September 14, 2017 / Ask Mike / Coverage / Fall 2017 / Idea File Magazine

New angles on academics

Written by Mike Taylor, CJE

“Suzy, you are going to be the academics editor of the 2018 yearbook.”

These words strike pride, excitement and dread into academics editors across the country. Why? Let’s explore that for a few minutes.

Yes, you have a great responsibility. You are in charge of a portion of the book. Yes, a portion that could be the least-read pages within the entire yearbook. After all, its photos of students reading, writing and doing those all-too-exciting book reports. The stories sound more like a class syllabus, and reading a class syllabus is not exactly what you want to do in May.

OK, so this is not your mama’s yearbook. Why not look to change it.

First of all, let’s not look at covering just one simple class per spread. You know what I mean: English, math, P.E. or band. Why not think outside the box? Why not come up with topics of academic activities that students do each day of the year. Yes, that includes summer. Here are a few ideas:

  • Field trips
  • Projects
  • Test-taking strategies

I’m going to use these three ideas as examples.

Field trips or out-of-class excursions

You and your photographers should brainstorm the types of field trips that students and teachers go on. A class could go to a museum. Which class is this? Art? Nope, it may be a history class, English class, and yes, art might explore a current exhibit on the Renaissance or American photographers. This example has endless possibilities.

  • Science classes may go to the local amusement park to study roller coaster physics.
  • Yearbook kids may go to a camp for yearbook.
  • Band kids could go to band camp.
  • Foreign language classes may experience a local Chinese, Mexican or Italian eatery.

These photos, mini stories or coverage ideas can be covered on the field trip spread.


Brainstorm a list of the classes and teachers who require projects. It could be the world history classes require a scrapbook project on a famous person or event. A portion of this project is to present the project to the class. Cover this.

Foreign language will require an array of projects. Students will spend the night before the due date working, building and creating different projects. Photograph and cover these at-home adventures.

Basically, all classes will use projects to ensure understanding, so this type of coverage encompasses multitudes of classes all on one spread. Use a variety of coverage from photo packages to quote boxes to not only cover the project but the people doing them.

Test-taking strategies

Do you study at night, on the bus or not at all? Do you study while watching Netflix, YouTube or Instagram?

All these ideas also cover academics. Studying for AP History, Spanish or even your driver’s license exam can be covered on one spread.

The idea here is to cover students and teachers rather than the title of a class. Why write copy about current reading? Instead cover the readers. After all, the yearbook is about Sally, Carson and Kristen and not about “To kill a Mockingbird” or “The Great Gatsby.”

Change is good. Living by the “We’ve always done it that way” attitude leads to mundane and typical coverage.

Take a few minutes, days or even weeks to think outside of your typical coverage. After all, It’s not your mama’s yearbook. It is not even your big sister Emma’s yearbook. This is your chance to set high standards and cover people your way.

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Mike Taylor, CJE

Mike Taylor, CJE, sees things differently, and as a journalism specialist for Walsworth, he uses that creative edge to help yearbook staffs across the country put together the yearbook they dream about. A former award-winning yearbook adviser, Mike has been awarded the JEA Medal of Merit, CSPA Gold Key and Florida Scholastic Press Association Gold Medallion. Follow Mike on Pinterest at taylormjc.