Updated by Walsworth Yearbooks
Strong theme copy helps introduce your unifying concept to your readers
Across the country, children and teens make their way to a school building for learning. But the students at your school will have a different experience than the students at all those other schools. Your yearbook will need a theme that reflects what happened at your school this year.
A theme is an idea or concept threaded throughout a yearbook to unify its parts. A theme should not be a cliché or cute phrase, but sound like something students would say this year, and look like this year’s colors and design trends.
Some years an obvious theme will surface, if changes have occurred at your school. Some years, coming up with a theme is difficult. But whatever theme you select, you need to explain it to your readers in your theme copy.
Read the tips and example openings and closings below. Also use the “Finding Your Theme” and “Writing: Tell Me a Story” units of Walsworth’s Yearbook Suite curriculum to learn more about writing theme copy.
- Appears on the first two spreads following the title page and as a part of the closing. The divider pages will also be an extension of the theme/concept development.
- Should tell in specific terms what the theme is all about, and how it relates to the school, the students and the year.
- Could be a first-person narrative (I or we), a dialogue, a third-person account of relevant details or any other style that communicates clearly the theme and personality of the book.
- Could feature one story continued from spread to spread or distinctly separate pieces of copy on each spread. Some staffs repeat theme phrases in the headlines on all these spreads; others write original headlines to suit the copy on each spread.
Sometimes there will be years with no major changes. Perhaps, then, an unusual approach can be taken. On the opening and closing spreads, copy below used to develop this “Turning the Corner” theme takes a conversational turn in the form of dialogue between two mythical students, one supposedly smarter than the other, talking about the yearbook:
“Wait, why is this purple? What do they think the school colors are? Why don’t they ever have a red yearbook?”
“Hold on, there’s red right here on the first page.”
“Oh, I guess that’s not so bad. But why does it say ‘turning the corner’ on the cover? Unless they mean the start of a new decade? But that’s not too obvious.”
“Yeah, but do you really think that’s all they mean? You know how much time they spend up there in that office. They must have something else in mind.”
“Like any corners around here have affected my life? So what do they mean, the school’s on a corner?”
“Think about it. It’s more than that.”
“You mean like the squares on the cover? I kind of get the square tie-in. Like our school is a square and there’s a courtyard in the center, so it’s like a square within a square, right?”
“Yeah. If you keep turning corners, you’ll eventually get to your destination. Where else is it so easy to find your way around?”
They’re making such a big deal about this ‘turning the corner thing.’”
“Maybe they decided to talk about how people are always running into each other.”
“You mean at the corners?”
“Yeah. Didn’t you ever cruise around a corner after the one-minute bell, and get knocked over by some senior who thought he had the right of way?”
“So that’s all they mean?”
“No. I’m sure they mean more than that. Like when you say ‘meet me by the phones’ you know exactly which corner it is. And so does the rest of the school. And what about the corner of the school that’s kind of not there anymore?”
“I’m talking about the smoking section.”
“Oh yeah. But what else do they mean?”
“I don’t know, I can’t think of anything else. Why don’t you turn the page and find out.”
“I get it now. So this is it. They’ve exhausted the topic. We’ve turned all the corners we’re going to.”
“No, you’re missing the point. These aren’t the only ones.”
“You mean there are more?”
“Yeah. There will always be corners to turn. Think of the corners you’ve turned already. Haven’t they affected you? Don’t you think you’ve changed? Don’t tell me you’re the same person who walked in the door at the beginning of the year?”
“You’re probably right. I’m not the same person. I know I’ve changed. But is that all? What could possibly be around the next corner? What else will I have to face?”
“You never know. You’ll never know what’s around the corner, but as long as you’re willing to turn, you’ll be all right.”
Another example of how a somewhat generic theme phrase, “Take Another Look,” was applied to a particular school situation can be found in a piece of copy from the last opening spread and one from the closing spread. The first opening spread gives specific details about the school year. The copy used the second person, you, to directly address the reader and includes quotes from students.
The next time someone remarks “Central – you’re all a bunch of snobs,” don’t cringe.
Just remember that they haven’t looked past the obvious. But, ask yourself, have you? There’s always something beneath the surface. Did you notice this year’s subtle changes or did you take them for granted? Natalie Bunker said, “Central provides us with great education and students don’t realize that.”
Nellie MacDiarmid recognized “the effect SADD made this year. I feel students are thinking twice about driving if they have been drinking.”
Another organization, the newly formed Athletic Council, jumped on the school spirit bandwagon with “Pack the Place Week” in February. Knowing that there’s always room for improvement, we continued to move forward.
Look at this book, for instance. It might seem like an ordinary El Diablo, but …Why not TAKE ANOTHER LOOK.
By the time you read this copy, pictures will be covered with autographs, and pages filled with… “This year was the BEST… It was fun… Remember the time… Have a great summer… Call me.”
