Responding to literature using digital media.
Book trailers are often referred to as audiovisual representations of texts (Gron, 2014, p. 91). Gron (2017) defines reader’s book trailers as a pedagogical tool to promote literary learning and multimodal literacy (p.94). These trailers are very different to the ones produced by authors and publishers for promotional purposes. Author and publisher produced trailers are more inline with movie trailer characteristics as they both seek to lure rather than show the user’s understanding and comprehension of the text (Gron, 2014).
Book trailers (BT) can range from complex short digital stories with interactive media, to simple slideshows of still images, to animated videos using claymation (Tobin, 2012, p43). Predominantly used for fictional texts, BT have also recently been used as literary analysis for non fiction resources, as well as essays and other multimodal texts (Tobin, 2012, p.40). They provide a useful way of integrating ICT in the classroom and provide a digital alternative to literary circles and book reports (Bernardo, 2019). Reader’s book trailers work in a similar manner to literature circles, as they provide a space for students to engage with the text and to form connections between the text, the world and themselves. Gron (2014) points out that BT offer a synopsis of the text through the perspective of the reader, which will differ depending on the reader’s own knowledge bank and the connections they make to the text and real life (p.95). They provide an audiovisual depiction of the text from the lens of the reader, with their perspective and understanding as influences (Gron, 2017, p.93).
Within a classroom, book trailers are flexible as a teaching tool or as an assessment piece (Tobin, 2012, p.40). They can be used as enticement, as a tool to engage students at the commencement of a unit, or as a comprehension task at the culmination of one. BT’s strongest efficacy is at the culmination of a unit, but often the idea of creating a BT can be an enticement for students to participate in the course. There are three main educational benefits to using book trailers in the classroom. They include, promoting engagement with the text and reading in general, as well as increasing comprehension, understanding and analysis of the text. They are also an ideal activity for collaborative learning groups. Lastly, BT increase critical thinking, visual literacy, social and emotional literacy as well as improve multimodal literacy of students.
Book trailers can be used for narrative and expository texts (Tobin, 2012, p.47). Their format engages students in the task and the successful completion of the trailer provides intrinsic motivation for reading as a pleasurable activity (Ginsberg, 2013; Festa, 2017). The creation of a BT requires the reader to delve into the book, identify and analyse key events, themes and character development (Tobin, 2012, p.48). This analysis of texts, especially fictitious ones, can lead to a cognitive change, which also provides additional motivation for reading.
Students need to summarise the story into key events and stages, analyse how these events affected the story as a whole and their own understanding of it (Bernardo, 2019). They also need to be able to understand the genre of the text, and ensure that the trailer is consistent with the author’s intent (Gron, 2014, p.92). Festa (2017) points out that illustrations need to be evaluated for their effectiveness, which is especially important when creating a BT for picture books.
Student learning is heightened within social contexts, and the literary efficacy of book trailers is increased by collaborative group work. This is based upon Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory, that learning in student-centred environments is more successful than in isolation (Tobin, 2012). Collaborative groups are ideal for the implementation of BT, as they allow for the exchange of ideas, discussion of themes, events and character development which leads to optimum understanding of the text and topic. (Tobin, 2012, p. 41). Dialogue and discussion is very important when deliberating over social and moral issues, as well as when evaluating author’s bias, veracity and use of literary devices.
When working in collaborative learning groups, it is optimum that students are assigned a specific role or task to complete (Tobin, 2012, p.41). Whilst many students may prefer to make their own collaborative learning groups, teachers ideally create diverse learning groups and assign roles to ensure that the task is equitably distributed. This is especially important if the BT is used for summative assessment purposes. Group selection can be intentional, or via a method of random allocation. Working in collaborative groups also meets curriculum outcomes within the General Capabilities – Personal and Social Capabilities, as it promotes interpersonal skills and allows students to develop effective strategies for interacting with their peers (ACARA, 2014a).
By allocating roles, each student is given a purposeful direction to interact with the text and an active role in their learning. This orchestration gives the student ownership of the final product and thus promotes engagement with the task and the text. Festa (2017) suggests that students complete a reflection of the task, peer review and a self evaluation of their own efficiency and efficacy as an assessment tool (p.109-110). But caution should be used if BT are to be considered a summative assessment if there is an inequitable access to personal devices.
