Thursday, February 22, 2018

Journalism Students Showcase Work and Unveil Yearbook Plans

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Highlands Middle School journalism students sport tshirts that promote a positive "can do" mindset.

Writers, editors, graphic designers, photographers and marketers from the Highlands Middle School journalism program shared their work at the February meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent School District Board.

Students presented their work on two projects. First, students working on the coming yearbook showed preliminary designs and discussed the development of their design and theme. Their presentation was followed by a discussion of the school’s new news site and the journalistic skills needed to keep it fresh.

Teacher and advisor Lisa Birkley said the students must master writing of feature articles, editorials, headlines and captions. The students also need a working knowledge of photography, Photoshop, budgeting and the customized desktop publishing program used by yearbook publisher Jostens.

The students spend most of the first semester learning the skills and the second semester putting those skills together to produce the yearbook and special projects, she said.

A look behind the scenes


Campbell County YMCA. 
Some 28 students are in the journalism class. Two serve as editors of the news site and the rest fulfill the many duties of writing and production. A small team of students took turns sharing information on the work that goes on behind the scenes and what they are learning in the program.

Student Savannah King opened with an explanation of how work is divided for the yearbook. "Every student is assigned two or three yearbook spreads. For example, I had the kickoff party of this year so I’m in charge of taking all the pictures, the captions and writing a short story about this…We try to capture all the memories of the year, because looking back several years from now, we will want to see all the memories we made of this year."


Katie Rhea discussed the process of theme selection. This year’s theme is "Discovering All the Angles." The students met with a representative from Jostens to discuss how to select a theme and to explore ideas on how to translate it to the overall design. The students decided to use a low poly image for the cover, a method that combines geometric shapes into an image using a polygon tool in Photoshop.

Another student, Kim Ossege, explained how the class practiced photography with a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. Julia Hodory explained the advertising structure for the yearbook, and what students learned about professional communication and sales.

Several students spoke on writing for the yearbook and the news site. In addition to interviewing and reporting skills, the students learned about captioning and writing headlines as well as the challenge of avoiding bias in their writing.

Writing awards and special projects

Their teacher submitted feature articles to the regional Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, sponsored by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Highlands Middle School did well, bringing home gold key, silver key and honorable mention awards.

Honorable mentions went to Julia Hodory and Nicole Ossege. Cecilia Shick and Chloe Bramble received silver key awards. Bramble also earned a gold key as did Jade Rehberger. The two gold key winners will compete at the national level this spring.

The students also fit in a special project each year to thank teachers and staff at the middle school for their support. This year they chose to create name letter boards. The students used their photography skills to produce letter cards they hung on wooden boards to form teachers’ last names.

Highlands Middle School students present personalized name plaques to district board members

Teamwork is key


"One of the things I love about this class most is the sense of teamwork," said Birkley. "The students have to come together as one to achieve their goals, meet their deadlines, finish projects. They troubleshoot each others’ work, and they trust each other. All of these encompass twenty-first century learning."

Students concluded their presentation with comments that echoed Birkley’s sentiment:

"What I loved was the freedom we were given in everything we did."

"The class gave me a chance to do things I’ve never done."

"I looked forward to being with the people chosen to be together."

As a token of their appreciation for the work the board does, the students then presented each board member with their own letter boards.

District board members show off their new name plaques created by Highlands Middle School students.

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