The Report Card Book Trailer Assignment

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Evidence shows that students who create visual representations of a concept are more likely to retain information than those who do not. Moreover, my students prefer media-rich assignments versus a paper and pencil option. So rather than having them do traditional book reports, I let my class produce book trailers.

Book trailers are generally created by publishers to evoke interest and excitement in a new title. They work like movie previews. In the classroom, book trailers are a fresh way for students to summarize what they have read while breaking out of the traditional book report format. And with any luck, their book trailers will also convey some of the excitement of a film preview, and turn other students on to some great new literature. Finally, book trailers are the perfect extension activity for the lesson on visual literacy I described last week. Read on to learn how to do book trailers in your classroom.

Setting the Stage

Creating a book trailer involves multiple steps. The first step for students is creating a visual representation, or storyboard, of the video they hope to produce. The storyboard will help them clarify their topic and theme, and synthesize the information they hope to convey.

In her book 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom, Judith Dodge offers several storyboard activities. I chose the worksheets “Picture Note Making,” “Photo Finish,” and “Filming the Ideas," as they fit my students' various learning styles well. They can also be modified to support struggling learners or to challenge advanced ones.

For example, with the unit collage template, you can label concepts to offer more guidance, or leave the assignment open-ended to allow students to create their own connections and engage in higher-level thinking. When all of the collages come together, the effect can be quite dramatic. I was so impressed by the wide variety of illustrations, as well as by how much information my students retained from the text. The unit collage served as a wonderful foundation for constructing our book trailers.

Behind the Scenes

Now that a storyboard has been established, it’s time to put those tech skills to work! There are many software options for making a book trailer, including Photo Story and Windows Movie Maker, but for a truly theatrical experience, I prefer Apple’s iMovie. It contains an excellent step-by-step tutorial that explains how to use each component. You may also want to view some examples of previous book trailers as inspiration. Some great resources are Book Trailers for Readers, Kidlit Book Trailers, Book Trailers: Movies for Literacy, and the article "65 Book Trailers to Build Excitement for Summer Reading."

For more instruction on creating videos with students, see Top Teacher Advisor Christy Crawford's post "Flip Movies Easy Enough for a First Grader to Complete" and Mary Blow's post "Video Booktalks — Booktalk 101."

Since the process of creating a book trailer can be time-consuming, you may want to organize students in pairs or small groups. I like to assign each student a role such as “film editor” or “art director” in order to make the project more personalized. You may also want to assign the role of “technical director” to an expert who can solve minor technical glitches.

The Silver Screen

What better way to celebrate student success than to have a screening party! To make it official, I pass out an invitation for my students to view their amazing creations as well as a voting ballot. This is a perfect way to end a fun unit celebrating visual literacy and 21st century skills. For more ideas on how to wrap up a filmmaking unit, see Megan Power's post "Red Carpet Movie Premiere."


I would love to see the book trailers your class designs! Share links below.

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