But these generic expressions don’t even hint at the special memories each of us is left with after one of the “best four years of our lives,” as “they” tell us. We know it hasn’t all been the BEST, but if we look again at this year, now or 20 years from now, we can find value: something we developed interest in, something we learned not to do again, someone we became friends with… even as the penciled messages fade and the inked signatures smudge, keep in mind, it’s worth it to TAKE ANOTHER LOOK.
Some yearbook articles practically write themselves (looking at you, sports and activities), but a great yearbook will feature additional articles that give a holistic view of your high school’s student body. Coming up with ideas for these articles is as simple as considering what the students will want to remember.
We’ve broken down some potential ideas into categories. Even if you don’t use any of these exact ideas, we’re sure they’ll get your brain kicking into high gear.
Academics are important, but high school is also about socializing, gaining responsibility, and becoming an adult. Some of the most vivid memories are created outside of the classroom.
- Most embarrassing moments
- Hitting the snooze bar: do or don’t?
- Homework style: git ‘er done or procrastinate?
- Worst school-related nightmares
- Locker or backpack?
- Passing time during passing time
- This year I was proud of…
- Backpack must-haves
- Favorite class experience
- Lightbulb moments
- Making time for everything
- School uniforms: love or loathe
- What’s your commute: busing, driving, or walking?
- School rivalries: why we’re the best!
- Morning routines
Coming of Age
Throughout high school, students are growing up. Each year brings unique challenges and changes. It’s fun to celebrate these milestones.
- First concert
- Getting your driver’s license
- Rock the vote: politics in school
- First jobs
- Taking the ACT/SATs
- What’s next?
- Summer job earnings: spend or save?
- Have you ever been grounded?
- AP classes or college in the schools
- Too old for toys?
- Childhood foods you’ll never let go
- Doing chores
- Naps: be a kid again
Sometimes school is more about the fun over the fundamentals. Reserve some space to tell the stories that are happening when the students are kicking back and listening to cassettes on their boomboxes (they still do that, right?).
- Fantasy football
- Favorite books
- Obsessions (Taylor Swift, My Little Pony, Candy Crush, etc.)
- Social media
- Friday night social
- Garage bands
- Non-school sports (skateboarding, snowboarding, figure skating)
- How we shop: in-store or online?
- Constant communication: how many texts do you send in a day?
One of the most fun aspects of the yearbook is that it is essentially a time capsule. Up the ante by overtly including current events, music, and trends of the year.
- What’s in the news this year?
- Fashion trends
- Style inspiration
- All about hair, makeup, and beauty
- Favorite TV shows
- Music: best bands and favorite concert experiences
- Dance moves of the year
- Knowing all the words to your favorite song
- Movies and blockbusters
- Seeing it first: midnight showings
- Your go-to memes
- New technology: wearable tech and hoverboards
Whether it’s chatting with friends, playing games, or finishing up some late homework, a lot of stuff goes down in the cafeteria. With these ideas, you can focus on the food or the fun.
- Healthy or not?
- Best lunchtime traditions
- Droolworthy school lunches
- Who packs your lunch
- The best playground games
- Cafeteria workers tell all
- What school food will be missed the most?
- Who do you sit with during lunch and why?
- If you were cooking for the school, what would you make?
The most interesting part of anything (including high school) is the people. There are loads of fascinating dynamics, talents, and relationships to explore.
- Unsung heroes: custodians, school nurses, and admin
- Friends since…
- Fresh faces: a spotlight on new teachers
- Who do you look up to?
- Hidden talents
- How did you become friends?
- Your biggest change in the last four years
- Legacies: kids who go to the same school as their parents
Every story needs a setting, but these ideas turn the setting into the story.
- Rumors about the school: secret hallways, ghosts, hidden treasures
- If you could change one thing about the school, what would it be?
- The best restaurants in town
- Regional specialties (growing up near the beach, Texas football, big city living, etc.)
- Fun facts and quirks about the school building
- Spring break locations
- Where do you want to travel?
- Must-see locations in town
- Indoors or outdoors: where’s the fun?
Time of Year and Events
Over the course of the year, a lot of specific activities take place based on holidays or the season. You can use these triggers as a launch point to look back on the year.
- Homecoming parade
- Halloween: costumes and scares
- Thanksgiving and being thankful
- Seasonal activities: summer, fall, winter, spring
- New Year’s Eve: school resolutions
- Valentine’s day: love or loathe?
- Can we have class outside?
- Field trips
- Science fair
Categories Lead to Brainstorms
Hopefully some of these ideas will lead to some winning articles for your high school’s yearbook. If not, no biggie (we won’t take offense). You can still use these categories to springboard some new article ideas of your own design. Ask your students what they want to remember, and go from there.
PSST!Sign Up to Receive
Yearbook Ideas to Your Inbox