October 16, 2013 / Fall 2013 / Middle School Moment

Strive for a great middle school yearbook

Written by Allison Staub

Let’s face it, anyone who has advised, been editor-in-chief, or worked on staff knows that making an even “mediocre” yearbook is a ton of work. So why not strive for something great? A middle school yearbook can be just as good — or better — than a high school one.

Unlike high school staffs, my wonderful team is not a repeating group of students, but a class of eighth graders who apply and are selected through a highly competitive process. Using a carefully designed curriculum, I teach my students everything they need to know to produce the entire yearbook in one year.

My teaching approach enables my students to take ownership of the masterpiece that they create. And entering our yearbook in competitions builds excitement and pride. Here are ways I help my students produce an award-winning yearbook and have an enthralling learning experience.

  • Research, research, research. I spend a lot of time 
digging through yearbook websites, reading lesson plans, browsing other yearbooks, and speaking with advisers locally and across the country for ideas and support. Pinterest is a great place to find ideas, and often helps me uncover unexpected sources of inspiration.
  • Teach from the best. Build a library of award-winning yearbooks. Have your students critique a range of yearbooks so they can begin to identify the qualities that make award-winning books.
  • Do a theme project. My students have to learn everything about building a yearbook in the first few months of school. I divide them into groups to produce mock-themes for an exciting crash-course in yearbook concept and design. Each group presents their theme to the class and we vote to determine the winner, which becomes our theme.
  • Assign students roles and responsibilities. At the beginning of the year I serve as both adviser and editor. I assign roles toward the middle of the year and eventually my editors-in-chief are running the class. Every student plays an important role; some are wonderful at marketing (i.e., making commercials and posters), and some have exceptional organizational skills that keep us running smoothly.
  • Let students make it their own. My students photograph, write, create and design everything in our yearbook. It is our role as teachers to teach our students what good design is and to give them room to experiment and make mistakes. For 2013, our cover went through 24 iterations… that’s right, 24! By allowing my students to fully engage in the creative process and trusting them, I see tremendous growth in their abilities and confidence.
  • Make yearbook special. Starting with the application process, I emphasize that yearbook is a privilege, and reinforce that notion throughout the year. I make press passes with my students’ pictures and give everyone a reporter’s notepad the first day. We make the room a second home; we have lounging areas, and I encourage my students to decorate their work areas. We have pizza parties, celebrate National Pancake Day, and when we meet deadlines we eat Oreo truffle balls — they are legendary in our room!

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Allison Staub

Allison (Allie) Staub advises The Scrapbook yearbook at Westfield Middle School in Westfield, Ind., where she teaches art and yearbook. In January she received the 2015 JEA Rising Star award. The yearbook has earned numerous state and national honors, including being named a 2015 CSPA Crown Finalist and a 2014 NSPA Pacemaker Finalist for the 2014 yearbook described in this article. A self-proclaimed font snob, she teaches at local and national yearbook workshops.