December 23, 2000 / Staff Management / Winter 2000

Routine Matters

Written by David Sontag

‘Nine-Day Cycle’ provides stability in yearbook production

The job seemed overwhelming. The class was once a dumping ground. Lying on the floors, escaping for lunch midway through class and only having to take a few pictures each semester was the norm. The class was yearbook and the operation was titanic.

How was I supposed to teach a news writing class, publish the school newspaper and produce the high school yearbook – all in one year? These tasks, along with teaching an American literature class and a speech course, were required. The job appeared insurmountable, but I had no choice. The yearbook class needed direction.

I needed a plan.

To ease the pressure, a strict routine had to be implemented. With all of the extracurricular tasks needed to create respectable publications, a stringent schedule had to be developed.

That is where the Nine-Day Cycle comes in. This is a program to aid those teachers who are given the seemingly daunting task of producing the yearbook. When the students leave the classroom, they will most assuredly have learned important life skills, such as discipline and time management, as well as the journalistic skills of writing and editing.

Lying on the floors, escaping midway through class to travel to McDonalds and missing deadlines are not characteristics of the Nine-Day Cycle. This structured system allows teachers to walk out of the door at the end of the day with a feeling of accomplishment and proficiency.


The Hit List – A list generated after every deadline that shows how many candid photos of each student were used and how many times each student in the school has been used for a quote. Once a student has three candids and three quotes, the yearbook class cannot use that person in the book. If a staff member attempts to use a student on the Hit List, the staff member will lose five points for each Hit List person used. The staff member will then have to find other sources for the assignment.

The Assignment Form – Staff members are graded on their story, their pictures and their headline before these areas reach the rough draft stage. This form is worth 100 points and forces staff members to stay on task.

The Look – A detailed template of each section of the yearbook. The template is posted in the publications lab so that students can constantly check the proper specifications.

The “For the Money” drawer – This is a special drawer in the publications room in which students place their polished work. Once it reaches this area of the cycle, the teacher will edit one more time before the layout is sent to Walsworth. If any name is misspelled it will cost the staff member 50 cents. If any other words are misspelled, the student will be charged 25 cents. This dollar amount is charted on a poster, and the final amount is what the staff members must pay for their yearbook. This forces students to be conscientious editors.


Day 1 – The Infancy Stage

  • Interviews finalized for story. (Need minimum of three to five sources).
  • Double-check the Hit List.
  • Organize notes and write rough draft
  • Access layout from current DEADLINES folder. Study layout and design of spread.
  • Save layout in personal yearbook folder, on disk and in DEADLINES folder.
  • Last day polished final from previous deadline will be collected.

Day 2- The Story Takes Shape

  • Final story for this deadline is due at 2:35 p.m. Attach to individual assignment form.
  • Spell check story before submitting.
  • Story must fit designed space on template
  • Gather caption, sidebar and headline information.
  • Organize and select proper photos.

Day 3 – The Scavenger Hunt

  • Graded story is edited. Additional information is collected. Save three times
  • Continue to gather information for the captions. Exhaust the five W’s
  • Headline brainstorms continue as dominant photo is decided
  • Sidebar information generated.

Day 4 – Picture Perfect

  • Place captions and lead-ins on layout. Follow the six and fewer rule. Vary sentence structure with each caption.
  • Size must follow layout specifications. Simply highlight text and place new captions.
  • Spell check captions.
  • Save three times – current DEADLINES folder, personal yearbook folder and disk.
  • Crop pictures to fit space. No faces in the gutter. All faces look in.
  • Place additional information (scoreboards, graphics, folio info, etc.)
  • Place label on each picture.
  • Write headline to fit style determined on “The Look.”
  • Headline and photos are due with individual assignment form at 2:35p.m.

Day 5 – Rough-Draft Frenzy

  • Rough draft due by 2:35 p.m. (25 points each minute late, deduct 1 point)
  • Folder must include captions, folio information, copy and graphics – all on a laser printout. It must also include the labeled pictures. The printout must include written information to Walsworth, including color specifications, tool lines around photos, etc.
  • Save three times.

Day 6 – Editing the Initial Test

  • Group editing will take place in a roundtable setting.
  • Each editor will have specific focus for rough drafts.
  • Next assignment deadline distributed. Editors’ sheets dispersed and discussed.
  • Brainstorm ideas and sources for next deadline
  • Hit List (3/3 Rule) discussed and distributed.
  • Gather additional information for rough draft.
  • Clean work area, disks, bins, etc. Hand in unused photos.

Day 7 – A Creation Completed

  • Editing takes place. Additional information gathered.
  • Double-check crop marks on pictures.
  • Spell check entire layout.
  • Save three times.
  • Entire deadline package due by 2:35 p.m. (Include evaluations) – 200 points
  • Save three times.

Day 8 – A Job Well Done

  • Edit graded final.
  • Index all names in computer and in photo/ quote folder
  • Check statements to company, which appear on submission envelope.
  • Insert final materials, sign envelope and place in For the Money Drawer.
  • Insert final laser and pat yourself (and all of the other staff members) on the back.
  • No time to waste – begin work on next deadline.

Day 9 – Editors Take Care of Business

  • Editors must finish all responsibilities that were determined on Day 6.


  • The cycle then continues until the yearbook is finished. To determine the amount of cycles and the ending date, follow this simple formula:
  • Determine how many pages will be in the yearbook.
  • Divide the amount of two-page layouts by the number of students
  • Multiply that number by 9 (nine days in the cycle). This number will determine the amount of days needed to finish all of the mini-deadlines. Now count back in the school calendar to determine when Deadline 1 should begin.


  • A final deadline (Day 7) will be collected late, but not more than three days late. After three days, a zero will be given for the deadline.
  • If a staff member scores a zero on a deadline, he or she may not continue to the next deadline until the incomplete is finished.
  • If students are absent from class, they must make up that missed day without falling behind the present Day. Only an extended illness will alter this.
  • If the quote candid folder and the index are not completed properly, five points will be deducted for each name omitted.

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David Sontag