Book trailers have been around for a while but it is only in the last 18 months that they have started to catch on in the world of YA fiction. When I saw my first book trailer about three years ago, I was captivated. My mind started exploding with possibilities for using them in the classroom. I was a little disappointed to see (even 12 months ago) that they were being used somewhat sporadically by children’s and YA publishers. However, I have noticed a slight increase in their use in the last 6 months (especially with Australian publishers), which can only be good news for Aussie teachers and their students.
So, how do I use them in the classroom? Firstly, I wish I had a book trailer for every book I share in the classroom. Not because I am not good at selling stories the old fashioned way. I enjoy the ‘tried and tested’ methods for book promotion such as verbally introducing the book and providing a short informal review, reading the blurb or reading a page or chapter from the given book. For a teacher, book trailers allow you to engage students in the act of reading without you even opening your mouth. Book trailers offer another ‘voice’ in the classroom, and though I hate to admit it, for our visual learners, it is one which is far more enticing than anything I can provide. As I have already alluded to, book trailers don’t replace the other methods for book promotion, they serve to enhance traditional teaching practices. Used on their own, at best they probably provide only a few moments of entertainment and are quickly forgotten. Sure, they may encourage some of your more intrinsically motivated students to read the story, but the more reluctant readers will still need you to provide your personal recommendation to help them get off their seat and borrow the book.
I started using book trailers at the beginning of my independent reading lesson in the library and the students responded very positively to them. I made sure that I had copies of the given title available for borrowing, along with other similar titles and books by the same author. I rarely share a book trailer for something that I have not read myself. I am guided by two basic principles; that I should do as I say (that is read and read lots) and that if I am sharing something it is because it is worth reading. However, not all teachers have the benefit of a weekly reading lesson in the library. I also experimented with using a trailer as a short filler at the end (or beginning) of a lesson. Trailers are universally short and most are under 2 minutes. It is therefore no problem to show a trailer and speak briefly about the title in under 5 minutes. Similarly, it is also quite useful to share trailers in online groups and class moodles. Edmodo allows you to do this easily and students can comment immediately on what they have viewed or this might be followed up in class the next day.
Once students have become familiar with book trailers you could even give them the opportunity to prepare a book trailer of their own for something they have read independently. This is a great way to avoid the traditional book report whilst highlighting the importance of using words succinctly to entertain and entice an audience. Students have had success using programs such as software installed on their pc or mac but there are some great apps available that can make this even easier. If you pop onto youtube you will also find many examples of student created book trailers that you can show as text models.
My message is simple, if you locate a book trailer for a great novel, don’t hesitate to use it in the classroom. If you are a publisher of books for children (especially YA fiction) please create these for every book on your list. Teachers will use them and they definitely help to promote stories (and ultimately sell them).