Easy Steps for Making Book Trailers with Your Class or School!

I confess, I’m a book trailer addict. I love the visuals, the music, and the tantalizing teasers that make my want to run out and read a new book!

Have you ever thought about facilitating a class or school activity in helping your students create book trailers of their own for a favorite book?

I discovered a wonderful librarian from an elementary school in Nebraska, Cynthia Stogdill, who recently finished this terrific experience with her students – and she did it in the short time span of a mere two weeks!

Kimberley: How did you first come up with the idea to have your students create book trailers?

Cynthia: My daughter’s former teacher introduced me to book trailers. I was brainstorming different ideas for my after school reading enrichment program, and I thought book trailers would be something we could try. I try to incorporate some creativity, as well as higher level thinking in our activities.

My activity units run for two weeks. We meet on two afternoons a week so everyone has an opportunity to participate at some time. For this activity we did the planning one day, filmed on two days, and had our screening party on the last day.

Kimberley: How did you choose the books?

Cynthia: I let the students pick the books they wanted to feature.  The only stipulation was that they had to have read the book at some time.

Kimberley: Did they work by classes or in teams? Which grades were involved?

Cynthia: Our after-school reading enrichment program is open to our students in grades 1-4, and we also have some older students drop by as well. The students created individual book trailers, but were supported by their peers. They discussed their ideas with each other offering ideas and suggestions before we started the taping process. A few of the students chose not to participate, but they stayed close by, watched, and offered support to the other students.

We kept the process pretty simple and kept the length to less than a minute. That forced the students to be concise and to the point.

Kimberley: Did they write their own script, or storyboard it out like a movie?

Cynthia: I provided the students with a brief questionnaire to help them outline their book trailer.  It consisted of the book’s title, author and/or illustrator, and brief summary of the book. It also included a comment on why someone should or would want to read that particular book.  I encouraged them to prepare that ahead of time and use it as a guide when they were practicing.

Some students followed their outline very closely, and some didn’t use a guide at all. Additionally, I used the questionnaire as a springboard to get them to really think about their book and why they would recommend it to someone.  I wanted them to move to a reflective level of thought.  In general, I think they accomplished this because they were discussing their choices with each other.

Kimberley: How did they film the trailers? What technology did you use?

Cynthia: I did all the filming with my Flip video camera. It’s easy to use, has a two hour memory, and long battery life.  My kids use it to film plays, sock monkeys, and our pets all the time.  It might sound like a commercial, but it is a great all purpose camera at an affordable price. It was perfect for this project.

Kimberley: Did you use any music or sound for the trailers?

Cynthia: Some of the book trailers have a background sound track.  I ripped short pieces of music and overlapped them to create a repeating background track. I avoided using whole pieces of music for copyright reasons.

Kimberley: How were they edited, and how many book trailers were created all together?

Cynthia: I used Windows Moviemaker to create the book trailers – I am a PC person.  After doing some research, I chose this software for our project.  Ideally, something like Garage Band would have been perfect, but I didn’t have ready access to that software. Moviemaker allowed me to edit the clips, piece them together with transitions, add titles and credits, and soundtrack. The software then allows you to transfer the videos onto a DVD.

One can also use photos instead of video clips, so that is an option. Video can be a big challenge but nothing a brave librarian can’t handle.

My students were younger, so the editing process rested on my shoulders and we kept it really simple.  We created about twelve book trailers that were thirty to sixty seconds long. That translated into about eight hours of editing. I think older students would have a great time creating and editing their own work.  If a librarian had access to a good editing program and time to familiarize students with its workings, this would make a great performance assessment.

Kimberley: Did you have any sort of competition with the book trailers? Prizes?

Cynthia: Nope, but in the future, I would have an awards ceremony and find some plastic statues to give to the students – similar to the Oscars. Just for the fun of it.

Kimberley: What was your culminating activity to show off the book trailers?

Cynthia: We finished the book trailer activity with a screening party. The students had popcorn and pretzels, and they were sprawled out on the floor like a movie party. We watched all the book trailers and then I created a Blooper video with some of their outtakes and mistakes. That was the last thing on the DVD.  I think we watched the entire DVD three times.

Our screening also fell on parent teacher conferences and our Book Fair. I had given the DVD to the principal after our party, and she actually had it running in a conference room for parents to stop in and watch.

Kimberley: The Book Fair Parent night is a great way to let the parents see the children’s book trailers!

Cynthia: Looking back, I wish we would have had the DVD running for both nights of parent-teacher conferences and the Book Fair. Unfortunately, we had some snow days and I really wanted the students to be the first ones to watch the DVD. 

Kimberley: Any closing thoughts or tips?

Cynthia: The Moviemaker program takes a little practice, but it was fun and pretty straightforward.  This activity will definitely make an appearance in the future. I am so proud of the students and their focus and commitment to putting together something really special.

Kimberley: You make this whole process seem very doable for any school or classroom. Thank you so much, Cynthia, for being with us here at FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES!

Some of my favorite Middle-Grade book trailers from the last few months:

This trailer was made with original music and filmed on location

A beautiful new historical in verse that just launched last week.

Book trailer made by some kids, very fun and pretty professional.

Kimberley’s busy eating buttered popcorn while enjoying the latest trailers and books of 2012. Please find her at the Tucson Book Festival March 11 and in Chicago at IRA April 29 presenting an all day Author’s Panel and signing at the Scholastic booth, Monday, April 30th from 3-4 p.m. www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com
Kimberley Little