Remote journalism classroom ideas for #covid19

Part of what I now do is social media management for companies, including a large hospital in Houston. So, you can imagine that during this crazy time of COVID-19 quarantine, things have been BUSY to say the least.

But I still have one foot in the journalism world and my heart is aching for you advisers

I want to help. While I wish I could reach right through  my Zoom screen and hug you, I’m taking #socialdistancing seriously and staying my butt at home.

I hope this can be a resource to you, to take one thing off your plate. Here are at least a few ideas to get you going for lessons for your journalism classes. I’ll add more as I think of them – but if you’re doing something awesome, pleaseplease email me [email protected] and I’ll add it (with credit, of course!)



The most obvious way to engage with beginner students is for them to practice. Have them write stories “covering” their experience. 

Assignment Ideas

Break up a project into multiple assignments to chunk the work over time – and create multiple grades.

  • Interview questions – daily grade
  • Interview transcript – daily grade
  • Rough Draft – minor grade 
  • Peer Edit (via Google Docs) – daily grade 
  • Final Draft – major grade


Write an article with quotes from your family and friends about your experience. Have them pick a specific angle to focus on, and have them pick a new topic for each assignment. 

Angles to Consider

Copy and paste this list straight to your assignment page!

  • parent’s job situation – remote work, layoffs/furloughs, essential workers, healthcare workers)
    • Use discretion for how you present this idea – you know your kids… this may be a sensitive topic if their parents are struggling, BUT writing it out may actually be therapeutic in a way. (And, it also lets you into their world, so you can be there for them if needed.) 
  • your own job situation – may part-time workers do not have income during this time
  • remote school – technology, video classes, learning, time management, teachers struggling to learn tech, home school schedule
  • sibling life in quarantine – getting along or fighting, sharing technology for school and/or entertainment, getting outside for exercise and fresh air, older siblings teaching younger siblings
  • social implications – missing friends, the rise of TikTok obsession, socializing with technology, loss of prom/graduation/other big events
  • how-to guide (feature) – host a zoom meeting, manage your time, beat boredom during quarantine, exercise, creative ways to socialize while maintaining social distancing guidelines, how to support local businesses


Write an article detailing a specific opinion regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Have them pick a specific angle to focus on, and have them pick a new topic for each

Angles to Consider

Copy and paste this list straight to your assignment page!

  • nationally or local government response
  • local businesses response
  • corporation response
  • school district response
  • predictions for economic impact
  • stimulus package opinion


If this is an intro class or pre-req for the publications staffs, this is a great time to teach them the basics about the publications at your school.

They can learn about layout and design, the production process, typography, color theory, page design, photography. 

Topic Ideas

  • typography – Canva tutorial
  • choosing the right font – Canva tutorial
  • infographics – Canva tutorial
  • page layout with food – tell them to use what they have and send a pic of their layout
  • design basic principals – Canva tutorial
  • production process – outline what it looks like to be on staff and walk them through what to expect. Have them come up with page ideas or news tips, then complete an outline of what each step of the process would look like on staff. 
  • color theory – Canva tutorial
  • color relationships – Canva tutorial
  • photography – see PhotoJ curriculum. Just adapt what you’re doing in that class so you don’t have to do double the prep! Seriously. 


Just because this is a journalism class and the whole point of the class is to learn to how to report on the world around them, it doesn’t mean you HAVE to relate every assignment back to the current events. Although, that’s probably easier on you, your kiddos might need a break from the news. 

Using the list above to introduce new concepts, have them create a project on a topic they choose. Give them some prompt ideas so they know it’s OK to choose something “fun.”

  • Infographic on the best kind of cereal
  • Favorite at-home exercise
  • Best video games and why
  • Top 10 (appropriate) TikTok trends ranked and why
  • “About Me” yearbook spread – $1 on TPT



Alright, I’ll be honest. This is a cop out. There is very little educational activity going on here, other than an exercise in creative thinking. But – it gives them something to do and it’s photography related. I used it use it as a plan for a sub… you could also take one prompt a day for an on-going activity. #easy

Feature some exceptional submissions for a little props and encouragement. 

