“Conducting the Orchestra:” How to Implement Maestro

Conducting the “Orchestra:” How to Implement Maestro

Jo Ann Mastin
Farrington High School
Honolulu, Hawaii

Unit Overview and Rationale
Most students don’t work in small teams when they write their stories and design their pages; it’s no wonder that some are stuck for photos, or even good interview questions. They do think of themselves as members of the team, and know that they are contributors to the overall quality of our newspaper, but all the students write and suffer through the process alone; the only feedback they receive comes after their first draft is written.


  • To build small teams within a staff of 20 that are able to motivate, be productive and encourage quality throughout the school year.
  • To develop student confidence as they mentor and coach one another through the process of newspaper production.


Students will…

  • Understand the role that each staff member plays in the production of a publication.
  • Demonstrate commitment to the team’s goal, the production of a quality publication by meeting deadlines, revising drafts, assisting other writers with their stories, and being willing to work on layouts outside of the scheduled class time.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills that facilitate positive participation of all staff members in the production process.

Essential Question(s)

  • What is Maestro?
  • How will Maestro help students to produce quality work?


Day 1

  • Introduce the concept of Maestro by demonstrating what a four-piece ensemble sounds like as each member progressively leaves a jam session. Teacher may ask the band or chorus teacher to contribute to the “visual” and/or “auditory” tool.
  • Brainstorm other forms of teaming that work best when each part contributes to the overall product (color combinations, family, etc.)
  • Students will be divided into groups of four or five with equal distribution of experienced staff members, new staff, upperclassmen, underclassmen, female and male.
  • Each team will be given a mission to create a one-page spread about a career associated with journalism. The team with the “best” package will have their page published as part of the Career and College section of the school newspaper.
  • Before each team is allowed to plan on their own, students will participate in the Four-Step Process to create criteria for the qualities of a “great” package:
    • Brainstorm
    • Sort and categorize
    • Make and post a T-chart
    • Add, revise, and refine.
  • Students will also create criteria for a good team using the same process (from “Setting Criteria” by Davies, Cameron, and Gregory).
  • Model what a newspaper Maestro team does using members of the editorial staff.
  • Teams will begin by brainstorming and turning in their plan which should include the following:
    • Who are their sources?
    • What is the story?
    • Why should readers care?
    • What questions will they ask?
    • What are suggested headlines? Deck? Lead art/photo? Sidebar options?
    • Possible thumbnail sketches of layout
    • Timeline (students will be limited to three days)
    • Who does what?

Day 2

  • Students will be given an opportunity to interview panel members from the community including professionals from the local newspapers and broadcast.
  • Students will draft and create layout keeping in mind that they are creating a feature page.

Day 3

  • Assessment and evaluation using the criteria set on day one for teams and packages.
  • Discussion should center around the idea about what works with Maestro and what doesn’t while providing solutions to the parts that don’t work.


  • Use both criteria set by the student.
  • Student observations.
  • Discussion.
  • Student reflection