Zines in The Classroom

For Teachers and Librarians 

As I librarian, I don’t always have a direct link to students.  What has gotten me into classrooms in every school I have worked in is finding a teacher willing to collaborate on a zine project.  Zines are a great way to give students an expressive writing assignment that will inspire them to explore writing outside of class. 

You may be saying, “I already assign a To Kill a Mockingbird newspaper.  What’s the diff?”  The difference between a zine and a newspaper in a classroom is that zines offer freedom of form, a choice in writing style, and complete autonomy for the students.  In a zine, students can choose what they do best: fiction, non-fiction, editorials, comics, poetry drawings, reviews…  The list is as long as you allow your students to dream.  Zines can most obviously be used in English classes, but they can also be used by history teachers.  Have your students create a historic zine, written from the perspective of Native Americans as they watch their land disappear.  Or create an underground zine about suffrage. While you are encouraging good writing skills, teamwork, grammar, design, and revising, students will be creating a school experience that they will remember for years to come.

Described below are successful ways I have used zines in the classroom.  Ultimately, I would love to take this show on the road, going into classrooms around the country and teaching zine workshops.  Email me at julie@juliehalpern.com with your questions or interest.

Individual/Small Group Zines

This works well when you have a large or small number of students who are going to make zines.  Students can choose to write about whatever they like (based on teacher guidelines).  Students can group themselves by interest and create zines based on those interests.  When the zines are complete, have a grand zine release party, complete with food, music, and paparazzi, where students can take some time to read and appreciate each other’s zines.

Class Zines

This is a great way to get an entire class to work together.  The class chooses a title and a theme, based on suggestions and votes, and each member must contribute at least one piece to the project.  Upon assembly, everyone has an assigned duty to create the best zine possible.  I have done this zine project for several years with my friend George Drury at Francis Parker School in Chicago, for which we received an Excellence in Library Service to Young Adults award from YALSA (The Young Adult Library Services Association).

 Genre Zine

This can also be done with an entire class.  Working with an English teacher, I came up with this project as a piece of her science fiction unit.  Students wrote articles, comics, ads, etc., in zine fashion, but each piece had a science fiction/ future slant.  The final project was a hilarious and unique group effort.


For help with formatting (which can be one of the most difficult parts of creating zines) and wonderful zine advice, check out these resources:

Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine? by Esther Pearl Watson

Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Zine Resource by Alex Wrekk

Zine Scene: The Do It Yourself Guide to Zines by Francesca Lia Block and Hillary Carlip (I believe it’s out of print)

For a fiction title about the zine world, read Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

Copyright 2011 Julie Halpern