Surviving the First Week / Month

Surviving the First Week Month

For both new advisers or seasoned veterans, the first day of school probably looks a little like this: meet new students, assign seats, review the syllabus, discuss classroom rules, check materials required for the class, share your expectations AND do an ice-breaker to get to know everyone. Phew, I’m exhausted and the real work hasn’t even begun, yet. How will you ever survive the rest of the week, let alone a full year? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.

With a little bit of planning and the handy list you’ll find here, you’ll be on the path to a successful year. There’s another list perfect for the first month of school and more lists exist for each month of the year. Plus, we’ve done separate lists for major yearbook events like ad campaigns, ladder planning and preparing for your distribution event and so much more. By using these, you can set the stage for a successful year with some concrete plans.

We’d love to hear any tips you have for surviving the first week of school so please share them below in the comments.

Organizing your Staff and Classroom

Organizing your Staff and Classroom

The start of the year is a perfect time to create systems to make life easier. Taking the time now to organize will pay off in months to come when everything has a place and efficiency comes second nature. Here are 10 ways you can control the process of yearbook instead of the craziness and chaos controlling you:


Put together a binder with dividers so the entire staff can easily find important information. Sections of the binder should include:

  • Contact information (phone numbers and addresses for your reps, the plant, staff members, etc.)
  • Deadlines (easy-to-read list of deadlines)
  • Print-outs of style guidelines for each section of the book
  • Calendar (all deadlines and yearbook-related events should be marked on the calendar in this section)
  • Budget updates
  • Activities (this section can include projects and assignments for rare moments of “down time”)
  • Plant correspondence


Color-code each deadline on your ladder so that the entire staff can keep track of dates on which pages are due. Color-coding also helps the students see when events must be covered in order to meet deadlines. HJ Planner and Planner Assistant make building your ladder and creating consistent page templates easier than ever.


Whether you use folders, envelopes or binders for each section/spread/kind of content, there should be some system used to file physical content. If notes are left on the table and need to be put away or scoreboard info is delivered by a coach, anyone on staff should be able to put it in the right place. At the end of each week, ask staffers to print out the current version of their work. The envelopes/folders/binders never leave the classroom. This enables you to check the progress of the book and to see if students are meeting deadlines. (This is also useful in grading—try assigning points for each item on the spread and assign a grade value based on the total number of points earned for each grading period.)


Since you’ll have thousands of photo images, your photo leaders and team need an easy systems for archiving and retrieving photos. In addition, the system you use should allow for somehow marking images once they have been used and for accurately crediting the photographers for their work.


The materials most yearbook staffs use today are very different than in the past. While mailing boxes, copy shipment forms and page envelopes are used in fewer schools each year, pens, highlighters, tape, photo assignment forms, page planning sheets and more should have established locations on shelves or in cabinets with easy access for all.


Make individual mail cubbies for everyone on the staff. This gives you, other staff members, and people on campus a place to “mail” information to specific staff members. The cubbies can be made from shoe boxes or even large envelopes tacked to the wall.


If you can give the editor a personal work space, he/she will be more productive. Remember the editor is ultimately responsible for putting the book together. Assign jobs for everyone on staff. Make a detailed chart of all the positions. The editors are the only people that report directly to you. Don’t be afraid to delegate.


You should maintain a printed copy of your yearbook. Whether you self-proof pages before you submit or receive proofs from the plant, you want to have a binder which includes the final version of each page submitted to the plant in numerical order.


Make staff badges or press passes with students’ names and photos. This badge may allow students into otherwise restricted areas or athletic events and will identify them as yearbook staff. T-shirts are another way to make your staff feel special. It’s fun to design the shirts to go with your cover or theme.


Assign a student to each of the following tasks:

  • Tracking, organizing and promoting book sales
  • Shooting photos of before-school and first-week events and activities
  • Keeping materials organized and in stock
  • Maintaining computers by rebuilding the desktop when needed; backing up yearbook files once a week; creating templates and organizing electronic proofs
  • Tracking ad sales, acting as liaison between parents and businesses, making sure ads (including links, fonts, graphics, etc.) are received in time
  • Keeping the room organized and clean
  • Acting as the staff social coordinator to celebrate staff members’ birthdays, deadline completion and to keep the staff motivated.

Creating your Theme and Developing a Unifier

Creating your Theme and Developing a Unifier


A unifying statement or idea (also referred to as “theme”) within a yearbook that clearly tells a story, creates a personality and marks the school year by mirroring the action, tempo and mood of the student body.


