Photo by: Cory Bentley

Middle School Yearbook | The Value of Workshops for Middle School Students

Written by Cory Bentley

Middle school yearbook comes with its own set of unique challenges and struggles. We often teach an entirely new group of students each year. Along with this comes the responsibility and challenges of training that brand-new staff every year. It can be an overwhelming task! 

Class time at the beginning of the year is full of all kinds of learning activities for yearbook vocabulary, photography lessons, caption and body copywriting (which is extremely difficult for middle schoolers) and basic page layout. How can one fit all of this in while also continuing to focus on selling ads, designing covers, laying out pages, taking pictures of all school activities and everything else involved with creating a yearbook? Workshops are the answer!

Beneficial for Levels

Workshops may seem geared toward high school yearbook staffs or those with yearbook experience, but they are a great resource for all staff types and ages. The tracks cover a wide range of topics for students to learn new things, gain new experiences and focus on mastering the concepts necessary in yearbook publication. Many of these tracks are taught in both beginner (perfect for middle schoolers) and advanced levels.  

We are fortunate in North Carolina to have opportunities throughout the year to attend a wide variety of workshops focused on different objectives. During Spring Creativity Workshop, staffs begin planning their next book. They meet with other creative minds and get a head start on setting up a new theme. During Summer Yearbook Workshop, staffs jump headfirst into all aspects of creating their next book. Covers and endsheets are designed, pages are laid out, marketing plans are developed. You name it – it happens at summer workshop! At Fall Technology Workshop, staffs learn and practice Online Design as they start putting new content together for their book. While the topic of each workshop is different, students still come away with diverse skills and immense knowledge.

Expands Skillsets 

While attending workshops, my students gain vital hands-on experience in page layout, principles of design and using Online Design. Through their chosen tracks, students get the opportunity to learn from other instructors, work with peers from other schools and strengthen their bond with one another as they work on their assigned tasks. My students come out feeling prepared to tackle the creation of the yearbook. They feel that the best part of participating in workshop is the fun they have with other students while they gain the experience they need. 

One of my students said, “I learned a lot from the workshop. I figured out how to do basic things in Online Design, like laying out pages with pictures and text, but also learned shortcuts and extra things like adding drop caps, clipping paths and photo tagging from talking with students from other schools who had more experience.” 

Confidence Booster

Workshops help students understand the basics of using Online Design and how to design pages in a yearbook. They believe the time spent at workshop helps prepare them to know what to do when the time comes for them create their yearbook pages. Having this knowledge and understanding of the ins and outs of the Online Design program is also a HUGE help to me as an adviser. Because they learn Online Design at workshop, I can decrease the amount of classroom time I dedicate to these basics and we can move on to other work such as principles of design, photography and writing. 

I am a believer in workshops for middle school yearbook students. The experiences my students gain are invaluable in their contributions to the staff and our yearbook. If you’ve toyed with the idea of taking your middle school students to camps or workshops, let me encourage you, the answer is yes. 

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Cory Bentley

Cory Bentley has advised The Growler yearbook staff at Archdale-Trinity Middle School, Trinity, North Carolina, for seven years and also teaches 8th grade science. His yearbooks have received Superior overall rating and All-Southern at SIPA. and they are consistent Walsworth Gallery of Excellence winners. He advises student council and S.T.E.M. clubs and was editor-in-chief of his own high school yearbook.