It doesn’t matter if you’re teaching World Literature, AP Chemistry, or (you guessed it) a yearbook course, creating a syllabus can be a bit of a time suck.
There’s a fine line between including enough information to answer students’ questions and providing the kids in your class with an intimidating tome they’ll never glance at again. This presents a special sort of problem for yearbook courses, since the endgame isn’t a term paper or oral presentation or lab but, rather, a physical product.
If you’re a veteran yearbook teacher, you’ve probably got your syllabus ready to rock; a few tweaks here and there to reflect date changes and updated requirements and you’re all set. If you’re new to the game, though, where on Earth do you begin?
Why, right here. (Of course…)
Inside this post, we’ll share a free yearbook syllabus template with you and walk you through the most important components to include. That way, you’ll know exactly what your students need for a semester (or year) of success.
Use the information we’ve laid out in this post to fill in the particulars and your students will be ready to get to work on the best book your school’s ever seen.
Yearbook Syllabus Component #1: Course Description
We’ll start out with something simple: The course description, simply put, exists to explain to students exactly why they’ve stumbled into your classroom.
In your yearbook syllabus, that description should provide a quick snapshot of your course. Students should have already seen the course description when they decided to sign up during course selection, but including it here gives both participants and their parent/guardian an idea of what to expect without having to dig through your syllabus.
In the philosophy and goals sections that come after the course description, you’ll elaborate on the why and how of your yearbook class. Here, however, your goals is to simply impart what the course is.
If you structure your class in such a way that all students try their hand at everything, mention that here; if your class tends to run like a newspaper or publishing house, in which students identify a specialty and work towards their individual craft, that’s important to note, too.
Yearbook Syllabus Component #2: Course Philosophy
Your course philosophy is another important piece of your yearbook syllabus. While you may have included an instructional philosophy on syllabi for other classes you’ve taught, your approach towards creating one for this class in particular requires an additional layer of thought.
Why, you might ask?
Because you and your students are creating something that their peers will fawn over for days and then cherish for decades.
Your yearbook course philosophy should provide answers to the following questions:
- Why are students here?
- How will they accomplish the monumental task set before them?
- What will learning look like in this course?
The key here is brevity. While you could ramble across a dozen pages explaining the intricacies that underpin every assignment the majority of your students would either ignore them or flee at the very sight. Keep it simple.
Yearbook Syllabus Component #3: Course Objectives
The final introductory component of your syllabus, before we get into the technical stuff, is your list of course objectives.
The trick here is formatting: Think back to your own educational experiences, the path you took to becoming a teacher. Remember those pedagogy classes you had to take before standing in front of a classroom? We sure do. (Yup; some of us here at TreeRing were education majors.) And the thing that’s stuck with us best is the scientific-sounding SWBAT, or “Students will be able to” format in which our professors insisted we frame course goals.
By creating between five and ten goals, laid out in a numbered or bulleted list, you make it clear exactly what your students will walk away with. You know, other than a yearbook.
Since yearbook classes have such potential for variance on a student-by-student basis (a graphic designer, a journalist, and a copy editor will have vastly different, albeit equally important, semesters) there are a couple of ways to approach goal creation. You might choose to make your goals broad enough to capture the experiences all members of your course will have. You could use each goal to highlight what you expect from photographers, writers, designers, and so forth.
Spend some time thinking about which method will work best in the context of your course, and don’t be afraid to modify goals (using student feedback) once your yearbook is published.
Yearbook Syllabus Component #4: Resources
While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be leaning on a clunky textbook to impart yearbook wisdom on your students, there will undoubtedly be a set of materials and resources that are necessary for both student success and yearbook creation.
Again, there will be variance here based on the roles each student assumes on your yearbook staff. It might be helpful to divide your “Resources” section up into sections based on these roles (for example, a journalist isn’t going to need a camera, but they will need a notebook and pen and perhaps a voice recorder to ensure accurate quotes and a record of useful details that will bring the retelling of a school event to life).
If your school provides students with laptops—or if you’ll be using a computer lab—be sure to spell out exactly which pieces of software they’ll be required to use in order to perform within their given role. If your school doesn’t possess some of the fancier, more expensive resources, like professional design software or professional-model cameras, get creative by discovering free browser-based tools and leveraging the power of the smartphones nearly every kid has in their pockets to create great content.
(Note: don’t forget to include a note on lost or damaged school property!)
Yearbook Syllabus Component #5: Student Evaluation
Ah, grades… every student’s favorite subject.
Spelling out exactly how your students will be assessed is a really important part of establishing expectations for the upcoming semester. While you might not want to come right out and say “to get an A, you need to do…”, it is important to break down the factors that contribute to student evaluation. If participation and attendance account for 20% of a student’s grade, mention that; if attending out-of-class events for the purposes of content creation is necessary in order to earn an A, make that clear, too.
You’ll notice in the syllabus template that the “Student Evaluation” section has been left blank; that’s because every school uses a different set of standards by which to measure student success. If your school uses a rubric-based grading system, include an example, detailing the various levels at which students are to be evaluated (and what success should look like for each one).
Yearbook Syllabus Component #6: Course Rules & Requirements
Laying out exactly what’s expected of students in terms of behavior is foundational to their academic progress and your yearbook’s success.
If you tend to run an open classroom, spell that out; if students can come and go as they please, which may very well be the case given the nature of a yearbook course, tell them. Conversely, if you’re looking to foster a more structured environment, one with more instruction than content generation, you might want to explain the role of participation and importance of active listening.
While it may seem redundant to spell out behavioral expectations, it can’t hurt to hammer home how students should act in class. A yearbook course teeters somewhere between a traditional academic environment and a publishing house; respect for ideas and the structure you establish is paramount. This goes without saying, but don’t forget to highlight the importance of academic honesty. It’s one thing to plagiarize a book report; it’s another thing entirely to steal from uncredited source material and then publish it in a yearbook.
Yearbook Syllabus Component #7: Attendance Policy
While “come to class” should seem obvious, there’s always some smart alec who will consider using “it didn’t say so in the syllabus” to weasel his or her way out of showing up.
It’s likely that your school has its own attendance policy; if this is the case, simply copy, paste, and call it a day. In the event it’s up to you to decide on an attendance policy, carefully weigh how many tardy arrivals and absences you’re willing to afford your students.
There’s one specific area in which an attendance policy for your yearbook course will differ from that of calculus or chemistry or any other subject for that matter: out of class time is necessary. Students will need to spend time at school events or working on completing your book as deadlines approach; be sure to spell this expectation out in your syllabus.
Yearbook Syllabus Component #8: Course Calendar
Your course calendar is the scaffold for the semester, the year, and your yearbook production cycle
While it may very well be subject to change based on the pace at which your students learn and subsequently complete the work, you’ll want to make sure that your course calendar includes:
- Weekly goals and subjects covered in class
- Important publishing-related suspenses
- School events that will require coverage
- Required after-school workdays
Yearbook Syllabus Component #9: Parent / Guardian Acknowledgement
This final component of your yearbook course is an affirmation that both your students and the people at home are on the same page as you. While this is standard for a syllabus at the high school level, it’s extra important that parents/guardians understand the importance of the out-of-school component of your course.
Ready to create your own yearbook course syllabus? Does the thought of staring at a blinking cursor on an empty word document incite procrastination or fear (or both!)? Thankfully, you don’t need to start from scratch. Download our free template and use everything you just learned to jumpstart your yearbook course syllabus creation.