  • Have a brainstorming session where everyone convenes and shares their ideas. This might take place at a staff-only meeting over the summer or at a summer camp or workshop.
  • A designated person should write down all the ideas.
  • Ideas should be shared openly without criticism or comment.
  • Consider words/phrases and ideas; discuss the verbal voice of each.
  • Narrow the ideas down to two or three that meet the required criteria and have the most appeal.
  • Determine whether traditional sections or some other format makes most sense.
  • Discuss whether mini-theme ideas would be appropriate for each section.
  • Usually one of the ideas becomes an obvious choice at this point.
  • If not, continue developing the ideas and have the staff, editor(s) and adviser determine the best concept.


  • relate to the school. There should be an obvious tie between the school and the theme. For example if school morale is low – DO NOT choose a pride theme.
  • relate to the year. Major school events and/or circumstances that occur during the year provide logical and appropriate theme choices.
  • be verbal. The catch phrase should be memorable and flexible so that it can be adapted to theme copy, captions and mini-themes or spin-offs.
  • be visual. A theme look is created by using fonts, graphic elements and colors that are consistent with the message.


  • a song, movie, TV or magazine title.
  • copyrighted material.
  • a condescending or demoralizing theme.
  • an overused phrase or idea.


Utilize the cover, endsheets, title page, opening spread(s), closing spread(s) and all divider pages to convey the theme throughout the book. The reader should immediately recognize the theme in each section of the book. Supporting elements such as graphic devices, titles or folios may be used to help unify the yearbook.

Layouts that are necessary for the theme pages within the book are:

  • The title page which carries key school information.
  • The opening spread(s) and closing spread(s) are often identical layouts.
  • All dividers should be identical, and similar to the opening and closing spreads. Consistent divider pages help indicate to the reader that a transition is being made.


Theme copy should support the theme concept in tone and content as well as through word choices and font selection. Specific details and informative words are key elements when writing dynamic theme copy, which should read like anything but a descriptive paragraph or graduation speech.

Starting Points for Developing a Theme

Starting Points for Developing a Theme

Theme is considered the thread that ties an entire yearbook together. It is a cohesive package for the readers to get the story of the entire school year, and if you haven’t already began developing the next one, odds are, you’ll start soon! Here are some starting points to begin the theme development process.

  1. We’ve compiled a list of hundreds and hundreds of theme ideas. Have students choose three or four ideas and explore how they could be adapted to your school this year and how they would promote the coverage of your campus.
  2. Brainstorm and list things that will be new and different at your school this year.
  3. List descriptions of your school. How would people from another school describe your campus and student body?
  4. What impact does your school have on the community?
  5. In what ways is the community involved in your school?
  6. What outside influences impact your school? Consider such things as technology, pop culture and social economic situations.
  7. In what ways does the school location have an impact?
  8. Use a variety of current magazines to gather phrases that catch students’ attention and might be modified into a possible theme statement.
  9. Brainstorm possible voice and tone that you think students at your school might relate to and then search websites that use a similar voice and tone to promote their idea or product.
  10. Once a verbal idea has been selected, students should go back to looking at magazines, advertising and websites to gather visual elements that would help develop the theme concept throughout the entire yearbook.

Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Workshop

Top 10 Things to Do Before Summer Workshop

Attending a summer yearbook workshop can have a tremendous effect on the following year’s publication, as well as be the perfect team building experience before the school year even begins.


If one workshop doesn’t work for every staffer wanting to attend, consider others with alternative dates. Check out the list of available workshops.


If multiple classes are offered, decide which class will best suit the needs of each staffer. Consider placing students in different classes to get as much information as possible, which can then be shared with the entire yearbook staff.


Complete the registration forms including any medical authorizations and parental requirements. Be sure to submit them prior to the registration deadline.


Payment can be made from the yearbook account funds, from individual staffer funds or a combination of both.


Arrange transportation to and from the workshop through school vehicles or parents. Complete school district forms if required.


Be sure to have a list of staffers with contact information to make communication easy throughout the summer.


Plan to meet with the entire staff during the summer prior to actual workshop dates, allowing all staffers to be involved in the planning process whether or not they attend the workshop.


Getting work done in these areas before the workshop will allow additional valuable work to be accomplished during the workshop.


All staffers, but especially those who will attend a workshop, should put together either a hard copy or digital collection of ideas gathered from magazines, advertising, websites, etc. for design and coverage inspiration.


Hold a discussion about the positive effect of workshop attendance with an open mind and willingness to take advice and suggestions from workshop instructors.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

You’ve made it. You’ve been on the yearbook staff for a while now and you totally know the ropes. You can identify a dull caption from pages away, interview to get to the heart of the story, take a stellar action shot in low light and basically feel very confident to take on another year as a yerd when the unthinkable happens… you learn that you’re getting a new adviser!

Be open to change

Yes, you rocked the old system and you don’t understand why now each staffer needs to fill out an online request before checking out a camera, but I bet your adviser has a reason and it may turn out great. I knew very little about yearbook when I started, but I was pretty good at technology. Thus, this year we integrated augmented reality and joined HJ Plus One to offer our yearbook online. These seemed a little odd at first, but the staff and campus learned to love them.

