Yearbook organization marks time

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Chronological yearbooks are surging in popularity, creating an organized and complete view of the school year.

Life comes at us in order – days, weeks, months, seasons and years – even if what happens during those periods is not orderly. In school, football and homecoming mean fall, basketball and band and choir concerts mean winter, and baseball and prom mean spring, with tests, homework, chores, dates, family time and extracurricular activities mixed in.

Recently there has been a significant increase in yearbooks that cover school events in chronological order. Some of the advisers who oversee those yearbooks say their chronological coverage books are here to stay for several years.

Variety exists

There are several ways to organize a chronological yearbook. The Resumé of Central High School in Springfield, Mo., is organized by seasons, with a division page for each. In the 2009 book, there was a barline of months at the bottom of the pages with the month of the activity covered on the spread in bold. The 2009 yearbook was the second chronological book, and they are creating one again for 2010.

“They thought that was a logical way to organize without going as far as the weekly style other (chronological) books used,” said Deborah Garner, adviser.

chrono 008-009 Douglas_ copy

In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School 2010 yearbook, each week is covered in two spreads – a week spread and an event spread. In this example of a week spread in the 2010 Aerie, there is a story and dominant photo about senior decals, a student life story for the week of Aug. 17. The spread is completed with a picture package about color guard (clubs) and a mini-read about volleyball conditioning (sports).

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the 2009 Aerie yearbook was organized into sections containing first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, seniors, underclass, faculty, plus a reference section for sports and club pictures, and a community section for ads. In the quarter sections, two spreads were devoted to each week – a week spread and an event spread. The most important event of each week was selected for one spread, and other things that happened that week were featured on the week spread.

“To ensure equal coverage, we covered one student life topic, one academic topic, one club topic, and one sports topic each week between the two spreads,” said Melissa Falkowski, Stoneman Douglas adviser.

The staff at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kan., also mixed their coverage topics in their chronological yearbooks, too, but in a monthly format.

“As an editor, you have to make sure your book appeals to every audience, especially students. Chronological organization creates variety that keeps students interested,” said Alexandria Norton, co-editor-in-chief of the 2009 Hauberk yearbook.

The Hauberk has been a chronological yearbook since 2006, with the 2010 staff continuing that organizational format.

More complete coverage

Falkowski, whose staff also is working on a chronological book for 2010, said there were improvements in coverage of student life, academics, sports and clubs.

“This is because we can cover things in small ways like picture packages and mini-reads on our week spreads, so the coverage becomes spread more equally. We aren’t locked into a traditional ladder where we have to cover each club and sports team with their own spread. We aren’t stuck trying to figure out what to put on a spread for English (or) math in academics,” Falkowski said.

Garner saw an improvement in clubs coverage. “There’s always a problem of how to balance coverage in that section. There are always those clubs that exist but never do anything. This way we could combine some clubs effectively and not leave them out entirely,” Garner said.

Falkowski said this type of organization also changed the coverage approach by staff members.

SM East p66-67

The division pages in the 2009 Hauberk at Shawnee Mission East High School were filled with information on students, starting with a dominant about a group activity, then photos and copy about individuals. In the dominant photo, Principal Karl Krawitz eats bananas as fast as he can during a pep assembly.

“Yearbook students become reporters, instead of feature writers, covering events and relevant topics as they unfold in the school year,” Falkowski said.

Brooke Stanley, the 2008 editor-in-chief of Shawnee Mission East’s Hauberk, said the mixing of sports, academics, student life and other coverage also meant there were high-quality photographs throughout the book, instead of strong photos in one section but not in another.

Norton summed it up this way.

“If all of the sports pages, for example, are all together, they can potentially become redundant. However, when each month contains spreads from all different sections, redundancy is less likely,” Norton said.

Flexible organization

Falkowski and Garner said getting organized and being flexible were two keys to successfully covering the year in order.

First, the staff needs to decide how they want to organize chronologically. Look through different yearbooks and how those staffs covered events weekly, monthly or seasonally.

For example, Garner said her staff was worried that the weekly spreads were too much to tackle, and it was easier to plan the ladder and content seasonally with sports and yearly activities. Garner also said it was hard to figure out where to put some things on the ladder.

“School pictures? They are in the fall, so we put them there. We considered putting those in the back since it is really a reference section,” Garner said.

Stoneman Douglas’ staff used a reference section, but it was for sports and clubs, giving the portraits their own sections.

