Idea File - 2017 Spring

Middle School Moment

Todd Johnson 2017-03-07 01:42:44

A YEARBOOK BY AND FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS I have always felt that yearbooks should be produced by students. For the first 10 years or so of advising, I basically let my students create a scrapbook. One day my yearbook rep suggested I attend a summer workshop. Once I saw other books that were produced by students and sponsors who actually knew what they were doing I was not only shocked, but I was also strangely motivated. I decided then I was going to be one of those people who knew what they were doing and pass that on to my students. Creating a middle school yearbook is a completely different animal than a high school book. I tell fellow yearbook teachers all the time to create a book unique to their age group. It is a much more valuable learning experience to give students the skills and knowledge as to what good journalism is and what the conventions are to create a meaningful piece of history. Since day one I was told "middle school students can't create good yearbooks." That is simply untrue. The middle school mind is a wondrous thing - you just have to rein it in and keep students focused on the final outcome. After several years of attending workshops and building my knowledge base, I became more confident as a teacher. At that point I began to see my middle school students become more confident in themselves. Each year I have my students focus on learning and improving one or two journalism concepts. Many yearbook companies have in-house software to create yearbooks. These wonderful programs are easy for middle school students to learn. This is where I started. But another big step I felt was important for my students and me was to jump to using In Design. I cannot lie; I was scared. However, with the help of summer adviser and student workshops, this was not such a daunting task. In fact, the kids picked up on In Design much quicker than I did. Imagine that. At that point I realized my students had become legitimate journalists in my eyes - and in the eyes of others. Many schools strive to win awards to show what a wonderful yearbook program they have. I was never one for that. My students and l just work to make a book we thought middle school students would like and do it in the best way possible. The awards and accolades we have received over the years are just icing on the cake. Do we always follow the rules? No! It's middle school. Do we make all our deadlines? No! It's middle school. Do we eat lots of junk food and pizza? Yes! It's middle school. Do we take lots of breaks and do silly things? Yes! It's middle school. Bottom line - don't try so hard. Relax. Teach your students solid journalism concepts, and then take their ideas and run with them. You will be amazed at what they come up with. ON THE WEB For more Middle School Moment columns, go to walsworthyearbooks.com/ideafile. Todd Johnson has been teaching and advising year book for27 years a t New Smyrna Beach Middle School in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, the only school he’s ever taught at. He was the school's 2013 Teacher of the Year. The Stingray Tales yearbook has earned CSPA Gold and Silver Crowns, an NSPA Pacemaker and numerous NSPA All-Americans.

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