Be willing to explain

Is your adviser trying to make a change that you know won’t work? Believe it or not, most advisers will succumb to the virtues of logic. Instead of just saying it won’t work, take the time to explain the logical ramifications. You have the experience, and they will listen, OR it will give them a chance to show how that they have considered these pitfalls and what their solutions are.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I had no idea how to spell colophon let alone pronounce it when I started and I was sure I was being judged, but really… that’s small potatoes to the big picture. So if your adviser keeps insisting on the Oxford comma when you’ve never used it before… it’s probably not the best time to mutiny (though advisers, this isn’t really the big push you want to make either). If you focus on every small detail that seems weird, you will end up despising yearbook and your adviser!

Don’t compare

Your new adviser is never going to be the old adviser. They may be better. They may be worse. I can promise you they will DEFINITELY be different. If you continuously compare the two or expect them to do what the last one did, you’re in for a rough ride.

Staffers: 5 Ways to Train a New Adviser

Learn their Starbucks® order

Kidding (kinda). But really, you’re going to spend a lot of time with this random adult. They should be making an effort to get to know you and your staff, and you should learn about them too. Whether you bond over never jumping on the Belieber train, or decide to have a Christmas cookie contest, seeing them as more than just a foreign entity will make everything run a lot smoother (and I strongly believe caffeine makes everything better).

So returning staff members — or new advisers — it’s really not as hard as it may feel at first. Keep the modes of communication wide open, be sure to listen to one another, and you’ll have (or become) a veteran adviser in no time. Good luck and happy yearbooking!

Workshops and Camps: A Staff Must-Do

Workshops and Camps: A Staff Must-Do

Herff Jones does an excellent job of not only providing highly qualified representatives that are amazing resources for new advisers and new student staff members, but they also host valuable workshops and camps that allow everyone to get in on the hottest trends and design ideas.

Once I began attending and presenting at these events with my students, I made sure to make it a fundraising priority. Not only do I get to catch up on all the new offerings from Herff Jones, network with other yearbook advisers, and interact with my staff in fun ways, but my students get to find their place in the yerd community, learn new tips and tricks to use in our next yearbook, and become a closer team.

Workshops and Camps: A Staff Must-Do

These workshops and camps are so very valuable for both advisers (especially new ones!) and staffers alike. We just attended the YBK Workshop 2017 at Western Michigan University hosted by Pam Beitzel and Darin Arnett. One of the sessions was an introduction on Herff Jones’ new creation, Square One, and it excited my staff to begin brainstorming the next yearbook.

Be on the lookout for great fall and spring workshops and make it a priority to at least get your editors to camp each summer. Your representative will have all the information you need to get registered. You won’t regret prioritizing these great opportunities!

Yearbook Business Ads: Making the Most of it in Middle School

Yearbook Business Ads: Making the Most of it in Middle School

Selling business ads can be daunting, especially at the junior high level. However, I believe it’s important for my staff to have experience and understanding of what it takes to communicate and interact with those they may or may not know through the selling process. We begin selling pages the first couple of weeks of school, because we know that other schools will be vying for business ads too. Therefore, this selling activity makes them more comfortable in their role, while breaking the ice with new staff members. Some choose to start over the summer months, which of course, isn’t a bad idea either.

Yearbook Business Ads: Making the Most of it in Middle School

The first activity is handshaking. This may sound silly, but many people have weak or flimsy handshakes, which can tell you a lot about a person’s confidence. We all go around shaking hands, myself included, to familiarize each other with the types of handshakes each person has. I also give constructive criticism when shaking their hands. This is the first way to break the ice. Next, I role play a scene with my editor to show the class what I am expecting them to do when they meet with prospective sponsors.

If they are the seller they must:

  1. Have a yearbook on hand (if available) and sponsorship form
  2. Ask for a manager or business owner
  3. Shake hands and introduce themselves by stating their name, their school and position on staff
  4. State the reason for their visit
  5. Share information about the sponsorship such as page choice, importance of sponsorship, the cost, ways to pay, who to send payment to and the deadline
  6. Follow up with a handshake and thank them for their time

I ask students what they noticed in my role play to keep them engaged. I then switch roles with my editor so that she can practice being the seller. It takes time for them to learn what they must do and say to someone.

Next, I have them break into groups with partners or sometimes three people and ask them to develop a scenario. One must sell the book and the other can be the sponsor. Students can use items in the prop box in their role playing, and I also have premade slips of paper that have scenarios if they cannot think of one. I normally give them 10 minutes to practice. They are allowed to write down a script to help them remember what to say. Before the scene begins, I give the business person in the scenario, a slip of paper that either says to accept their offer or reject their offer, which means the direction of the scene may change. That’s realistic to prepare for when they’re actually out selling.

