Advice to Advisers: Teaching School Yearbook Theme Development for Students

Undoubtedly, the heart of the school yearbook is its theme. Everything about the annual publication from its design including its articles, photos and sidebars to its layout should be dictated by the chosen theme, which can be expressed in a slogan, in a logo, or in the overall feel.


As a yearbook adviser, one of your jobs must then be to teach theme development to the students in general and the yearbook committee staff members in particular. When your students learn the best ways to develop the theme for the school yearbook, the rest of the process follows naturally and smoothly. Here are ideas in doing so.


Actual Demonstrations of Past Yearbooks


Experience is the best teacher and this is true for yearbook production. You can point out the best ways in which the theme was incorporated into the pages of the annual publication from the fronts and back covers to the contents including the text, photos and graphics. You should even discuss the yearbook ideas in the annuals that can be used in your own publication.


The actual demonstrations should be accompanied by concise yet clear discussions of the theories behind the contents. For example, the principles of design like the rule of thirds, balance, and unity can be discussed when discussing the layout on the pages. Think of it this way: The theory serves as the foundation for the practical knowledge during the school yearbook production.


Critique the Yearbooks


The process of critiquing past yearbooks is not meant to disparage the people behind their production, far from it. Instead, the students will learn from the mistakes made by their predecessors and benefit from their talents as well.


You and your students will browse through the pages of the yearbooks, point out what could have been done to improve on the annuals, and determine what could be used on the current production of the school yearbook. You will be surprised at the abundance of yearbook ideas that the students’ predecessors were able to think of for their own annuals.


Again, it is a good idea to explain the theory behind the yearbooks’ designs, covers and layouts.


Engage in Brainstorm Sessions


When looking for original themes suitable for the 21st century, your students will benefit from brainstorm sessions. The best way to do so is to divide the students into small groups and then let them discuss their yearbook ideas in separate places. Your ears will love it that the heated discussions about the school yearbook are happening away from your earshot; just be sure to facilitate the discussions by going from one group to the next.


Then, you can assemble the groups with each one presenting their best ideas; only one student should present for the entire group. Group discussions can then start after the group presentations but you must be an effective facilitator; everybody will have strong opinions about which of the ideas are excellent for the yearbook.


In all of these methods to teach theme development for the school yearbook to students, be open to their ideas about the possible themes. You will be surprised at your students’ imagination with your main job being to put a method to their madness, so to speak.

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