There’s Still Time for Staff Bonding and Theme Development

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So, you’ve been in school for a few weeks and you’ve been doing a lot of planning and training. GREAT! But what about staff bonding and theme development? It’s not too late to do some playing and establishing the framework for your storytelling. Here are some tips for getting both done, even if you’ve already begun work on your pages.

1. Get to know your staff–personally.  Individuals make up the whole, and knowing each staffer will help you support them if the stress of production gets high. If you haven’t already, take a class period or two to play together. There is lots of evidence to prove that the staff that plays together, works well together. Consider implementing Fun Fridays a couple of times a month and hold an on-going game of Pictionary, Taboo, or even Trivial Pursuit.  Want something a little more interactive? Try one of these:

Two Truths and a Lie
Time Required: 15 minutes   Materials: Pen/pencil and paper

Start out by having every team member secretly write down two truths about themselves and one lie on a small piece of paper – Do not reveal to anyone what you wrote down! Once each person has completed this step, allow 10-15 minutes for open conversation – much like a cocktail party – where everyone quizzes each other on their three questions. The idea is to convince others that the lie is actually a truth, while on the other hand, trying to guess other people’s truths/lies by asking them questions. Individuals should not reveal their truths or lie to anyone – even if the majority of the staff has already figured out! After the conversational period, gather in a circle and one by one, staff members repeat each one of their three statements and have the group vote on which one they think is the lie. You can play this game competitively by awarding  points for each lie identified correctly and/or for stumping everyone (no one guesses the lie). This game helps to encourage better communication as well as providing an opportunity to get to know a little about each other.

Picture Pieces Game
Time Required: 30 minutes   Materials: Pen/pencil/markers, a well-know picture or cartoon character (think American Gothic, a Disney princess, or a popular album cover.)

This problem-solving activity requires the leader to choose a well-known picture or cartoon that is full of detail. The picture needs to be cut into as many equal squares as there are participants in the activity. Each participant should be given a piece of the “puzzle” and instructed to create an exact copy of their piece of the puzzle five times bigger than its original size (try a half or even a full sheet of paper.) They are posed with the problem of not knowing why or how their own work affects the larger picture. When all the participants have completed their enlargements, ask them to assemble their pieces into a giant copy of the original picture on a table. This problem-solving activity will teach staff members how to work as a team as well as showing how each person working on his/her own part contributes to an overall group result.

Spider Web
Time Required: 20-30 minutes     Materials: String and tape
Instructions: Divide your staff into 2 – 5 equal teams, depending on the size of your staff. Tape two pieces of string across a doorway, one at about three-and-a-half feet and the other around five feet. This string is the poisonous spider web. Teams must get all their members through the opening between the strings without touching it. Increase the difficulty by taping more pieces of string across the doorway.

2. Develop a theme for your yearbook. The theme helps tell the story of the students and events at your school in this year. To help your staff discover a theme specific to this year, ask these basic questions to get them thinking:

  • What do we all have in common?
  • What makes our school unique from others of the same size and demographics?
  • What’s changed this year from previous years? (Focus on the change, not the past)
  • What matters to our students right now?

As they are brainstorming and discussing each of the ideas that come up, listen for repeated phrases or words that can become a strong verbal statement. Often you can combine several words from the initial brainstorming into a theme statement. Need some more information on creating a theme? Here’s a short video to help.

Got it? Now check it.  Once you have pulled the verbal theme statement and the visual elements together, take another look to make sure it will hold up to telling the story of the year. Ask these questions to solidify its power:

  • Is it recognizable? Will your students “get it?”
  • Is it repeatable?  Will they be able to remember it?
  • Is it relevant?  Does it fit your school this year?
  • Is it refreshing?  Is it new and current?
  • Is it realistic?   Does it make sense and can you do it?

If you can say YES! to each of these questions, then it’s a solid theme. But you’re not done just yet. The most important question still remains.

Why does it matter? You want your student body and surrounding community to want to read and see the story of the year that you are telling on your yearbook pages. It has to be compelling, and should matter in the life of your school. If you can articulate why this story matters then you have a theme that matters. And your yearbook will be stronger for it.


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