Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Want to increase reading comprehension and engagement? Try making a Book Trailer

Let's face it - book reports are a thing of the past. They are boring to write and boring to read. It's one of those activities that sucks the life out of a a great book for the student, and doesn't give a teacher any more information than what a short discussion or a few quick comprehension questions could address.

However, just because a student has read a book doesn't guarantee a depth of understanding - that's why we do lots of comprehension activities and formative assessments as we go along. But when they are all done, how do we know what they got out of that?

One way to help teachers understand, and to help students engage more deeply with the reading and understand the importance of the elements of literature, is to have them create Book Trailers. 

Book Trailers for Readers is actually a site I found awhile back that contains pre-made book trailers for kids to watch - they are like watching a movie trailer to get you excited about watching a movie.  I used to show them in class once in awhile to build anticipation for a new novel we were about to read.

Book Trailers for Readers also features trailers created and submitted by students. They even have a slideshow (Prezi) that helps show kids how to do it.
Last year, my junior high students started making their own - here's what we did:

1. We reviewed many of the book trailers on the Book Trailers for Readers site, as well as their "How To" page and documentation. We looked for elements they had in common (narrator taking on the 1st person voice of the main character, asking leading questions or making leading statements, setting the scene, building anticipation to the "conflict" point in the story and not going beyond that, use of images, sound, etc.). We used these to develop a checklist of elements crucial to a good book trailer.
2. We built a book trailer as a class using a novel we had recently read.  We used a story board to plan the video and plugged in some of the elements we wanted to use.  Students took on the jobs of script writing, gathering images, narration, filming, finding sounds, etc.We put it all together in iMovie and that was it. As a class we were able to complete this in about 2 class periods.
3. Students selected a favorite book from class from the past year (it's ok if some selected the same), and went through the same process to build their own book trailers - they had to peer review at points along the way.
4. Once everyone had the idea, they looked forward to making book trailers about much of the literature we were studying in class. 

Book trailers are a great way to encourage students' creativity and enthusiasm for reading, and also help them to spread the word about great reads!

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