If a picture can tell a thousand words, then there really should be no problem with a high school yearbook telling the complete story of an academic year.
It’s just that some yearbooks are better storytellers than others.
De La Salle High School recently received multiple national honors for its 2010 yearbook, the “Maroon Legend,” and it did so because the students who put it together tried to tell interesting stories and create lively captions that went beyond the obvious, said yearbook advisor Kathleen Calder.
The yearbook staff began with a catchy theme – “’Toon Thousand and 10: Get Animated” – and the 240-page book incorporated a bevy of student-drawn cartoons that made light of student life and humorous, attention-getting quote “bubbles” in photographs.
The National Scholastic Press Association thought so well of the “Maroon Legend” that it awarded the book first place, and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association awarded it a gold medal. The yearbook also won first place in Louisiana in its classification.
“This was our first triple-winning book,” Calder said during a break in teaching her publications class.
One of the things Calder insists on is that her students write stories that chronicle the achievements of every school sports team, organization or extracurricular activity. Some of the yearbooks from other schools did not have those kinds of stories. Also included were quotes from students about why they liked various activities.
Also, the yearbook staff worked as though they were bonafide journalists. No one in the administration was looking over their shoulders with a red pen.
“I may review what they write,” Calder said, “but I don’t think as budding journalists they should have a coach or a moderator correcting their stories.”
The key to writing good captions for yearbook photos, Calder said, is not to state the obvious and to use active, not passive verbs. If there is a picture of someone singing, it’s important to know the name of the song and also to get a quote from that person about why the performance was so special.
“Try to get a quote,” Calder said. “Everyone can see that a student is sitting in a desk in a classroom. But what is the student feeling? Sometimes an eighth or ninth grader will say some activity is ‘fun.’ Well, why was it fun? What made it fun?”
Not to brag – well, maybe to brag just a little – senior Ashlee Mancuso said other yearbooks she saw just didn’t stack up. “They weren’t as personal as ours,” she said.
Morgan added, “Others were plain and didn’t have quotes.”
The “Maroon Legend” did, and now it has gold stars all around.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.