March 10, 2014 / Spring 2014 / Staff Management

Yearbook is finished, now what?

Written by Renee Burke

Advisers with spring-delivery books often face the challenge of what to do with the staff once the final pages are uploaded. Yes, proofs are still to come, but with students not working on the next deadline, how will they spend the next nine weeks?

Some staffs like to get a head start on next year by splitting the class into groups to brainstorm and create a theme for the next book. This either forces the new staff to inherit a theme they didn’t help create, or by August, everyone is sick of it and wants something fresh. This can leave the adviser feeling like the staff’s time was wasted.

Consider having students create a portfolio, which benefits the students and next year’s staff. With a portfolio, students can practice skills they’ve learned in your class and improve their writing, as well as provide the upcoming staff some creative design ideas.

There are lots of ways to assign this project, so have an idea of your expectations as you plan.

A perfect resource can be JEA’s Journalist of the Year portfolio. This requires applicants to submit, in order, application materials (a transcript, resume, three letters of recommendation, an action photo or video of the student, a completed application and a self-analytical essay), and then samples of writing, design, photography/videography and multimedia/open.

While the JEA portfolio is a great start, it may not meet all of your needs.  Think about what you want to assess. Is it writing, design skills, software application knowledge, or all of the above?

The portfolio should help you assess each student’s growth and be a marketing piece for the student.  If created well, this portfolio can help the student land an internship or job.

In addition to a resume, a cover letter is a necessity. Since this is their first point of contact with a prospective employer, a cover letter provides a good representation of who the student is and what he can do.

Because I want this piece to be a complete reflection of the year or years the student has been on staff, there is a self-analytical essay and seven reflections the students must write, plus two spreads to design. For those who were on staff before, there is an eighth reflection about how they have grown in the past year.

Portfolios take time to grade and return to the students, so I make them due two weeks before final grades must be submitted. I estimate about a half hour per portfolio to grade. You may do it faster, especially if you limit the amount of reflections.

If your school does not have InDesign, or if you don’t want the students to use it to create a portfolio, another option is to use the Web. WordPress is free and has hundreds of free templates. Or consider having your advanced students create a standard print portfolio so you can evaluate their skills, but also have them create a personal website. Using a template, this is fast and easy. Have their site include: Home (Intro page with contact info) with Published Work, Photography, Portfolio and Resume sections.

No one likes busy work, but generally people don’t mind creating something of value. The portfolio has value, and once your students use it, they will see how effective it can be. To view my student portfolios go to issuu.com/booneportfolios.

Here are the Portfolio instructions that I give to my students. I include examples to show them.

Publications Portfolio

This portfolio should allow you to reflect on your year(s) in journalism. This portfolio must be typed, designed and submitted as a PDF.  This must have a professional look to it. I will be looking for a well-designed portfolio (so, yes, design does matter – 200 points). This is 1000/1100 points of your fourth nine-weeks grade and your final evaluation for the class. Be honest with yourself and me.  Make sure your answers are as detailed as possible; short/brief answers are not the way to go. You will be graded on grammar, so spell check and proofread everything! Put some thought into this.

  • Don’t forget – if you are a returning staffer, you are expected to have your previous portfolio(s) included.
  • DETAILS!!  DETAILS!!  DETAILS!!  DETAILS!! Once you have completed your portfolio draft, proofread it, spell check it, grammar check it and then do it all again. Have someone else look it over, too.
  • The portfolio concept/design should be evident on each page/spread.
  • The portfolio must appear in this order (below). Think of designing as a spread, or for reflections to be on the right side.
  • The business elements (first two items) are due (date) = 100 points, then the corrected and final versions will also appear in the portfolio.)

Business elements (110 points total)

Create a professional-looking package that has a consistent look: same fonts, colors, graphics, etc. Include name, full address, phone, web address (if applicable), Facebook and/or Twitter contact info, as well as other social medias you use (Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Foursquare, etc.).

Cover letter (50 points)

Create a professional cover letter to accompany your resume. This cannot be longer than one page and should include:  the position for which you are applying, why you want the job, how your skills relate to the job, your knowledge of the organization.

Resume (60 points)

Create a professional resume. This cannot be longer than one page and must contain six sections: Heading, Objective, Experience (and/or skills), Education, Activities/Awards and References.

ESSAYS  Each is to be a separate entry.

A self-analytical evaluation (90 points)

How did you get started in journalism? What have you learned in this course this year? Provide specific examples regarding: actual production skills, deadlines, teamwork, sales and/or advertising, journalism ethics and dedication. Why, if at all, was this a valuable course to take? How can/will you use these skills in the future?