Copy and paste the text below straight to your assignment page!

Using your cell phone, they find a way to capture the following prompts in the most creative way possible. Think about what each prompt could mean literally and figuratively. If you can’t think of something creative to use as your subject, make an ordinary subject interesting by shooting it with a unique angle. I gave you some examples of things to think about for the first few examples.

Make sure ALL of your photos are all well-lit and in focus. 

  • blue – you COULD just take a picture of a blue car, but “blue” could also depict sadness. What does blue mean to YOU?
  • macro – a close up so close up you can’t tell what it is
  • clean – grab that hand sanitizer for a photoshoot
  • animal – your pet… or your sibling? 😉
  • stress – homework or the boss level in your game
  • who I am, really.
  • sky
  • movement
  • reflection
  • inside
  • trash
  • devotion
  • smell
  • strong




Adapted from “Staple City” assignment from Sara Gonzales [Houston, TX]

Instruct your kids to build a “city” using the materials they have at home and photograph it. They can then use these photos to create a brochure or create “social media posts” to advertise the city for tourism promotion.

Below are examples using staples, but given the circumstances, I’d encourage them to use whatever they have available. Imagine a city made entirely out of fruit or something! Haha


I can almost guarantee this won’t be their favorite, but if you get desperate…

They are to research a job related to the field of Photojournalism and do a short presentation. I had them present their project AS that profession as if they were a guest speaker. You could probably still do this via Zoom – and maybe encourage them to dress up, try out an accept, change their virtual background, etc.

I would probably also relax the industry requirement and allow anything journalism/media related. 

Copy and paste the text below straight to your assignment page!

Select one of the following careers (or select of your own) and answer the 10 questions that follow with a Google Slides presentation. Answers should each be in 1-2 complete sentences. 

Use the internet to research everything you can about your new job. Present the following information to the class, acting as the profession, as if you’re a guest speaker.


  • newspaper photographer
  • magazine photographer
  • layout editor
  • documentary filmmaker
  • web designer
  • graphic artist
  • video editor
  • multimedia journalist
  • freelance photojournalist


  1. What do you need to get started in the job? 
  2. What are the major job responsibilities?
  3. What is the current average pay for this job?
  4. How much experience is required to do it?
  5. What are three companies you could work for?
  6. What degree do you need to be hired for this job? What is a college could you go to in order to obtain that degree?
  7. How much travel is required for this job?
  8. What are some negative aspects of the job (every job has some!)?
  9. What are the best things about the job?
  10. Name 3-5 notable people who do this job. Why they are notable and for what?



Seems like a no-brainer here. Most of the school newspapers seem to be covering the COVID-19 pandemic, but instead of printing publications, they’ve simply converted to online media. This is FABULOUS and allows them to be the news source for their peers. Honestly – what better way to learn journalistic principles than by doing it in circumstances such as this? 

This is a great time to optimize your website and engage on social media with your student body. 

School Newspapers Online has a WONDERFUL guide  for building your school news website. Task out these additions to your staff and get your website looking snazzy – you’ll probably see some spikes in traffic as you start to publish articles, so it’s gotta be good!

You can also use the list under the Journalism 1 section above as some ideas for things to cover. And heck, if your J1 kids write some good stuff, throw that on your website, too! They get a byline they can share out and the kudos. I’m sure your admin will be amazed that you’re still cranking out news pieces, too. Win-win-win.



I wish I had a way to really help with this one, folks. But unfortunately, I don’t. My advice is to get with your publisher and make a plan. I know that many plants are closed due to government restrictions, and honestly – that’s a good thing. We don’t need to risk lives for yearbooks. It will be okay – they will be late, but everyone will understand. If there’s anything spreading around faster than coronavirus right now – it’s grace. Give yourself some and know that in the end, it all WILL be okay. 

