summer Assignments

Written by Kathy Craghead

Those of us who have been advising for a while know yearbook production is a year-round job, no matter what our teaching contract says. Just like the Boy Scouts, the better prepared staff members are, the better the outcome. Here are ways to keep students thinking yearbook over the summer.

1. Send students to camps and workshops. Better yet, go with them. Lots of advisers arrange for their top editors to go, but decline to sacrifice the time themselves. Time spent preparing is time well-spent.

Also, encourage all other staff members to attend camp. That shy little sophomore who goes only at the adviser’s invitation this summer may well develop into a yearbook powerhouse in two years. If getting everyone to camp is cost-prohibitive, consider having your own camp. Even one day in a retreat-like setting can have great benefit.

2. Set up a communication system for next year. Today’s sophisticated young people expect electronic transmission of information. Have a techno-savvy person to set up a website for the yearbook to display important information. Also, consider a yearbook blog. Just as in the handwritten journals of old, advisers will learn so much about staff members in this casual setting. (Put parameters on submissions so you don’t learn too much…)

3. Give an idea-gathering assignment. I call mine “87 Days (or however many days between the last and first day of school) of Yearbook.” I give each editor 87 hole-punched index cards on a ring. The editors must attach a story idea, a photo opportunity or a design idea to a card each day. We use the cards throughout the year when we are stuck for ideas. This summer idea-gathering assignment can be altered to having the editors make idea notebooks or collect design samples in designated categories.

One summer my students collected logos – from clothing, menus, CD covers, greeting cards and miscellaneous items. Most enjoyed the assignment, which a couple of students twisted into a “we must shop” event.

4. Advisers should also contribute ideas. Put up a Design Wall of Fame, a Photos Worth a Thousand Words display, an idea board or an aisle of inspiration in your classroom. Never assume all students have access to glossy, trendy publications. Some students do not even get a daily newspaper at home. We, therefore, need to save every good idea, story, photo and graphic for display.

5. Assign the MIP list. For one of my favorite summer assignments, each of my editorial board members must return to school with a list of 10 MIPs – our school’s Most Interesting People, either students or faculty. The catch is that there cannot be any duplication, so each (over-achieving) editor usually has two or three names
on a reserve list.

These people then become the subject of personality profiles, feature stories and other copy formats. Through the lists, we found the senior who collects swords, the sophomore who ran eight marathons, and a student who was at a camp for the disabled when ABC’s Extreme Makeover show descended to renovate.

  • Paula Gehrke

    Thank you for the ideas! I always struggle with end of the year assignments for my yearbook staff. Once the yearbook is done, they are just not very motivated to do much of anything. These ideas helped!

Kathy Craghead

Kathy Craghead is a retired yearbook adviser from Mexico High School in Mexico, Mo., where the yearbook earned national honors. She was named the JEA Yearbook Adviser of the Year in 2003, and the yearbook earned state and national honors. She is a staff writer for the Mexico Ledger newspaper.