Reflection #1 (50 points)

Choose what you consider to be your most significant piece of work for the publication this year.  Write a complete analysis of why this is your best work. Include: your purpose and how easy or difficult it was to complete, and how the work evolved from first effort to published piece. Make specific references to the process you went through in creating this piece and to anything you learned as you went along. Discuss what you particularly like about the finished product. Be specific. Include first draft and final PDF.

Reflection #2 (50 points)

Choose what you consider to be the piece that could still use work. What did you learn? How did the work evolve from first effort to published piece? How could it be further improved if you had the chance? What is your overall feeling about this piece now?  Make specific references to the process you went through in creating this piece. Include first draft and final PDF.

Reflection #3 (60 points)

Look back at all of the pictures you have taken this year (photo days, sports events, deadline subjects, etc.). Find three pictures you are proud you took. Size them to 24px36p and place each one on a page along with a paragraph of why you are proud of the picture. Does it have an element of good composition: center of visual interest, repetition, leading lines, rule of thirds, depth of field, framing and/or filling the frame? What attracts you to this picture? (It does not have to have been printed, but is preferred). At the end of the paragraph provide the photo name as saved in the photo folder on the server (example: lunches 9-9_burke122.jpg).

Reflection #4 (30 points)

How were you an asset to this staff and the (year) edition of the yearbook? Describe the extent of your commitment to the publication(s). Cite specific examples.

Reflection #5 (45 points)

a. What problems/hardships did you face this year?

b. What did you learn from the situation(s) and how would you handle those problems if they arose again? (Even if you aren’t going to be on staff, some problems have life lessons to be learned.)

c. Overall, how do you feel you handled the situation?

Reflection #6 (45 points)

At the mid-term you were asked, “What are your three goals for the next semester AND how will you fulfill each one.”  What were your goals AND how did you succeed (or not and why)? Be specific. (Scan graded mid-term into document.)

Reflection #7 (45 points)

Look at the CSPA Gold Circle list (do NOT print list on school printer). Choose three items you would like to enter. For each, provide the entry number, your selection title along with the page number (and issue date, if applicable) and a brief paragraph of why you would like that piece to represent you. Submit a thumbnail for quick reference.

Reflection #8 for returners ONLY (the extra 100 points)

(60 points) – For those of you who have been on staff before, look back at your previous portfolio(s). How have you have grown in this class? What are some specific, notable differences from year to year (good or bad)? Make direct/specific connections with your previous portfolio(s).  Look at your design, writing, overall quality of work. Do not generalize and don’t be vague.

  (40 points) – Overall design of this portfolio is more advanced (shows growth)

Design (200 points)

You are to design two spreads that could be used for publication in next year’s book. Both designs should have consistency (fonts, sizes, styles) and must contain some form of secondary coverage that could be added to the library (you cannot use something we already have). These should follow design rules. You are welcome to use professional publications as inspiration.

Yearbook (design for one section and use the YB template with 17 grids) – Identify the spreads, provide a head, subhead, body copy and byline style; layout needs an eyeline, 7 or 9 pictures, captions by pictures (avoid clusters), good use of color, a folio and secondary coverage (made to look like you want it to appear). Other graphic elements may be added. Don’t redo what we have done! Be unique and creative.

CLIPS!! You must include all of your pages/stories/ads/etc., from the course of the year. (200 points)

Clips should be organized according to the following categories, in order: writing, design, photography/videography and multimedia/open. Each clip must be labeled with the category, identify what you did (story, captions, design, photos, art, alternative copy) and include press information. Place PDF as a spread and identify section page/spread (for example, “Student Life”).

PDF of portfolio (25 points)

Since you are to design your portfolio using InDesign, you are to create the document in the order it is to appear, then export as a PDF print file (burke_renee 2013.pdf) and save in the Portfolios >  PDF files folder.

Issuu version (50 points)

Upload your PDF to issuu.com.

DATES to notice!!! 

Portfolios are NOT accepted late! Due (day, date, time).

Web portfolios due: seniors, (day, date, time); underclass, (day, date, time)

Portfolio resume example

Portfolio cover letter example

  • TC Hargroves

    Hey Renee,

    I am interested in viewing your students’ portfolios but our web master has blocked it. Is there anyway you can email me a copy so I may view it for an assignment for my students?

  • Kate Calder

    These are fantastic, and specific, ideas! I’ll be utilizing a portfolio this year with my group of seniors once we finish the book in May!

Renee Burke

Renee Burke, NBCT, MJE, is a yearbook and newspaper adviser at William R. Boone High School in Orlando, Florida. Renee was chosen JEA's 2015 Yearbook Adviser of the Year, the 2012 OCPS Teacher of the Year, 2011 FSPA Journalism Teacher of the Year and a 2011 CSPA Gold Key recipient. She teaches at workshops nationally, including Walsworth's Adviser Academy.