Redesigning the Wheel

Chris S. Ardis
McAllen High School
McAllen, Texas

Generative Topics

  • It’s time for a makeover
  • Aspects of other newspapers that stand out
  • Where are we failing and what are we missing?
  • A critical look at The Wheel

Generative Objects

  • Issues of several daily newspapers from throughout the country and a variety of high school newspapers
  • Past issues of The Wheel

Understanding Goals Essential or Guiding Questions

  • What factors set one newspaper apart from others?
  • What is the difference between a good paper and a great paper?
  • What should a paper’s front page look like? Why?
  • How does a newspaper staff decide what goes inside?

Critical Engagement Questions

  • Which daily newspaper do you like the best? Why?
  • What sets that paper apart from the others in your eyes?
  • Which high school newspaper stands out? Why?
  • How does The Wheel compare? Explain in detail.
  • What are some critical design flaws in The Wheel?

Performance of Understanding, Rationale and Time Line
The purpose of this unit is to conduct a complete redesign of The Wheel. This school newspaper has some critical design flaws that need to be corrected. The flag is outdated and difficult to read. Important elements of design are missing from the paper. This unit will take approximately two weeks to complete from start to finish.

Activity 1

Students will be seated in one big group. Copies of daily newspapers from across the country will be given to them. They will be asked to read the newspapers for a few minutes. Students will then pass the newspapers around so each student has a chance to look at each newspaper. (The students will be unaware of the purpose of the activity at this time.) After each student has seen every newspaper, the teacher will ask the students the first critical engagement question. An in-depth discussion will ensue, and the teacher will record major factors on the board or on chart paper. The following day, the students will go through the same process with a variety of high school newspapers, including The Wheel. The idea of redesigning The Wheel will be introduced.

Activity 2

The class will begin with a discussion of staying with the tab-size newspaper currently published by the staff or switching to the magazine-style format. Allow the students to discuss pros and cons of both and to make a final determination. The discussion will then move on to the front page of The Wheel, starting with the flag. Students will compare our school’s flag with the flags from other high school newspapers and daily papers and will go over page 124 of “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook.” What elements need to be reworked? Suggestions will be offered and discussed. Teacher will share professional journalist’s critique of our flag with the students. Students will begin redesigning the flag. (This may take a couple of days.)

Activity 3

Using pages 80-81 of “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook” as a guideline, students will decide what critical elements have been missing from The Wheel. What do we need to do to fix this? Discuss positive things the newspaper staff has been doing (using a clear grid and teasers on the front page). Develop an overall plan for the redesign of the front page. Also cover pages 22-31 of this book — The Four Basic Elements (headlines, text, photo, and cutlines). Go over pages 69-72 in “The Prairie Journalist’s Companion” for more information regarding typography.

Activity 4

Now move on to the inside of the newspaper. Decide on sections the staff wants to cover. What should the layout look like? Look at pages 9-21 of “The Prairie Journalist’s Companion.” View examples from last year’s newspaper when stories became difficult to follow due to lack of proper design flow within the paper. Discuss how this can be avoided.

Activity 5

Begin working on a dummy for the new newspaper. Use the new flag and all of the new design elements in the paper. All of the essential elements of design should be present within the paper.


The completion of the dummy by the entire newspaper staff will serve as the final assessment for this unit. The teacher will check for all critical elements of newspaper design.

Resources Recommended

  • “The Newspaper Designer’s Handbook, 4th Edition” by Tim Harrower
  • “The Prairie Journalist’s Companion” by Ron Johnson
  • A variety of daily and high school newspapers
  • Critique of The Wheel by a professional journalist