First week of school in Journalism 1 and Photojournalism

The first week of school is always crazy, right? You’ve spent just enough time relaxing during the summer to forget how to teacher, you’re as professionally developed as you’re ever going to be, and you’ve been given approximately four minutes in your classroom to setup and prepare. Yet, ready or not… the kids come! But, we’re here because we love them… they’re so sleepy (same) and the freshman are lost and everyone has new pencils.

We started school on a Wednesday, so technically this is a look into the first week and half of school.

Journalism 1

I have this first period, and usually have A LOT of freshman in this class. So this class is their very first taste of high school. No pressure, right? I once heard to never cover the syllabus on the first day. As a newbie, this confused me, but now I TOTALLY get it. Every other teacher does that – and it’s boring! Instead, get to know them. So, we played Blobs and Lines. It takes a little bit of improv to make this game fun, but it’s a very low-risk activity that gets kids moving and talking. (Pro tip: take attendance when they get in line alphabetically by last name.)

I believe names are super important, so I also had them fill out an index card with their name, as well as how to say it phonetically. I study them, and the next day I tried to say them all without messing up. It never works – but the effort goes a long way to build rapport with them.

The second day, we took a quick tour of the room. I try to make it fun like YouTubers do – but there isn’t that much to say about my 87 calendars. The best part is they get to go into the “time machine” (aka dark room) we still have. It demystifies that big black circle door, and satisfies the natural curiosity – especially once they see it’s sadly just used for storage now. Then, we went through how to use Google Drive (painstakingly sloooooowly), and they completed their first Daily Journal.

Day 3 we finally went over the syllabus and they took simple headshots of each other to make Press Passes. Simple, fun, gets them moving at 7:25 a.m. – and it gave a few precious extra minutes to sip my iced coffee.

Monday came quickly and it was time to start our first full week. After their Daily Journal, I hosted a very intense “race” where they were to list every single thing they can recall about the English language. I had some kids list 5, some listed 55. I then explained that the way we write in journalism is very different than they’ve learned for English class, and that it will take a little bit of retraining to learn the format/structure/rules. Then we played Trasketball to “throw away” everything they know and gave the winners a Current Events Quiz pass. I ended by explaining this is just a metaphor, and they better not go to their English teacher later and say “ya, sorry, I can’t take this quiz today because I just threw away everything I know in Moreno’s class.” ;-P

Tuesday we went over the history of journalism, and then broke into groups to work on a mini-poster project covering the major court cases. This took about 1.5 class periods, and then I had them present them to the class. On Friday after presentations completed, we did a few Quizlet live sessions to acquaint them with how to do it. It’s super easy to pick up, but there was no sense in diving into a brand new lesson with half a class period left on a Friday. If you haven’t ever done the live Quizlet game – you’re missing out! It’s SO fun and engaging…. I use it to review all the time. 


The first couple of days look very similar to Journalism 1. On Monday, they started to design their own Press Passes. It is a great introduction to the interface of Photoshop and the concept of layers, but it’s easy enough to complete on their own. In years past, this took several days, but this year they seemed to do it much faster. Either they’re more tech savvy or my teaching is getting better! Haha let’s hope it’s a little of both.

Then we studied famous photojournalists, and looked at questions to ask before taking a photo (JEA). Then they were to find one photo that resonated with them that was taken by a photographer who is still alive. On a Google Doc, they posted the photo and wrote a response to it including how it made them feel, what they think the story behind it was, and how it could be made better. This also served as an introduction to Google Drive.

After that was their first test out of the classroom shooting on their own. They were to take photos of Unique Angles of ordinary objects, which is just a great way to get them to start to see things from a different perspective. I showed the best ones to the class, pointing out storytelling elements.

And then, it was over!

I am seriously enjoying this weekend and using it to recover a bit, but I am so looking forward to week 2. I am sure it will be far less crazy busy, which will be nice. All of my start-of-the-school-year-paperwork is finally turned in and off my mind, so I can really settle into this new routine. When I was a brand new adviser, without ever having stepped in a classroom before to teach, I was SO SCARED for the first day, but focusing on FUN really helped a lot.

I would love to hear what activities you plan with your staffs/classes for right at the start of the school year.

This post is in a two-part series – click to read what we did during the first week in Yearbook, Newspaper, and with the staff Photographers.

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