Book trailers are becoming increasing popular within the world of education… but what is a book trailer?
If you recall the many movie trailers you have seen, advertising the latest movie releases, you will begin to grasp an understanding of what a book trailer might be. It is a video advertisement for a book, an advertisement that encourages you to read the book.
For students to create an effective and informative book trailer they need to be aware of some ‘tricks’ of design and content. They need to convey a sense of what the book is about without giving too much of the story away. The design of the book trailer should motivate observers to buy or borrow the book and read it.
The creation of a book trailer is not as simple as it first appears…Unlike movies where the trailer shows us the characters, a book trailer shares part of the essence of the story, enticing you to want to read the book – without defining what the characters maybe like. Many of us like to ‘picture’ for ourselves what the characters and setting maybe like. It is one of the joys of reading a book – visualising the setting and characters within our own imagination!
Some students find visualisation difficult and book trailers may assist their skills in this area because it gives the book a context and some visual clues. Visualisation increases reading proficiency and has positive consequences for learning and metacognition.
Most book trailers run from one to three minutes. They can be as simple as a narrator reading a passage from the book or as complex as an elaborate mini-movie. Book trailers can be acted out, full production trailers, flash videos, animation or simple still photos set to music with text conveying the story.
Thank you to Pam Powell, our English-literacy Project Officer, who has provided a framework for developing book trailers and found resources that help us understand what the end product might look like!
How are book trailers organised?
These notes unpack the structures and features that students need to understand before they attempt to make their own book trailers. They are intended as background information for teachers who plan interactive ways of presenting the concepts to their classes as part of their teaching program.
Book trailers are argument texts: teachers might explore aspects of persuasive writing (sometimes known as expositions or expository writing) before beginning a unit about creating book trailers.
The purpose is
- to entertain, inform and persuade
- to encourage others to read the book.
After viewing of a number of different book trailers, students discuss some of the ways in which they might achieve their purposes for making a particular book trailer.
The audience might be
- students within the same class
- other students from the same grade or from another grade according to the intended age group for the book
- a combined audience of students and parents at a special gathering arranged to view the book trailers
- the general public (if trailers are submitted to one of the blogs, wikis and websites that accept contributions from students.)
- will vary according to availability of
o software e.g. PowerPoint, Photostory 3, Movie Maker, ArtRage, Paint, PhotoShop, Stop Motion Animation, Kahootz
o equipment e.g. digital and video cameras, MP3 players
o time that students have to complete their trailer.
Book trailers are created using
- images. Most trailers use a mixture of images including
- still photographs
- scenes shot on video
- musical background
- voice overs
- conversation between characters
- sound effects
- silence. (Silence can be used in film to create dramatic effects.)
Editing is the process of putting the individual shots together to tell a story. Students choose visual images, print and sound to create a cohesive text.
Methods of changing from one scene to the next vary according to the chosen software. They include
- jump cuts
- fade outs
- impressions of pages turning or spiralling
The pace of the film is determined during the editing process.
The visual image maker: a tool for analysing and creating visual texts is available from the eCentre (only available to Tasmanian government and Catholic schools) at http://resources.education.tas.gov.au/item/edres/2dcd007b-8d0b-d6bd-6614-4c89313de07f/1/ViewIMS.jsp. It provides students with an interactive way of learning about visual language. (Some schools have found the tool very useful as an introduction to the making of digital stories.)
In addition the following structural elements should be presented in book trailers, though the ways in which they are demonstrated will vary according to the visual and verbal elements chosen by students.
- Statement of position
Encourage students to form a clear and forceful statement giving their opinion or point of view about the book. While this might not be directly stated in the trailer it should underpin all of the information presented in the trailer.
- Development of an argument
- In order to persuade their audience, students use arguments and assertions to reinforce and emphasise their statement of position.
- Each point put forward should be supported by evidence and / or examples that are carefully selected to add weight to the argument.
- The ordering of points is a crucial factor in influencing the audience. Most arguments start with the strongest points and then link to the weaker ideas.
- Summary of position
- occurs at the end of the trailer.
- This might take the form of an evaluation of the book, a reiteration of the position or a call for action e.g. a last appeal for the audience to read the book.
Visual language: representation
Representation refers to the meaning that the viewer makes from the images presented within the frame of the picture.
- signs and symbols.
- We acknowledge the use of symbols in our everyday lives by interpreting the signs we see around us.
J L N U Y
o Similar conventions are used to represent feelings and give status to individuals e.g. the symbol of a lion is often used on royal coats of arms to represent power and authority.
o Objects often have symbolic meanings that are recognised by the audience e.g. a Mercedes Benz car has a symbolic meaning of wealth and luxury.
- Body language
is consciously used to convey personality, feelings and relationships with others. Elements include
o gesture and movement
o orientation – the way in which a person’s body is aligned in relation to another person e.g. Are they leaning towards or away from the person next to them?
o touch e.g. Who touches whom? In what ways? In which situations?
o facial expression
o eye contact.
- Physical appearance
includes such things as
o hair style and colour
o body style e.g. height, weight, build.
Visual language: presentation
Presentation refers to the way in which the visual image is constructed. It includes aspects such as
- Camera angles
- High angle – the camera is positioned above the subject. It appears that the you are looking down on someone making them look weak and insignificant.
- Eye level –It appears as if you are on the same level as the person of object. It seems as if you are sharing the point of view with a character
- Low angle - the camera is positioned below the subject. It makes you look up to the person and they appear to be powerful.
- Camera shots
Photographs and drawings have frames. The frame decides how much information you see and helps you make meaning from it.
o A long shot shows the whole person and some background. It is used to establish the setting.
o A medium shot shows a person from the waist up. It is used to show people’s actions and gestures.
o A close up shows a person’s head and shoulders or an object in detail. It is used to show emotions and to highlight important details.
