Ending with a bang: 5 ideas to close down your publication year with your team

OneMaize Media staffers launch water balloons during a teambuilding activity to start the 2021-2022 school year in August. What types of engaging, moving, lively and fun activities could you do outside with your team to finish the school year? (Photo by OneMaize Media)

Are you needing some ideas to end your publication year with a bang? Do you want to let your staff know how much they meant to your community and school this year? Want to change up your last few weeks to end the year with some energy and flair?

Here’s five ideas for the last five weeks of school to say thank you for the extraordinary effort from your reporters, writers, designers, photographers and videographers on your team.

Create a formal end-of-the-year awards celebration in class!

Besides the traditional Quill and Scroll induction ceremony, it may be time to reimagine your final day of class, specifically with your seniors!

Consider a plaque that recognizes an MVJ (Most Valuable Journalist) along with other awards such as Rookie of the Year, Most Inspirational, Best Multimedia Package, etc. Create at least 8-10 different awards so plenty of students in your class are earning recognition. Have your team of videographers create an end-of-the-year highlight video full of your best photos, videos, social media posts and candids of staffers working in the field, having fun in class, bonding through field trips, etc. Make sure to have a FEAST as a thank you right after the presentation. You could go even bigger and invite parents and have in your auditorium for a formal sort of celebration. Nonetheless, go BIG on ways to honor your students before they leave your program (many of whom have dedicated countless hours and semesters towards student media!)

Make time for meaningful conversations on performance and leadership

The larger your publication team, the more difficult it can become to take time just to have conversations with your staff about their performance on individual assignments, story initiatives, leadership and more. The end of the year is a great time to pull pairs/teams together for 3-5 minute conversations where you evaluate their semester as adviser and creators to give tips on how they can improve their content and leadership for the next school year. I have also created a class/program/adviser evaluation that students fill out prior to the end of the year that gives our team of advisers a benchmark of our performance and how we can improve instruction, guidance and our own leadership for the next year.
Lastly, I like to have my editors fill out a leadership evaluation where they score themselves on several leadership points/criteria against my scores. Once we both have entered scores, we sit down and talk about their performance, compare scores and discuss how they can improve. These conversations DO matter, so try to plan a day or two to connect with your students.

Creativity with their last project (or two!) that allows for some content exploration

The last 3-4 weeks can be a great time to allow your kids some creative risks with projects. This includes letting them make music videos (our OneMaize Media videographers FAVORITE thing to do each year!) write a review, visit a fun place in your community for a website story or just something your staffers have been talking about but haven’t found time for yet. This also would be a great time to try to have a videographer create a photo gallery for the website, get a news writer in front of the broadcast camera for a piece or have a page designer try some graphics for social media to see if you can uncover some hidden gems/skills in your staffers that you previously didn’t know about. Giving your students an option and being more flexible as an adviser in the content they create the last few weeks will only help keep engagement and interest high instead of waning towards the finish line.

Switch up instruction and the voices at the front of the room.

Now is as good of a time as any to bring in a journalism or media professional to help refine skills or sit with staffers for mini critique sessions on stories, publications or your program as a whole. Consider going to your local newspaper to meet with a reporting team, a local television station to see their studio and facilities or visit a local photographer for a hands-on training session on portrait photography. Find a retired/veteran adviser in the area to meet with your students for 30-40 minutes for an in-person critique of your publication/medium (it’s much more impactful in person than reading a virtual critique through Google Docs!) Critiques, skill-building and learning about the communications/media industry is more effective outside of the classroom environment, so schedule a field trip and switch up your instruction in these last few weeks. At this point in the semester, your students are likely going to pick up more information and skills from a different voice in the room other than their adviser!

Summer improvement opportunities and raising funds for your program

Consider looking into local, state and national journalism workshops during the summer months for advising training and individual sequence/classes to better the skills of your staffers as well. There may also likely be internship opportunities with local newspapers, magazines, television stations and even semi-professional sports teams where your students can earn experience, recognition and a paycheck building their media skills during the summer. You will have students that are on vacations and have prior workshops and camps-that’s completely ok! You will find that there’s a small group of your student journalists who may be free for a workshop or camp opportunity to build their abilities and leadership during the summer-you as the adviser just have to take the initiative to talk about it in class and get them excited! Don’t forget about the various ways to make money for your program during the summer that include firework stands, car washes, creating videos for sports groups, mowing yards while making sure to capitalize on abilities (when you’re able and free!) to make some additional revenue that can help jumpstart your funding for the 2022-2023 school year.

Spencer O'Daniel

Spencer is in his 12th year of advising student media at the high school and college level. O'Daniel currently serves as the Associate Director of Student Media at Texas A&M University, where he advises The Battalion newspaper and website, Maroon Life magazine, and The Aggieland yearbook. In his limited free time, he enjoys being active and outside, spending time with his two sons, and wife Jenna. His students have won over thousands of individual awards over the past decade, including a team KSPA state championship, collegiate photographer of the year, All-Kansas publications, Pacemakers and STN's Broadcast Excellence Award.

Spencer O'Daniel has 17 posts and counting. See all posts by Spencer O'Daniel

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