A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words – That’s Too Many

When grading photo assignments, just like anything else, I often find it a difficult task.  Having a rubric can be a big help.  I focused my rubric on those things that I really want the photographer to do:  take the pictures, write captions, save the files and create a contact sheet.

Feel free to adjust this template and use it in any way.  Photo Assignment Template (word doc)

Mr. C

Grading Writing Is A Teachable Moment

I hate grading.  It is the bane of nearly every teacher.  Many years ago a student showed me the need to have a rubric when grading written assignments, yearbook layouts or even photographs.   Today I’m posting my yearbook layout rubric.  This rubric focuses on what I feel is important.  Following design rules, spelling, grammar, timeliness and saving the files correctly.  You can change it to focus on what you feel is  important.

Yearbook Layout Rubric

Mr. C

How Not To Do A TV Interview

I don’t think this poor girl was really prepared for this interview.  I also don’t think they really practiced how to read or understand the on camera director’s signals.

Mr. C

Winning Scholastic Journalism Awards or Not!

This week I took seven of my students to a yearbook camp at Texas A&M University in College Station.  It was a great experience in spite of the fact that A&M does not offer a journalism or communications major.

But the real attraction of camp is the final day.  All the hard work for four days is summed up by the awards assembly.  This year we didn’t take home a single certificate or trophy.  Too bad I guess.  But my students took their defeat well and I’m proud of them.

On the long two and a half hour drive home, we discussed what our “loss” meant.  Before we turned in our project to be judged, we had already decided that we had worked hard, created a theme that our students will like and came up with some marketing plans that may help sell more books.  The photographers shot more photos than ever before and put in a decent amount of time putting together a spirit of Aggieland layout.

So, the kids said that awards would have been nice, but weren’t that important.  They drove home wearing their matching maroon shirts and were proud of their work and happy that they had worked hard.  And they had fun too.

Most of them bonded in a way that they never can do at school.  For four days, they lived together in a dorm and shared their lives.  They worked, ate, slept and had fun together.  It is a great experience.

But sometimes we can get so hung up about the awards.  There have been many camps we have left with trophies in hand and others we have left with nothing.  That has meant little to our success at selling and creating the yearbook.  Camps where we got great ideas have been much more helpful for us.

I’m not saying you should try to win awards.  Submit your yearbook or other media publications to your state associations, CSPA or other contests.  Read or listen to the critiques that they send your way.  But then digest it.  They don’t live in your world.  Every school is different.  Your school board and community have values and priorities.  Your principal has her/his goals.  Your budget may be different.  Your communities ethnic and economic make up is different from others too.  Cultures, local traditions and much more vary from place to place.  No one can know all of this when they look over your book or other media work.

So much of what we do is subjective.  Just look at the “real” media.  Which publication is better Vogue, Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly?  I can’t judge.  They are so different, for different audiences – as are yearbooks.  Sometimes, the one size fits all rules of yearbook design just don’t work at every school.  Don’t fret.  Learn when you have to break them to keep selling books.  Sales should matter more than awards.

Journalism is important for yearbooks, but remember it is a memory book first and foremost.  Don’t let that get hijacked by too much journalism and high design that your student body does not understand.  Are the basics of design important?  Yes.  But research your audience, know what they want and give it to them.  You will be rewarded with higher sales.

Awards are nice, but sales are better.

Mr. C

Easy Yearbook Ladder Template

Today we head off to yearbook camp.  Composing the yearbook ladder is always one of those fun tasks that must be done.  Here’s a template file to make that go easier.
Yearbook Ladder (Excel File)

Mr. C

Student Video Journalist Kit

What should a student VJ pack for their every day use? I’m going on the theory that your school is like mine, and you don’t have all the money in the world to spend. Here is what I consider the minimum to shoot good video.

-Canon ZR800 Mini DV Camcorder: For under $300 the price is right and the camera has a good viewfinder, decent zoom and most importantly a microphone jack.

-Canon Deluxe Tripod: At $40 it is a great value for the money. I’ve tried a lot of tripods and most that are cheap, break. Canon tripods take a lot of abuse. The price is good and it has a quick release head. It pans and tilts fairly smoothly and does not become overly loose with long term wear.

