2e Tech by Marlo PayneThurman

Book Trailers:
The End of the Book Report for
Bored, Gifted Learners?

November, 2014

Today’s book publishers know that 21st-century youth no longer browse the library or read book jackets at their local bookstore to select the books they want to read. Instead, kids today watch book trailers. Generally considered video advertisements similar to those created for movies, book trailers have become a rapidly growing trend in the marketing industry for new literary works. What’s perhaps most exciting about book trailers is that students finally have an alternative to the boring book report!
For many gifted and twice-exceptional children, one of the least favorite school tasks is producing a written summary re-telling the main parts of a book they’ve read. One of my younger clients once told me that writing the book report ruins the whole book, and that’s especially true for visual learners. For them, a picture really is worth a thousand words. They find the task of translating the complex mental images they’ve formed while reading a great book into a written summary far from easy.

Why Assign It?

It was only a few short years ago that book trailers made their appearance. They can take a variety of forms, ranging from full production movie shorts, to Flash videos, to animations, to simple still photos set to music with text to convey the story’s high points. Regardless of the book trailer’s form, the task of creating it merges multiple modalities of information, an important point because research has shown that students who combine language-based learning with tasks of visual representation are more likely to retain information. Studies also suggest that kids today prefer multi-media assignments over paper and pencil tasks.
Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons for having students develop book trailers is the opportunity it provides to build 21st-century skills in the classroom. This type of assignment offers students — especially gifted, abstract, 21st-century learners — the option of creating a multi-media project instead of writing a standard book report.

The Process

For some educators, the thought of a room full of students all working on computers to build book trailers might feel like an overwhelming technological disaster. But the great news is that the process of making a book trailer using available tools is really pretty simple. So, for anyone who wants to give it a try, the following suggestions will help.





Book Trailers

Great Articles on Creating Book Trailers

  • Bates, N. (2012). Weaving a virtual story — Creating book trailers 101. Knowledge Quest, 20(2), 72-76.
  • Chance, R., & Lesesne, T. (2012). Rethinking reading promotion: Old school meets technology. Teacher Librarian, 39(5), 26-28.
  1. Start by having students watch book trailers. Sites like YouTube, SchoolTube, HarperTeen, and Scholastic will get everyone’s creative juices flowing.
  2. Next, help students draft a plan for their book trailer. For some, developing an outline of either words or pictures from their notes about the book helps. For others, using sticky notes as placeholders in the book is sufficient for identifying the main points and marking important quotations to use in the book trailer.
  3. Because the easiest type of trailer to create is one that incorporates static images with music and words, students can next begin to explore online resources to find both images and music that are free. This is a good place to teach effective searching strategies and necessary copyright requirements!
  4. For images, direct students to websites such as Flickr, Wikimedia Commons, morgueFile, and other public domain resources.
  5. Students who have gathered their images can then search for music or sound effects. Some places to find royalty-free music are Purple-Planet Music, Incompetech Music, and Jamendo. The music can be used with proper citation and under the Creative Commons license. Those with the talent and skills can use the Audacity or Garage Band websites to create original music scores that can be converted easily to mp3 files.
  6. Once images and sounds are ready to go, students can use iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to pull the project together. Some free alternatives to these programs are external apps like Vimeo and Animoto. For the real beginner, Photo Story for Windows is also an easy-to-use product because it walks users through a step-by-step process.
  7. Once the images and music have been compiled in video, the rule “keep it simple” applies. Given so many special effects options, focusing on using two or three effects well is often much better than going overboard with too many effects in a busy and disorganized book trailer. Effects like fade or ease in and ease out usually give the cleanest transitions.
  8. Finally, and most importantly, add in the words to tell a succinct story. Here the student’s sticky notes mentioned earlier can come in handy. At this point, students can find short quotes within the book that tell the story and insert them into the trailer. Remind students not to give away the ending!

Once the book trailer is complete, students can upload their videos through YouTube, SchoolTube, or other, book-trailer-specific sites. The school library or a closed, classroom website might also be a good option for students to publish their trailers.

The process of creating a book trailer might seem a bit daunting at first. Just keep in mind that the skills taught go far beyond simply summarizing a book. These are 21st-century skills that could very well prove invaluable to students in the future.

An Important Note

Images and music used in published book trailers must fall under royalty-free or Creative Commons license. Always have students read and consult the terms of agreement and licensing terms available on each site used. It is the responsibility of both teachers and students to find content with appropriate permissions, then use the found content accordingly.


Marlo Payne Thurman, M.S., is a school psychologist, education consultant, and member of the 2e Newsletter Editorial Advisory Board. She specializes in assessment, advocacy, cognitive training, sensory and behavior support, and socio-emotional coaching for individuals from around the country who are gifted yet asynchronous. Marlo operates the Brideun Learning Communities, which designs custom play-based therapeutic programs and, in addition to her private practice, she provides consultative support to new 2e program start-ups. Marlo holds a board position with the United States Autism and Asperger’s Association, is the director of the U.S. College Autism Project, and teaches a course in the Special Education Department of the University of Northern Colorado.

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