Talk with your rep about how to finish if you haven’t already, get proofs sent to your house, host video meetings with your editors and staff, discuss distribution plans, and then take a deep breath and eat that elephant one bite at a time. 

I’ve heard some advisers are getting books sent to their house. I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand this – as schools WILL reopen eventually. If you have a legit reason – please share! I seriously would love to know why. I think it’s important to remember this is a temporary season and your home is your HOME. Right now, it’s both, I know, but there is no need to get the books delivered to your house. And consider the liability – what happens if you run your car into them? Or a fire? Obviously I hope that doesn’t happen! But consider the possibility… I suggest you just get them sent to the school. Distribute when you can, how you can. Again – it will all be okay.



HA! I know – but hear me out! 

It’s a great distraction from the current events, and this is the FUN STAGE! Ideas run wild, creativity is high, and boredom can lead to some really great content! 

Under normal circumstances, after the book is done, I assign a “theme packet” for next year’s book to everyone who isn’t a senior. No reason to stop now – there will still be a yearbook next year, right? Only difference is they present their ideas via video chat. Then, the staff votes on the best one and that become the theme for next year’s book! 

Copy and paste the text below straight to your assignment page!

You are going to create a theme packet for next year’s yearbook. Plan on a 5-10 minute presentation to pitch your idea to the class. Don’t reinvent the wheel – use old yearbooks, the internet, etc to find ideas you can recreate. They’ll become your own when you incorporate your own theme, so feel free to “borrow” ideas from what’s been done already! There are SO many cool designs out there!

Take your time and create something you’re proud of. 


    • PRESENTATION – Theme packet must be displayed to the class via a slideshow. The entire project must be neat and creative. All elements should be clearly labeled with descriptions (if necessary). 
    • COVER DESIGNThis will probably change when we actually make it next year, so just do your best to demonstrate your idea. 
    • DESIGN ELEMENT – Elements used on all aspects of the yearbook to incorporate your theme visually
      • 1 Divider Spread
      • 1 Internal Spread (Student Life, Sports, or Clubs/Academics – your choice)
      • These must be complete spreads with:
        • LAYOUT
          • photos can go across the gutter and bleed off the page
          • text cannot go across the gutter and must be within in the margins
          • bleeding elements must go to the red bleed line
          • appropriate use of white space – let elements breathe
        • PHOTOS
          • 7-10 photos total – use photos from the internet
          • Dominant photo – 2-3x larger than the rest) exciting and deserving of being larger than the others
          • all are well cropped and in focus, candids, good composition
        • TEXT
          • Captions – Each photo needs a caption, but you DO NOT have to write captions. (Type > Fill with Placeholder Text) 
            • All captions must be the same width
            • Captions are justified toward the gutter
          • No trapped text
          • No hyphenation
          • Headline – filler text
          • Story – filler text
          • Themed design elements – should be carried through on each page 
          • Secondary coverage – completed design, filler text
          • Directives – in each caption
          • Folio (page numbers) – complete with section on left side and page topic on the right side, page by with staff member name
          • Consistent internal spacing – everything must be the same width apart
    • EXPLANATION– one paragraph (at least 4-5 sentences) with details as to why you chose this theme and why it’s relevant. The theme should be easily understandable, relevant to the student body somehow, and creative. The theme needs to relate to the school/year and be creative and original. Be sure to pick one that you feel could actually be made into a yearbook. If you have a hard time drawing it through this theme packet, we’ll have a hard time drawing it through the book next year. 
    • SECTION NAMES – Provide names for the book’s sections that correlate with the theme. You can divide your book traditionally (Student Life, Sports, Clubs & Academics, People, Ads), chronologically (monthly or by seasons), or another logical way. 
    • COLOR SWATCHES – You can print them out at school as colored squares to show the colors you want to use, or use paint chips. 
    • FONTS – Demonstrate your font choices for the following: headline, subhead, story, caption, directive, folio, secondary coverage, and anything else relevant to your theme

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