-Handheld Mic: We buy most of our mics from Radio Shack or Walmart for less than $20 and then buy a 1/4″ to mini converter. In the field your students need something reliable, easy to use and unpowered. Powered mics fail and without an audio monitor, you will never know. We buy cheap mics because expensive ones will get damaged too easy and because it is very difficult to hook up an XLR to mini adapter without it having problems. You can get pretty good audio from a $20 mic. Save the quality mics for your studio.

-Firewire Cable: You will need a quality 4 pin to 6 pin Firewire cable to connect your camera to the computer.

-iMac 20 in.: You need a great computer for video. The new Intel Duo iMacs rock with 1GB RAM, 150 GB hard disks, large screen area and iMovie for Free. At $1000 it is a lot of bang for your buck. You can get away with the Mac mini for about $600, but you lose a lot of processor speed.

-Plastic Storage Bin w/lid: $2 each at Big Lots, Dollar Store, etc.

My kit is $1,387 per student. Now of course, I usually only have about 8 kits total, so they have to share. And it helps that you try to keep a camera working for 2-3 years, so you can build up your equipment before replacing it.

Mr. C

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Yearbook

My apologies to Robert Fulghum, who wrote the most excellent book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten from which this post is based. It didn’t make my book list the other day, but should have.

Yearbook publishing can be complicated stuff, but much of what makes a good staff member isn’t all that different from the earliest things we learned in school.

1. Share everything.
Borrow good ideas from magazines, the web and newspaper articles and then help your fellow staff members. Share your time, your chips, your money and your friendship.

2. Play fair.
You’re not the only one who needs the camera today. We all must make deadline or it doesn’t matter, so help someone else out when you’re finished. Don’t just sit there listening to your iPod.

3. Don’t hit people.
And don’t attack them verbally either. Don’t spread gossip. Don’t attack their ideas or call them stupid.

4. Clean up your own mess.
Don’t turn in half finished work. Check your spelling, grammar and links. Make sure your photos are the correct dpi. Pick up when we do something fun. Pick up the trash and put it in the can. Put your stuff away before leaving the room and close all your open applications on the computer.

5. Don’t take things that aren’t yours
Don’t make up quotes. Look up the names and grades of people in photos. If you borrow someone’s tape recorder or clipboard, give it back. If you borrowed a cable from someone else’s box, put it back where you found it.

6. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
If you make an honest mistake, make a correction as soon as possible. If you make another staff member mad, say you’re sorry. And mean it. We could all be a little kinder, a little more understanding and a little more helpful.

7. Wash your hands before you eat.
Don’t grab a donut on Saturday and then put it back in the box. Don’t take the last piece of pizza. Don’t roam the halls when you are supposed to be doing interviews. And use the Kleenex when you sneeze and the hand sanitizer every day.

8. Flush.
Don’t be afraid to replace, rewrite, redesign or give up on something that is crap. Sometimes “when in doubt throw it out” is the best philosophy. Never fall in love with your story, page, package, graphic or photo.

9. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
When we have a party, bring something; same goes for Saturdays and meeting days. You like to eat, so do we.

10. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
It is OK to play some, but first we have to WORK some. The work must get done or the thing will never be finished.

11. Take a nap every afternoon.
Staying up late and getting up early doesn’t make you more productive. Take breaks, go home, take a real nap in the afternoon. Get some sleep at night and come to school ready to be a great staff member. If it is after 1 AM, turn off all the lights and electronics; close your eyes – set an alarm. You’ll be amazed how much better you feel.

12. When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
A lot of people will say bad things about the yearbook and the staff – don’t be one of them. On the road of life, you need someone to walk with. Become friends with a staff member and you will be friends for life. Push them away and they will stay away. You only get back whatever you put into any relationship.

13. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Every day something new and wonderful appears in the little world we call our school. PAY ATTENTION. Check it out. Be amazed. Learn something new everyday. Bring it to class. It keeps your mind fresh, your options open, and our book up to date. If you think writing is boring or dead, then you may need a new class.

14. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
Every year, the seniors will graduate, the book will be finished and we have to plant the seeds of a new book. That is the circle of life. Seniors need to find one freshman and get him or her to sign up for the staff next year.

15. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
You won’t learn anything at all if you don’t try. Everything I learned in yearbook came from trying new stuff and generally playing around. Every day I read many sites to see what is happening in the journalism world and the world in general. Every day I see something new happen at our school. LOOK and LEARN, then write about it or take a picture.

Mr. C

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