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Technology Tip of the Month

July 1998: Creating a Class Newsletter

by Deborah Healey

You can put together a class newsletter in a lot of ways, from physical cutting and pasting to using a desktop publishing program for layout. This month's tip aims for the middle ground with a print product, offering suggestions for teachers who do use word-processors but who don't moonlight as magazine copyfitters. The goal is to get maximum student participation and an end result that students will be proud of - without expecting the teacher to spend hours of extra time. (You can still spend hours of extra time, but I hope that you won't have to.) Much of this month's information applies to the Web-based newsletter that will be next month's topic.

Vocabulary for Students

Layout
Putting articles together on the page so that they look good.
Column
Two meanings: 1) A topic that is repeated in several issues of a newsletter, like Football or Gossip; 2) a vertical space on the page that the article will go into, such as half or 1/3 of the page.
Headline
The title of an article.
Byline
The author's name at the top or bottom of the article.
Masthead
The front page headline with the title of the newsletter.
Credits
The place where everyone can see his or her name, and where helpers get thanked.
Storyboard
The series of pages all laid out together to help in designing the newsletter.
Typeface
The style of the letters. Two common types are serif (with cross-pieces on the top and bottom of letters, likes Times font) and sans-serif (plain letters without cross pieces, like Helvetica font).
Point size
How big the letters are. 12 and 10-point are typical sizes for the articles, and 18 point is a typical headline size.
Font
A font is a combination of a typeface and point size. For example, 12 point Times is a font.
Leading
The space between rows. It's pronounced led-ing (like the metal lead), not leed-ing.
Kerning
Putting one letter closer to another, like squeezing the letters together, or spreading them out.
Gutter
The vertical space between columns. One-quarter inch (1cm) is usually the minimum, and closer to half an inch (2cm) looks better.

Jobs (assign the ones your newsletter needs)

Editor-in-Chief
The person who makes the final decision about what goes where.
Section editor (optional)
If you have many students, you might want to divide the newsletter into sections, such as Sports, Advertising, Gossip, etc. and assign an editor to each one.
Fact-checker (optional)
If you have an advanced class, someone can be responsible for making sure the information is correct.
Art Director
The more artists, the more useful this person will be. Besides, it looks good in the credits.
Advertising Director
This can be a fun job, especially if the classifieds have a sense of humor.
Columnists
Some students may want to have a special angle, especially on gossip.
Proofreaders
Here's where your best students can be put to work, or everyone can fill this job.
Reporters
A good category for anyone who contributes an article.
Artists
Something else to have in the credits. People like seeing their names as often as possible.

Where to start

  1. Word-processing: Where possible, it's good for students to type their own compositions and spell-check them. Besides making less work for the teacher, it gives each person more of a sense of ownership of his or her article.
  2. Sample newsletters: Show students samples to give them an idea of what's possible. Some word-processors, such as ClarisWorks, have sample documents of different types. It helps if they don't expect a product that looks like People magazine (unless you're willing to fund that kind of expense and take that kind of time). A two-column or three-column format is standard.
  3. The masthead: While building consensus on the title of the newsletter may be time-consuming, it's a good next step. You can show students different font effects and have them come up with banner art to set the feel of the newsletter.
  4. Overview of the contents: As students are typing in their compositions and creating artwork, you can create a list of possible articles and art and have students classify them.

Layout

Once the articles are in word-processed form, the fun begins.

  1. Personally, I've found it helpful to start in a old-fashioned, group-participation way: printing out the articles and putting them in order on a large table. The floor will also do as a large layout space - it's good to lay all the articles out first to get an overview of the newsletter.
  2. Once students have decided on the order of articles, then print each article in single-column form. A half page column printed on regular paper is about 3.25 inches (9cm) wide; a 1/3 page column is a little over two inches (5cm) wide. This is where your word-processor comes in again. Most have template documents for newsletters that show you how big to make columns for half-page and one-third page layouts. Use those to help size the columns.
  3. Next, have students physically cut the columns up to fit on single sheets of paper. It's best not to start gluing them down until everything is more or less in order. Double-stick tape is a wonderful invention, since it generally isn't as permanent as glue, yet doesn't let the pieces fall apart. If you're really serious about it, you can get the removable tape used for magazine layout.
  4. If you're using a newsletter template like that in ClarisWorks, you (or better yet, your section editors) can just start adding the word-processed documents to it in the order that they've agreed on. This step may take some tweaking on your part to get it to look right. It's helpful to do several different "Save as" versions as the work progresses, since this is the most fragile step in the whole process.

Scanning student art

Student artwork is a wonderful addition to a class newsletter. One option on using student art is simply to physically cut and paste it into the printout before it goes to be photocopied. If you want the art eventually to end up on the Web, however, you'll need to scan it in. Here are a few tips to make scanning work better:

Printing

When the typing, editing, and layout are finished, you're ready to do a sample run for proofing. If you have time for revisions, have students suggest changes. If you've run out of project time, look at the printout yourself. Remind students that they will certainly find more ways to improve the newsletter after it's printed, and that this is true of commercial magazines, as well. (We did regular post-mortems at the magazine I worked at, and always found places to criticize.)

Print at the highest quality you can afford. Even if you can't afford color copies, you may be able to get the cover at least with a different color ink at a reasonable price. If it's work that students are proud of, they'll find homes for as many copies as you can print.

Celebration

What else do you do when a project like this is finished! Of course, you can think about translating it into web format... but that's next month's tip.


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If you have questions, comments, or for more information, contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu

http://www.deborahhealey.com/techtips/july1998.html
Last updated 26 June, 2009