- Special effects
Photographs and drawings can be manipulated to create particular impressions e.g. body shapes can be adjusted to make people appear thinner or fatter. Air brushing can be used to remove wrinkles making people look younger.
- Lighting and colour
- Light patterns in photographs or films suggest different moods or create a focus on a particular part of the picture.
- Colours can be bright and vibrant or soft and muted. The colours reflect the mood and atmosphere of the scene.
- Some colours have symbolic meaning e.g. in Australia red suggests danger and white usually means purity.
Reference: Rod Quinn, Barrie McMahon and Robyn Quinn, 1997. Picture this: reading visual language. Curriculum Corporation.
Verbal language features
This refers to the ways in which spoken and written language is used in the trailers.
Some book trailers might not use print at all: they rely on visual and spoken language to convey their messages. Nevertheless, the language is constructed to persuade the audience to read the book.
- Awareness of the audience
- Book trailers usually target a specific audience so that the images and words used, together with the tone and atmosphere created, will appeal directly to that audience.
- The tone might be personal and emotive because it is hoped that the audience will empathise with the situation and / or characters presented in the trailer.
- Linking words and conjunctions
- Conjunctions create cohesion and express cause and effect e.g. because, therefore, so …
- They are used to link ideas, contrast concepts, sequence thoughts and connect cause and effect.
- Reasons for actions or choices are shown through the use of linking words e.g. similarly, because …
- Emotive words
- attempt to arouse people’s feelings rather than being neutral or creating objective descriptions.
- suggest feelings beyond the actual meaning of the word e.g. armchair suggests comfort whereas chair does not have a particular connotation.
- https://woc.uc.pt/fluc/getFile.do?tipo=2&id=2259 has lists of the most common words used in advertising and might be used as the beginning of a discussion of emotive words
- Impersonal language
- First person pronouns such as I and we are not generally used.
- Personal opinions are disguised as facts e.g. This is surely a catastrophe that endangers civilisation as we know it.
- The passive voice is frequently used so that the person making the claim is not identified and so that the tone creates authority and strength. e.g. It is certain that …
- is the process of changing actions (verbs) into things (nouns) e.g.
I am worried …
Concern was expressed …
The bomb might explode …
The possible detonation …
Everyone will die …
Wide spread mortality …
- This is often used to structure and add authority to persuasive texts.
- Degrees of certainty
- Book trailers are able to overstate the case by using authoritative words such as always, never before,
- Avoid vague reasoning and make convincing statements that will encourage the audience to read the book.
- Present tense
- Generally timeless present tense is used, although this might change if referring to events in the past or those that might occur in the future.
Beverly Derewianka (1995). Exploring how texts work. Primary English Teaching Association.
First Steps: writing resource book 2nd Edition (2005). Rigby Heinemann
Targeting text upper primary: Recount, procedure and exposition (1998). Blake Education
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View some book trailers
A Google search will find hundreds of book trailers. Make sure that you preview them first: some are decidedly unsuitable for student viewing.
A search of book trailers for kids will locate some interesting clips and information about how to make a book trailer. (See also the English-literacy sharepoint at http://ecentre.education.tas.gov.au/sites/English-literacy/default.aspx.)
This code classifies the book trailers listed below:
Suitable for primary school students
Suitable for middle schools students
Suitable for high school students
The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beth, published by Scholastic Press. This kind of trailer is easy to make using software such as Photostory 3. It is simply a collection of illustrations from the book set to music.
Flotsam by David Wiesner, published by Clarion books in 2006. A very simple, but effective trailer that manipulates pictures from the book combined with voice overs and music.
How to save your tail by Mary Hanson, published by Random House. The voice over is a conversation between one of the characters and a narrator. The trailer includes a montage of illustrations, photos and black and white line drawings. A simple style for students to use as a model.
Max Quigley: technically not a bully by James Roy, published by Houghton Mifflin in 2009. This is a very simple trailer that makes a good model for students. While the trailer is suitable for primary students, the book might raise issues that are more appropriate for secondary students. Because this book is a new one James Roy hasn’t yet classified in on his website.
Edsel Grizzler: voyage to Verdada by James Roy, published by Penguin in 2009. Another simple trailer for students to use as a model. This is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy about the adventures of Edsel Grizzler in a parallel world where there are no rules and no parents.
Nineteen minutes by Jodi Picoult, published by Atria Books in 2007. The effectiveness of the visual images at the beginning, the use of the author’s voice over and the detailed plot summary could be provoke some interesting discussion from students, especially those who have read this popular novel. Why does the trailer maker choose to present the trailer in this way?
Science Fair: a story of mystery, danger, international suspense and a very nervous frog by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, published by Disney Editions in 2008. The very obvious camera techniques employed in the trailer make it useful for students to unpack visual language features.
Genius squad by Catherine Jinks, published by Allen & Unwin in 2008. This is the sequel to Catherine Jinks’ earlier novel called Evil genius. The trailer is very similar to a conventional trailer of an action movie.
i-ROBOT Poetry by Jason Christie, published by EDGE in 2007. A trailer that animates black and white drawings with a soundtrack. At 3.30 minutes it’s long and needs a lot of intertextuality to fully comprehend. It might still be worth showing because some students might be inspired by the simple yet very effective techniques used.
i-ROBOT Poetry is a social commentary based around robots who wish to find their own identities. http://www.edgewebsite.com/books/irobotpoetry/ir-catalog.html contains a short clip on the making of the book trailer and an interview with the author and film maker. http://robots.net/article/2246.html is a review of the book that includes some of the poems. This could become an interesting and unusual unit for students studying at standard 5.