Photo by: Ryan Rinaldi

March 13, 2012 / Spring 2012 / Staff Management

The importance of yearbook workshops

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Noelle Chilson will not remember attending a summer yearbook workshop in July 2011. She was only three-and-a-half months old at the time. Noelle went because her mother, adviser Emily Chilson, thought workshop was so important that she loaded up Noelle and the Pack ‘n Play® and accompanied her students to the Northwest Yearbook Workshop in Tacoma, Wash.

“Sometimes I had to miss parts of sessions and it was a bit hectic at moments, but I was still able to participate in most of the conference,” Chilson, adviser at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Wash., said.

Many advisers believe that summer workshops are the best way to start off the next yearbook. Some, like Chilson, will overcome any obstacle to take their staff. Chilson is only in her second year of advising and could not imagine producing a yearbook without going to workshop.

Karen Ford, adviser at Holton High School in Holton, Kan., said her staff has not attended a workshop every year. She said on the years they have not gone, the yearbook gets completed, “possibly without as much creativity and with extra time spent getting things done.

“I have had to spend more time training students and we have had a harder time meeting deadlines without the summer jump start. I am not able to cover all the individual questions and areas quite as well as they get covered when students go to individual sessions at workshops,” Ford said.

Workshops provide experienced instructors who teach photography, page creation using software and online tools, theme development, marketing, staff management and other topics. They usually provide time to meet with a cover artist and for staff team building.

“The most important information and motivation my students gain is probably from the ideas in other participating schools’ books. During every session, you could see students going through yearbooks and whispering, ‘we should TOTALLY do this,’” Chilson said.

The number of Holton High students attending a summer workshop varies each year, Ford said. In 2011, Ford went with an editor, Kylie Miller, who was able to get a cover design and the staff’s theme ideas developed.

Ford likened a summer workshop to a foreign language immersion program.

“The workshop provides new perspectives and information on design and photography as well as story ideas. It supplies new information to students on areas I, as an adviser, may be weaker in, while providing reinforcement for the things I do stress,” Ford said.

Holton High is a small, rural Kansas school. Ford invites any of her yearbook staff members to go, and uses any money left over in the account at the end of the year to help students defray the cost. If they use the money, however, students must return to the staff for another year.  Workshop also is an incentive for students to sell more ads, Ford said.

Chilson makes attending summer workshop “mandatory,” knowing that not every staff member will be able to go because of other obligations. Funds from the yearbook account pay for workshop for the staff from Lake Stevens, a suburban-type high school of about 1,700 students.

At the workshop, Chilson’s staff designs and develops their theme and presents it to judges on the last night. Then, her staff gets together for three or four workdays before school starts, with the cover, theme pages and a clear direction for the rest of the book completed.

“The class is busy enough. I don’t know how other people are able to get it done without this valuable planning time,” Chilson said.

“How do you put a price on obtaining a theme or a cover for your yearbook or story ideas to develop that theme? They are priceless,” Ford said.

Workshop packing list

Packing for workshop is more than putting clothes in a suitcase and remembering to take a sweater or hoodie because the air conditioning might be cold in the summer. Your students need to go prepared to work. This list will start you thinking about what you need to bring.

1. Ideas for themes and stories brainstormed by staff before the workshop

2. Three to five goals students are
to accomplish, such as a cover 
design, theme concept or entire theme package, story ideas or a 
team-building event

3. Number of total pages and color pages for the book

4. The approximate budget, so they know their limitations

5. Deadline dates and number of 
pages due to help them plan their 
production schedule

6. Last year’s yearbook, to use as a 
reference only

7. Favorite magazines to use as resources for story and design ideas

8. Notepads, pens, laptops, printers,
thumb drives, pencils

9. High-energy snacks to keep those creative juices flowing

10. American Dictionary of Slang, Roget’s Thesaurus, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, The Book of Questions, and other resources to spur creativity

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Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.