Geoff Richards

Magazines with class

The task of producing a school magazine

When I worked for a large advertising agency group in London, I was given the voluntary task of managing the production of an in-house periodical that was aimed at all levels of staff.

What seemed like a fun idea at the time quickly became a nightmare that was almost impossible to manage and measure.

A few of you may already know the scenario and some of you can probably imagine it.

Content is agreed upon at a meeting amongst senior management and departmental heads and a deadline date set for publication.

When you are able to see a contributor, they're either busy or are on their way out of the door and frequently cancel and reschedule meetings or delegate content creation to a subordinate who never quite cuts the mustard.

After a year of that, I'd had enough of the task and was glad to hand it over to someone else as I was leaving advertising to come and work in Southeast Asia.

I was asked by a private language centre employer to manage a newsstand magazine aimed at students of English when I was working in Cambodia and politely turned down the offer.

When I was lecturing business students in Vietnam, I was asked again to become involved in a magazine project and quickly sidestepped the opportunity.

Since being in Thailand, I've often thought about producing a basic magazine for students but, up until this new school year, had disregarded the idea because I was teaching P1 to 4 and it would have meant me doing most of the leg work.

Alongside my conversational classes with M2, I now also have a special M5 project group and have decided to resurrect the idea and will be reporting on its development over the coming school year.

In this article, I'll go into the details of edition number one, which was surprisingly easy to get up and running. Read on.

I was faced with three immediate challenges:

1. the activity was new to the students and therefore an unknown entity

2. the level of English required to produce it had to be sufficiently high for it to be published with confidence

3. although I used to take creative briefings from clients, conceptualise ideas and guide talented designers when I worked in advertising, I'm no designer myself. And I wanted the first edition to really stand out

What I did.

I found some sample school magazines on the Internet and localised the pictures and made the content more fun and relevant to Thai teenagers.

Attention gained, I then explained to the students that the production of their magazine would form the significant percentage of their term grades.

Backing gained, I then practised a Q&A session in class where students had to interview each other and find out likes, dislikes, heroes, etc.

Basic profiles created, I then had each student self-correct their own information, and assigned each student to a team.

Learning groups created, I then had each team take a picture of their group and agree on an English name for it.

I then Googled ‘magazine templates' and found a suitable template, modified it to my needs and populated it with the pictures and profiles that the students had created.

I then printed about fifteen full colour copies and posted them on public notice boards around the school. And so far the feedback has been very positive.

What I'm going to do next.

I've assigned each learning group with its own field of study:

- food & restaurants

- games & cartoons

- fashion & shopping

- music

- jokes & funny comic strips (this may seem like the easiest group, but can you translate something funny between different languages without losing any of the humour?!)

And have given each team a document to complete that uses the five main wh- questions plus ‘how'.

Example for the food and restaurants group:

- What is your favorite restaurant?

- Where is it?

- Who do you go with?

- When do you go?

- Why do you like it?

- How much does an average meal cost?

As soon as I receive feedback and pictures from the students, I'm going to model the language with them in class, and then have them handle the production of the second issue.

What I haven't done is to set a publication date. That will only be decided upon when the students have reached an acceptably high level of the conversational English being learned.

Oh, yes. Almost forgot. The magazine title...

...One Step Beyond!



Thanks for your encouraging words, Jason.

If I can be of any help with you moving to and looking for teaching work in Thailand, please feel free to email at

By Geoff Richards, Isaan (17th July 2012)

Great article and interesting project. As a journalist myself — whose considering making the great Thai escape — it sounds like you've unearthed a productive learning activity, one I just might have to steal if I ever make the move out there with my wife (whose also Thai). And, I couldn't be more empathetic about your marketing job magazine assignment. I was given a similar assignment at my previous newspaper for a special edition regional mag. It all sounded great in a development meeting, until of course, staff began realizing that additional writing, copyediting and content generation can be a hard, migrane inducing, caffeine injecting, nail shearing, labor. Sometimes I think people imagine the editorial process as something akin to Facebook: Facts, photography and writing spontaneously developing by themselves. Keep up the good work on the magazine.

By Jason Shueh, Fort Collins, Colorado (17th July 2012)

As I see it, JBKK, students wouldn't want to waste their time and money visiting places that they don't like or probably wouldn't like, anymore than you or I would!

By Geoff Richards, Isaan (17th July 2012)

I partially agree, but I know that younger students may not have as much reluctance to criticize (I know at least some of my teenage students don't have it as much, which I very carefully encourage).

I think this reluctance is becoming a little less of a thing, as the outside world becomes more accessible. The removal of the "shoot the messenger" blame approach is, sadly, still doa...

By JBKK, BKK (16th July 2012)

Thanks, Philip.

Only good stuff is going in. Promise!


By Geoff Richards, Isaan (15th July 2012)

"I ‘d be careful with reviews of restaurants. Though what you have described would focus on the positives, if a negative (or partially negative) review were to be printed, people might get very stroppy, or indeed, litigious"

I don't think Geoff has got much to worry about. I taught writing to Thai adult students for the best part of ten years. These were guys about to study for degrees in America and go out into the big wide world. Getting them to write anything negative about anything was a tough old job. It's generally just not in a Thai's DNA.

By philip, (15th July 2012)

Thanks for your kind words, Benito.

Please feel free to email me at to receive the next issue!


By Geoff Richards, Isaan (14th July 2012)

As might reviews of shops, JBKK.

The thought had crossed my mind, but this is an in-school magazine, that is only published in English and nothing negative will be going in to it.

Thanks for your words though! :o)

By Geoff Richards, Isaan (13th July 2012)

Congratulations. You're doing great. It will be good for your students and school. I was once a school paper adviser for 6 years. Students,felt good seeing their names printed on a school newspaper. Who knows you'll produce future journalists someday. In my case, I received three months ago an e-mail from one of my staffers and she thanked me a lot for inspiring her because in her univesity years she has been their paper editor-in-chief.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi (13th July 2012)

I 'd be careful with reviews of restaurants. Though what you have described would focus on the positives, if a negative (or partially negative) review were to be printed, people might get very stroppy, or indeed, litigious.

It sounds like a worthwhile project. Good luck!

By JBKK, BKK (12th July 2012)

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