***When I thought about sharing this middle grade learning project with you all just a few weeks ago, I really wasn’t thinking I’d be opening with the following paragraph. Hopefully, everyone is weathering necessary school closings as best we can. Teachers, librarians, and parents have such a critical role to play in our world’s response to this pandemic; let’s keep teaching our kids that we all learn amazing lessons from books, both fiction and non-fiction, and that sharing good stories benefits all learners. I hope this book trailer project idea might work for your classroom situation in the coming weeks, whether you’re face-to-face with your kids or working remotely with them.***
In school? Teaching from home? Need an extra project idea to supplement your kids’ online academics? Whether you are a middle grade teacher, a librarian, or a homeschooling parent, it may be a good time to try a project that employs a little freedom and a lot of creativity: middle grade student-produced book trailers.
Student-produced book trailers are a fantastic way to inspire readership of new books, incorporate technology into learning, employ writing skills, and practice project planning and organization. If your school is in session, this is the kind of project that will energize your students despite the springtime sluggishness that tends to set in around now, or to regain the attention of those who’ve grown hard to hook. Or, if your school is among the many closing for several weeks and suddenly implementing online learning, your readers may need a project with wide parameters to which they can bring a highly individualized amount of knowledge and expertise.
A book trailer project addresses multiple areas of standards for learning, as well: reading, writing, speaking, listening, technology…and depending on the content of the book for which the trailer is produced, possibly history, science, world studies/cultures, and others!
Here’s a step-by-step that worked with my students recently:
- Ask students to think about movie trailers out there right now, and trailers they can recall from recent years. Students’ contributions can be listed on the board, in the virtual classroom collaboration space, or on a group email. Have the class brainstorm and share characteristics that made those movie trailers memorable.
- Introduce the concept of a book trailer via discussion or info sheet. Depending on ages and interests, some students may not realize the wealth of beautiful book trailers available online that pique attention and provide visuals for a new book or series. Professionally-created book trailers by authors and publishers employ graphics, video, animation, words, music, and dialogue to craft cinema-worthy advertisements, and you can share wonderful examples with a few links.
- You will also find many student-produced book trailers, created for the classroom or out of fandom. Watching a variety of both professional and student-produced trailers will give you a clearer idea of the capabilities of your readers, and will allow you to generate a list of required or suggested elements for their student-produced trailers. For example:
- Book choice (class novel, or independent read?)
- Video footage, with or without dialogue
- Still images, saved and cited with source, or taken by the student photographer
- Labels, captions, and hooks written by the student
- Quotes from the text, with chapter and page cited
- Author info
- An image of the book cover with author’s name
- Voice over
- Reviews, either borrowed and cited or collected from classmates
- “Coming Soon” list of similar titles or other titles by the author
- Color, style, length, pace of the trailer
- Questions or statements to hook the potential reader
- Revelation of a certain number of plot points and characters…but don’t reveal the ending!
- What about books with characters, situations, or settings that students can’t portray in actual video footage, for whatever reason? Instead of live actors, students might try models or toys for a stop-motion process. Just as effective as costumed actors, isolating symbolic props in interesting scenes or lighting for close-up shots can be mysterious and thought-provoking. There are many more components to a book trailer than the video footage, so if your students don’t have the resources, scrap that part.
- Technically speaking…. On what software or web-based design program can your students produce the book trailer? If your students have dedicated laptops, they may have video-producing software at their fingertips. My students made excellent trailers using their laptop camera for video, then easily imported the segments into the video editor. Special effects and music made the video-making experience fun and frustration-free. For those with no laptop or software, kids who have hand-held gadgets (phone, tablet, iPod) will probably already be quite adept at recording video segments and emailing them to themselves for use. iMovie offers templates and tutorials as do free accounts on Animoto, Powtoon, and other web-based presentation programs. A slideshow book trailer is another great option for still images, original text, and presentation effects.
Once book trailers are completed and edited, you can think about ways to use these great middle grade projects in the future: library contests, summer reading program activities, back-to-school night for new students, or homeschool network or coop project sharing.
Thanks as always for reading, and I hope a book trailer project might work for your readers!