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Teaching Tips

We are collecting tips from high school newspaper advisers nationwide on how to run student publications and deal with the issues from administrators, students and parents.

Staff retreat agenda

Staff Retreat Agenda

Explanation

The following is designed for a one-day staff workshop that takes place during a regular school day. It is best when held off-site, preferably in a restaurant or other facility that can provide to the students. At La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, we hold this at a local restaurant in one of their banquet rooms. We pay $10-12 per person and they provide us with the space, continental breakfast, lunch, and all the beverages the kids can drink. Students are excused from school for the day, usually during the second week of school, as a field trip absence.

8:30 a.m. Breakfast and Introductions

As students enter, they write down on an index card, one little known fact about themselves, with their name. Then we guess who matches each “fact” and introduce ourselves.

9:00 a.m. Team Building Activities

Usually my editors plan these, and I toss in a new one as well. Games include races, “Dr. Tangle” ; “Cookie Machine”; etc. It’s important to mix regular staff divisions and groups so others get to work together.

9:30 a.m. Strategic Planning/ Brainstorming for Goals

Students play the “Ball Race” which teaches them the importance of practice, getting to know each other, setting goals, and working together to do well. After processing the game, they then brainstorm for their annual goals. Brainstorming is generated by asking the question, ‘At the end of this school year, what do you want to have accomplished with the school newspaper/ yearbook/ publication?”

10:00 a.m. Goal Setting

Goals are shared and prioritized together as a group. We create three categories for goals: Very Important, Should Be Done, and Wish List. Everyone agrees on the category to which a specific goal is assigned and three large posters are created with all goals listed. These posters are kept in plain sight in the classroom when we return and we check them at the end of each nine weeks to keep our focus.

10:45 a.m. Computer Training

Students break into groups for training on computers, which we have brought with us to the restaurant. Editors have planned in advance the training sessions, which usually include Basic Word Processing, Basic PageMaker, and Advanced Design with PageMaker. In the future we will probably add Photoshop and Internet Research. This training is done by students for students.

11:30 a.m. LUNCH

It’s important to have a time when you actually stop work and let the kids talk and visit. This also gives them time to step outside, get to know each other, and enjoy their food.

12:30 p.m. Packaging & Maestro Plans

The concept of maestro teaming and packaging ideas is discussed, using several examples. Then students break into teams of 4-5 to choose a possible topic of interest for issues this year, develop a list of story and graphic ideas, and actually do a mock-up design of the possible double-truck. Designs are then shared with the group.

1:30 p.m. Staff Meetings

Staff members break into their respective department teams to plan their work for the next three weeks, or whenever the first issue comes out. Each staff member comes away with assigned tasks and specific deadlines.

1:50 p.m. Wrap-Up/ Conclusion

The day is concluded, usually with a children’s book. I like to use Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” or something else of a similar vein.

— Pat Graff
La Cueva High School
Albuquerque, N.M.