August 31, 2012 / Copywriting

The Write Stuff: Getting back on the write foot

Written by Jami Williams

While looking forward to the great things the new school year will bring, there also is a tinge of dread when I think about proofreading, brainstorming and coming up with new ideas for copy. I realize no one is into my idea of a Dostoyevski yearbook filled with descriptive narratives. But the prospect of a lapse in creativity has led me to come up with a few activities to facilitate the understanding of both taking the picture that tells the story and writing the story that showcases the picture.

I love to scrapbook, and do plenty of it for the sake of posterity and to keep those creative juices flowing. So borrowing from my favorite hobby, here are a few of the activities I am planning for the classroom to bring the group back together as one unit and introduce a couple of different ideas to get the brainstorm fires burning again!

Oh Caption, My Caption!

Each student will bring in a photo of themselves as a baby or toddler. The pictures will be paper-clipped to a piece of paper, and each student will write a caption about what is happening in the picture. The key is that no writer can reveal who the picture belongs to until the activity is done. Then each student gets to select the winner of the caption that is the best written and adds the most to the picture.

The Yearbook Payoff: Besides getting to know each other and having some quality bonding time, this activity can be incorporated into your yearbook season as a way of raising yearbook sales awareness. Place the photos and captions on posters that are used to promote yearbook sales and build anticipation.

Alter Ego

Get students out of their comfort zones by having them find another student in the school who is NOT their BFF or even their “F” for that matter, but who is their alter ego. They interview the student, then the alter ego gets to interview the yearbook student and give their opinion on whether they think it is a credible evaluation.

The Yearbook Payoff: This could be great alternative copy for those portrait pages! Use lines to connect the alter egos, a six-degrees-of-separation concept or a side-by-side comparison.

I Never Said ________________________________________

This could lead to some telling, honest confessions from your students, so be prepared. The students fill in the blank with only a picture. For example, if the phrase was “I’m sorry” or “Please forgive me,” the student would take a picture of themselves or someone else down on their knees begging with a mopey look on their face. This assignment can open many avenues for discussion about emotions in photography and how and why capturing them is one of the most important things we do. For writers, it helps challenge them to cut down on the words and figure out how an emotion looks, not just reads.

The Yearbook Payoff: The concept of telling a story using a series of pictures is a great way to add faces to the yearbook in several ways, from running photos along the bottom or top of index pages or in photo sidebars.

Best New Band

This always turns into a laugh riot so prepare yourself. Challenge your students to create a band name, a list of songs by that band and a picture that would go on the band’s album cover. It can be their friends dressed up, a funny sign, scenery – anything goes as long as they can tie it all together. You could even go the extra mile and have them design their own CD or album covers or posters.

The Yearbook Payoff: This project enables students to glimpse the importance of cohesiveness. This is a great introduction to working on incorporating your theme throughout the yearbook and teaching them how to continue and follow through with elements of design and description.

Jami Williams

Jami Williams is the journalism/publications adviser for Mexico High School/Hart Career Center in Mexico, Mo. She brings a background in magazine feature writing, editing, production and design as well as newspaper reporting to her job as an adviser. Williams also teaches World Literature I where she makes her students strictly adhere to essay formats and word limits.