The A to Zee of a class magazine

Cheryl Rao
Feb 2008 Tool-Kit
Teachers and schools are well-acquainted with the intricacies, difficulties and rewards of bringing out the annual school magazine. But what about the sheer joy of a handmade, informal class magazine on a quarterly or monthly basis? This could be an outlet for even the most hesitant child to express ideas and get into a very personalised Hall of Fame – a great way to boost the ego and prepare students for the world outside.

How does one begin to set the ball rolling for such an enterprise? Who can the teacher turn to? How does the teacher include students in this activity? Perhaps an alphabetical list would be helpful in starting the planning process and keeping track of what needs to be done.

A
The first thing that should be kept in mind is the Age group of the students for whom the magazine is planned. A class magazine is a reflection of the class, and students need to be old enough to take an active part in its preparation. Starting in class 5 or 6 is probably advisable as the students are young enough to take direction and old enough to be productive and more importantly, the right age to be enthusiastic and full of ideas!

Next, the general plan of the magazine, the number and the type of Articles and the Art work to be included needs to be thought about. For this the teacher can turn to the students, who will provide the raw material – stories, poems and drawings on topics initiated by the teacher or collectively, by the students.

Along with the articles, there can be a list of Achievers for the quarter. Here, high marks and discipline need not be the criteria. For example, “The class is proud of Rohit. When his parents had to rush out of town to visit his ailing grandfather, he took up the challenge of getting his younger sister and himself to school on time.” Or, “Congratulations, Sunita. Your stint at the blind school was appreciated by all to whom you read from your favourite book.”

B
Bonding between students may be fostered with the formation of a core group to be the editorial Board. Students would love to have the formal designation of Layout Artist or Copy Editor and the teacher can outline the duties of each one on the board in order that there is no bickering amongst them-selves. Such roles can rotate among the students so that every one gets a turn shouldering different responsibilities.

A Book Review section may be put into each issue of the magazine, not only to encourage the reading habit, but also to get students to mull over what they have read and learn to appreciate literature.

A thought may be given to the Binding of the magazine. Since there is no need for the magazine to be printed in a formal manner, a ribbon or a spiral binding may be effective for the couple of copies that need to be made (one original, and a few copies to be circulated amongst the students and kept in the school library).

C
Classroom activity should be the source of articles for the magazine. For this, one period in a month may be reserved for story writing, poetry writing, drawing, according to the children’s preferences. By encouraging them to indulge in the activity that interests them, there is no compulsion for students to push themselves into activities that do not interest them greatly.

D
Discourage Downloads from the Internet. Students are adept at this, but the magazine could lose its personal and original flavour with the addition of widely circulated jokes, facts and tidbits available on the Web.

E
Encourage the artistic students in class to illustrate some of the stories and poems that are to appear in the magazine. Also get the students think about an Editorial that expresses their view on a particular issue.

F
Foster a sense of responsibility among the students. Have Faith in the editorial board (of which the teacher is also a part) to meet the deadlines for the magazine. Give them the Freedom to decide what should go into their magazine within the guidelines set by you.

G
Guidelines may be left entirely to the teacher. Put in a few Guessing Games for student readers to sharpen their wits. Remember that the magazine is not only a reflection of student work, but also a source of enjoyment for readers.

H
Perhaps there could be a How-to-make or How-to-do page in which students could learn to make a puppet or a kaleidoscope or even an easy recipe for a sweet or savory dish that does not involve using the stove.

I
Illustrations are always a source of interest and some students are more than capable of expressing themselves through this medium. (Covered under artwork and drawing.) Remember to put in an Index to make reading easy.

J
A couple of Jokes would be the usual recourse to fill pages and to get students to contribute, but there is the temptation to copy jokes from sources already available to everyone, thereby making the magazine lose its originality. Perhaps a funny incident that occurred in class during the quarter could be written about instead. This would serve not only to entertain but also to chronicle the event.

K
Kudos column could be included. Again, this need not and should not be limited to academic excellence or sports achievements. Rather, it could go something like this: “Kudos to Rohit and Gagan who joined hands for the special assembly although they had a fight a few days earlier, witnessed by their classmates, and swore never to be friends again!”

L
Limit the contents of the magazine to subjects of interest to the students. Make Lists and encourage the core group to do the same so that they learn to be well-organised.

M
Remember to have regular short Meetings to keep track of progress and collect contributions (apart from those done in the classroom).

N
Keep track of the Numbers – the number of pages proposed for the magazine (10 to 16 should do fine for a start) and the number of students who make a contribution of some sort in the year.

O
Cover the annual Outing. Ask a couple of students to pen their accounts of the class picnic.

P
Decide on the number of Pages the magazine should have. Encourage a Poetry page. Perhaps put in a Personal column about the activities of the children. Photographs of the students (maybe those who have their birthday in the quarter) may be put in. With the ease of scanning and printing, a couple of copies should not be difficult to generate. Add a couple of Puzzles developed by the teacher or the children (e.g., word search, simple crossword, etc.).

Q
A Quarterly magazine may work well as it gives adequate time for activities to take place that may be covered and also gives adequate reading material for those who look forward to it as a source of entertainment.

R
The magazine is a Record of what takes place in the classroom. In later years, it will be a Reminder to you of past classes, a time to Reminiscence for past students, and a Rating scale for new students.

S
Stories will form the bulk of the magazine. The teacher could plant the Seeds of stories and let the children do the rest.

T
Establish a Theme for the magazine. For example, if the theme is Kindness to Animals, or Concern for the Elderly, or Superheroes, the contents of the issue should deal largely with this. Encourage cross communication between students and the teacher to get Tips from them as to what they would like to see in their magazine. This could help the teacher and the editorial board decide on the theme for each quarter.

U & V
Keep the magazine User-friendly – simple to produce and simple to read. Take the help of enthusiastic Volunteers whom you will find in every class.

W
Put in Word games and Writing tips. This can help improve vocabulary and language. Here, even the roots of words or the history of the changes in a word may be brought in to generate interest in the use of language.

X
Xerox a couple of copies for circulation in class and to keep in the school library.

Y
At the end of the Year, a copy of the class photo may be included in the magazine.

Z
Zoogenics – encourage students to write about their pets or put in their photographs.

All this seems daunting but approached in the right spirit and with active participation from the students, a class magazine can be a joy to prepare!

The author, a prolific writer of children’s fiction, is based in Hyderabad, a nd can be reached at cherbrag@yahoo.com.