The rest of the class must analyze the scenario by saying what he or she did well or needs to improve. They will have another chance to replay the scene and can reverse roles. Depending on class time, it normally takes two classes to finish the scenes.

I offer incentives for selling pages — not grades, but yearbook discounts. At the junior high level, students are not driven, and most have to rely on parents to help them sell business ads. Yes, the role playing is fun and beneficial, but most will not be walking into businesses alone to sell pages. Therefore, giving a grade for the number of sponsorships sold can frustrate students and parents. Instead, I give them $5.00 off the price of their personal yearbook for each sponsorship received. Therefore, their books can cost little to nothing.

We sell our pages for $35.00 and so far have done very well. We always set a goal for total sales, which gives our staff a focus. If they meet the class goal, we have a day to celebrate with treats. After all, celebrating big and little accomplishments keeps our staff happy and willing to work.

Transitioning from Theme to Theme

Transitioning from Theme to Theme

It’s that time of year for those of us producing fall books to start wrapping up the ones for this year and begin planning for the next ones. It’s a joyous, never-ending cycle of creativity, and I love that about advising yearbook.

In preparation for this shift from theme to theme, my returning students begin working on theme packets at the beginning of May. They take a week or so to peruse online sites showcasing thematic books, flipping through volumes of Ideas That Fly and pondering the message they want to share with their classmates the following year. They run me out of sticky notes during this week, so as an administrative warning, stock up!

Transitioning from Theme to Theme

Next, they select a single theme that they would like to work with and begin playing around with designs and ideas they have collected. By the end of the second and third weeks, they have ideas for covers, dividers, student life pages, sports pages, reference pages and even the index. I encourage them to think about all the levels of their themes including font selection, graphic elements, color options, internal spacing, photography focus and caption placement.

The final week of May is then reserved for presenting these to their classmates. They talk through their theme ideas including anything relevant outside of the obvious visual aspects including organizational ideas and journalistic focus or patterns. We generally narrow down the themes to our favorite two and work through both again before making a final selection. The selected theme is then the focus of their final exam. My students take their theme choice and make adjustments based on previous discussions. Sometimes they integrate elements from other theme packets that they really liked, so this takes collaboration and some time.

As a cumulative exercise, students are then responsible for presenting our final theme idea (via Google Slides) to our Herff Jones representative. She asks questions, clarifies concepts, gives the students immediate feedback on their theme plan and really helps them see where they may have some gaps and adjustments to make before fall.

I love wrapping up our year in this way, and seeing them build a working relationship with our representative is an exciting perk, too.

The Power of One

The Power of One

During the last day of our yearbook sales, we had two final plans to persuade non-buyers to reserve their book. We’ve called our non-buyers twice throughout the year to tell them what page they were on. We’ve sent parent e-mails. We’ve tweeted. We’ve hung bathroom flyers.  We’ve posted Facebook and Instagram messages — yet we were still 104 books shy of reaching our goal.

So during the last day of sales, we resorted to our final approach. I printed off the non-buyer list and had every one of my students highlight the names of two or more students they personally knew and send them the following message:

“Today is the final day to purchase a 2017 yearbook at (Job Number: XXXXX) If you are not sure if you purchased a copy, call The Yearbook Order Center toll free at 866-287-3096.” (Be sure to provide your job number in the message!)

That day, we sold an additional 76 books. We were that much closer to our goal, so I sent this message out to coaches and clubs and activities sponsors:

“Hi All,

I am reaching out to you today in hopes that your club, activity or sports team would be willing to purchase a yearbook for a student in financial need.  A yearbook is a luxury item that many of our students can not afford.  If your organization is willing to lend a helping hand, please let me know.  No amount of money is too small.  

Thank you in advance,


That blitz helped us capture 72 non-buyers.  But I was not willing to not meet our yearbook sales stretch goal, so I devised another plan, which plays into our school theme of altruism.

I decided to invite the faculty to help us provide yearbooks for financially needy seniors.  I sent the following e-mail.

“Dear Coaches and Sponsors,

This is my final plea, I promise.  

As the school year comes to a close, I would love to see our seniors in need graduate with memories from their journey at West High.  We have 29 students on our financial needs list.  We would love to reach 100% of our audience.  We would love your help!

It’s easy to do:

1) E-mail me and CC: the Budget Secretary that you’re interested in participating.  She can Journal Voucher the money directly from your account to the Yearbook Account.

I’ll do the rest.

Have a fantastic weekend.


With this message we were able to provide every single student on the list a yearbook.  We were able to not only show the student body they are cared about, but we also shared the yearbook love.

We are now 10 books shy of our stretch goal and I have no doubt students that forgot to buy a book will stop by begging to get their hands on a copy.