“We’ve gotten comments that using May as the portraits section is kind of an awkward labeling,” Stanley said about the Shawnee Mission East yearbook.

Both Garner and Falkowski recommended a calendar. Garner suggested getting a huge school calendar to plot out all the annual events, while Falkowski said to use an online calendar, like Google Calendar, so everyone can see the upcoming events and a calendar to manage deadlines. It is important that the staff know what goes on in school every day and week.

Norton said, “Although this organization allows for variety in designs, it also causes potential difficulties in maintaining consistency. The months and spreads can seem disconnected if common design elements are not used throughout.”

Garner said the staff needs to decide early on regular elements to be repeated on like spreads, such as all sports spreads.

“This will help readers know it is a sports spread and not something else,” Garner said.


In Central High School’s Resumé, the months run along the bottom of the page, with the month being covered in bold. Like other sports spreads, coverage of the girls swim team includes action shots, the team photo and coverage of individuals in boxes. Coverage of academics and activities is similarly design to get the most information on the pages.

To cover unexpected events, Central’s staff save a spread in each season, or month, but they also make sure those spreads can be filled if only the expected things happen.

The Stoneman Douglas staff is arranged in mini-staffs to accomplish complete coverage. There are eight student photographers, which helps to spread the weekly events among them. Falkowski added that a good photo editor is imperative. Because coverage can change, these mini-staffs and photographers must be flexible.

“Sometimes events get cancelled or students fail to follow through with photo assignments. Sometimes something turns out not to be very interesting. Sometimes, something incredibly dramatic occurs that cannot be ignored. In those cases you have to be able to change midstream and do something else,” Falkowski said.

Also, Stanley recommended that staffs start thinking about division pages and saving photos for them early in the process, because this organization means having a lot of division pages.

With any type of organization, deadlines are an issue.

Falkowski said everyone on staff works on their own set of deadlines, which was a difficult system to create maintain. Garner said the timing of the final deadline is a challenge. Central is a spring delivery book, making the spring section shorter than the other sections and creating a gap in time that must be completed in the supplement.

The Shawnee Mission East staff found that problem, too. Norton said covering an equal number of student life, sports, academics and clubs in each section can be difficult to maintain. She said for their staff, August coverage was difficult because students are not in school during the first half of the month, leaving few events to cover.

“Also, we send in all final files before May but still include May as one of the months in the book,” Norton said. “This means spreads are not specific to only May but spring in general, for example sports, academic classes but not student life, limiting coverage balance during this month as well.”

“But it’s still much better than having a spring supplement,” Stanley said.

SM East p70-71

Readers know what this spread is about in the 2009 Hauberk, because the left folio has the month (December) and the right folio has the topic (Random Clubs). Three clubs are covered on this spread: the Croquet Club, the Martial Arts Club and the Environmental Club. Articles on each club, with club information in boxes and a sidebar on what club members where, complete the coverage.

Stanley found one big advantage in the deadline situation. “Because the spreads from the earlier months could be finished, we were able to get more flats finished earlier so they could start printing, whereas with (traditional organization) we wouldn’t be able to turn in the entirety of a section such as sports or student life by the end of the first semester,” Stanley said.

Hearty endorsements

For these advisers and editors, the coverage advantage outweighs any problems or issues.

“I really was afraid to go this route. I was worried we would lose the reader or confuse them,” Garner said. “There were no complaints about arrangement. Coverage was better and I think people enjoyed looking through the entire book, not just a section or two.”

“This type of yearbook makes the coverage in the book much more relevant. It anchors it in the school year,” Falkowski said. “When a sports team has a spectacular game or goes to State, we create an event spread for them. When a teacher does an interesting project or a club holds an interesting event, we create an event spread for that. Chronological organization eliminates the idea that you have to cover these same generalized topics year after year. You cover things in order as they happen, and you assign those things to a spread element based on the level of interest for each topic.”

Douglas Aerie 10-11

The second spread for the week of Aug. 17 in the 2010 Aerie is an event spread about the new system for schedule pickup, an academics topic. The spread is dated Aug. 18, next to the folios.

Falkowski said her staff decided to go chronological because they saw and heard at conventions that it was an emerging trend.

“As an adviser, the idea made sense to me. Some of my students were on board, others took some convincing. The 2008 NSPA convention in Anaheim is what finally convinced my students to make the change to a chronological yearbook,” Falkowski said.

“I don’t think we’ll ever go back to traditional yearbook coverage,” she said.

Elizabeth Braden, CJE
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.