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
- Putting articles together on the page so that they look good.
- 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
- The title of an article.
- The author's name at the top or bottom of the article.
- The front page headline with the title of the newsletter.
- The place where everyone can see his or her name, and where
helpers get thanked.
- The series of pages all laid out together to help in designing
- 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.
- A font is a combination of a typeface and point size. For
example, 12 point Times is a font.
- The space between rows. It's pronounced led-ing (like the
metal lead), not leed-ing.
- Putting one letter closer to another, like squeezing the
letters together, or spreading them out.
- The vertical space between columns. One-quarter inch (1cm) is
usually the minimum, and closer to half an inch (2cm) looks
Jobs (assign the ones your newsletter needs)
- 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.
- Some students may want to have a special angle, especially on
- Here's where your best students can be put to work, or
everyone can fill this job.
- A good category for anyone who contributes an article.
- Something else to have in the credits. People like seeing
their names as often as possible.
Where to start
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Once the articles are in word-processed form, the fun begins.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- Use a scanner set to the highest resolution possible. You can
always cut the resolution later.
- Have art that is as clean as possible. If it's done on lined
paper, it's going to be very time-consuming to erase the lines.
Lots of erasures on the original will also cut the quality of the
- Don't count on cleaning things up in the digitized version
unless you have a sophisticated program like PhotoShop and -
importantly - know how to use it. Cleaning up after the fact takes
- Avoid a dark border on the original art if possible, since it
throws off the light/dark contrast in the scanner. It's far easier
to add a border later.
- Small is not beautiful when it comes to scanning artwork. Art
that starts big and gets reduced generally looks a lot better than
art that starts small and gets enlarged digitally.
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
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.
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.
If you have questions, comments, or for more information,
contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu
updated 26 June, 2009