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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coming Attractions: Book Trailers

I wrote about book trailers at my How to Teach a Novel blog, and the response from teachers was extremely positive. Like a movie trailer (aka movie preview), a book trailer provides just a glimpse of the overall story, with plenty of visuals and just enough hook to draw in the viewer (or, in this case, the reader).

Dr. Mark Geary has collected a terrific list of picture book trailers to get you started. You'll find lots of new and old favorites there (for example, Tuesday by David Wiesner; Diary of a Worm and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin; Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, and The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman).

If you dig these and want more, YouTube has several, searchable by name and (not as often) by author or publisher. Publishing houses offer them as well, and most publishers provide search functions to help find them. The Scholastic site, for example, has over sixty terrific, professionally published videos. You can also check out my recent series on Publishers' Resources: parts I, II, III, and IV to see which children's publishers provide videos.

The video below shows how music, movement, and selected text can create anticipation for Farmer George Plants a Nation, written by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Layne Johnson.

If you're a middle grade or high school teacher, definitely check out the Scholastic site, and also take a look at 60 Second Recap, a hip new site which breathes life into high school classics.

Suggested Uses for Book Trailers

So how can classroom teachers make the best use of these videos?
  • Book trailers can create a sense of anticipation for an upcoming novel or even picture book. A teacher can whet appetites for the next day's reading by showing a book trailer at the end of each day.
  • By their short nature, book trailers provide a clear model of summarizing. Trailers may additionally provide models of other literary techniques including cliffhangers, foreshadowing, mood, pacing, and tone.
  • Prior to the introduction of a novel, the trailer is an alternative way to provide a general story outline, apart the back cover blurb. This allows students to focus less on the overall "story line" and to concentrate more intently on literary elements. After seeing a preview for a movie, we often feel that we can predict the entire movie's story line, yet we go to see it anyway. Why? Because we want to fill in the gaps that the preview intentionally created. We also want to enjoy the visual elements, the witty banter, the twists and turns that the trailer only hinted at.
  • When using a novel as a mentor text, a trailer can scaffold the overall story line. How is that different than the idea above? When teaching my students the importance of using alternatives to "said," for example, I assigned pairs of students two chapters from Gordon Korman's Swindle. Korman is a master at crafting realistic dialogue, and in one chapter alone a student found thirty speaking words other than said, and the word said itself was used just five times (and most often with an adverb). Although students only skimmed to collect the words, they still wanted to get an idea of the overall plot (some students, after all, were assigned Chapters 15 and 16, pretty deep in the action!). The Swindle trailer not only helped students see how their chapters tied into the overall story, it also encouraged over a dozen of them to sign out the book that day.
  • Trailers can be used to build critical thinking skills. Allow students to compare the books to their trailers, guiding the discussion with questions such as Did the trailer give you the same feeling as the book itself? Do you feel that the narrator was right for the video, and why or why not? What did the trailer leave out? Why do you suppose those elements were chosen? For what audience is this trailer intended: teachers, librarians, parents, students, booksellers, others? How do you know? What would you change in this trailer and why?
  • In some cases, students can even compare one trailer to another for the same book. This alternative book trailer for Swindle can be found on YouTube. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Which segments from each could be combined to make a new trailer that's even better than either of the originals?
Have your own source for book trailers, or other ideas for using them in the classroom? Email me or leave a comment below.

UPDATE: My new Twitter friend Tara Lazar (@taralazar) pointed out that there's now a Kids' Lit Book Trailer Ning. How cool is that? Thanks, Tara. See? Twitter is a good thing!


Reading Countess said...

I have used book trailers in my classroom very successfully. I think this speaks to the "Eye Generation" that we keep reading about. Great article!

BookChook said...

I think making a book trailer is a great alternative to writing a book report. Kids practise so many skills! They need to write a storyboard, manipulate images and music and sounds and text, all to create a multimedia story that "sells" a book.

Anonymous said...

Any recommended sites for middle-school and high-school level book trailers?

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for the comments! You can find a newer post featuring trailers for YA lit (suitable for middle and high schoolers) at my How to Teach a Novel site (

If you know of other sites where book trailers are compiled, let me know!

BookChook said...

Blazing Trailers is all about book trailers, Keith. I didn't mention it earlier because it does have a section on adult books. However, you have to deliberately choose to go to that section. Teachers and parents could certainly use the site to learn specifically about books and book trailers suitable for kids.

Owner of the site, Kim Chatel, has made a great presentation on how to make a trailer for yourself for Day 2 of the Share a Story blog tour. Here is the Day 2 link:

Mark Geary said...

Thanks for the mention, Keith!

We do have an adolescent section, here: We are now up over a thousand booktrailers, and growing. For the most part, our trailers are made using photostory 3, as it is quick, easy, and free, all good combinations for busy educators. I also wrote a short article on How to Make Booktrailers.

Some consideration needs to be given as to where the booktrailers should be posted. I do not recommend youtube, as that is blocked in most schools, so even when you post there, the viewing opportunities are limited. Teachers and authors are welcome to send booktrailers to me, for inclusion on my site, or they may want to consider (like youtube, only moderated for content). Another choice may be doing a video commentary on the book, and uploading to that books site on

Anonymous said...

I've been working on a similar project, BookStormers, for the past 12 years or so. Although it started as a video project, I transformed it to an audio only format when I changed districts (and platforms).
The passion and enthusiasm that students bring to these projects is extraordinary.
About 40 sample podcasts, as well as all the teacher and student resources for the project, are available on my Google site:

Kaori Sensei said...

I think creating book trailers is very enjoyable project after reading a book. Students need to know the book very well to sell it.

As in Bloom's revised taxonomy, "create" is very important practice.

I wonder how other educators teach about copy rights. Would you tell the students to only use images from creative commons? Or is it ok to use images online if it does not say prohibit to download, and if a student clearly mention it? Our school seem to have different opinions, and I wold like to hear from those who have experience introducing book trailers in class.

Pat Keltner said...

Don't forget about the Texas Librarian created website, You can also find them on YouTube, TeacherTube, and Facebook. The trailers are for ALL levels. Some are student created and some are teacher/librarian created. I know my post is a couple of years after your original post, but I thought I'd add this other site especially for those looking for trailers for middle and high school. There are so many great ones created by Teresa Schauer, the creator of BTFA, and Naomi Bates, one of our most prolific book trailer creators.

Unknown said...

Really such a nice information on video books.Thank you for posting this info.