The inclusion of book trailers in education increases critical thinking, visual and multimodal literacy as it provides a social context to develop these 21st century skills (Tobin, 2012, p. 41, Festa, 2017, p.112). At its core, BT are essentially a miniature inquiry task as it requires the students to work on their metacognitive processes to ensure that planning, implementing and evaluation occurs appropriately (Tobin, 2012, p.42). Inquiry tasks are an accepted teaching practice and often used as a pedagogical method to build critical thinking and critical literacy in students (Tobin, 2012, P.42).
Technology has often been cited as a method of engaging students in the classroom, and BT allow students to use their devices for legitimate learning activities (Moore & Cahill, 2016). Since the actual act of creating a book trailer requires students to convert a written literary source into an audiovisual production, it obliges the creators to combine images, sound and texts together using some form of digital software (Gron, 2014, p.91; Festa, 2017, p.112). In constructing these trailers, students become creators as well as users of digital media (Festa, 2017, p.112). This transfer of representation can be difficult for some students therefore, teachers will be required to facilitate learning by providing scaffolding to increase personal imagination and interpretation of text (Gron, 2014, p.98).
From a practical perspective, there are specific steps that are necessary when creating a book trailer. The first step is to ensure that students have read and understood the text, either in a group read- aloud or individually. Picture books are consummate for book trailers. Research has shown that picture books can be used to teach older students multiliteracies, curriculum content and broach sensitive subjects (Marsh, 2010). Their format promotes the action of ‘reading aloud’ and their brevity creates a sense of security for reluctant readers and students with low literacy. Many sophisticated picture books are an ideal for BTs within classroom practice. They provide a valid alternative as a class text for disinterested teens, reluctant readers, students with low literacy and those that do not speak English at home (Marsh, 2010).
Book trailers require the reader to connect the text to the real world and themselves as part of their reader response. Some students may struggle with the disconnect between a physical book and digital book trailer (Gron, 2014, p. 97). This means that students need to envision the text in an alternate setting to a book as they both use different languages (Gron, 2014, p.97). This envisaging can be difficult for some students and that is why collaborative groups are essential in tasks such as this (Gron, 2014, p.97). Additionally, the format and illustrations of picture books gives students with minimum faculty for imagination a starting point for structuring their BT (Tobin, 2012, p.42). A storyboard template can be used as a scaffold for students to set and frame their scenes as well as provide a sense of direction for the task (Tobin, 2012, p.43). These templates can be paper or digital. Suggestions for online storyboard sites include Canva, Wideo, Comicmaker and The Plot. Paper templates can be downloaded from here.
The role of the teacher or teacher librarian when using book trailers is in a support function. Teachers are required primarily to support discourse by providing a series of questions that provoke dialogue (Tobin, 2012, p.45). They are also required to facilitate the creation of collaborative learning groups and provide scaffolding for the student’s ICT capabilities. The latter is important as students often get distracted when using their personal devices and teachers will be required to redirect if the distraction proves to be recurrent (Tobin, 2012, p.45). Teachers may also be required to monitor the creation of BT to ensure that they are complying with school policy and legislation requirements.
Teacher librarians can support classroom teachers and students by providing additional technological assistance and information regarding the use of creative common images and copyright laws (Earp, 2017). This may be required in higher levels for teachers who are less sure of their own computer proficiency. Using book trailers as a teaching and learning activity can bolster both the teacher and the student’s multimodal capabilities.
Book trailers are not the literary derivative of movie trailers. Rather it is a valid reader response strategy to texts studied in classes across the curriculum. The inclusion of book trailers into teaching and learning has many educational benefits and is an excellent way of incorporating meaningful use of digital technologies into the classroom. Whilst a fairly new method, there is ample scope to include this multimodal literary learning strategy within the curriculum. Book trailers are an excellent method of illustrating the reader’s comprehension and analysis whilst increasing interpersonal skills and boosting multimodal literacy.
ACARA. (2014a). Personal and social capability. General Capabilities Curriculum. Educational Services Australia. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/personal-and-social-capability/
Bernardo, M. (2019). Book trailer project – step by step guide. English Teaching 101. Retrieved from https://englishteaching101.com/book-trailer-project/
Earp, Jo. (2017). Secondary English – creating book trailers. Teacher. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/secondary-english-creating-book-trailers
Festa, K. (2017). The book trailer project: Media production within an integrated classroom. Journal of Media Literacy Education. 9 (2), 105-113. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.uri.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1284&context=jmle
Ginsberg, R. (2013). Voices from the Classroom – Young adult literature in the 21st century. The ALAN Review. Retrieved from https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/v40n2/pdf/ginsberg.pdf
Gron, R. (2014). Literary experience and the book trailer as intermedial paratext. Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience. 4. (1). Retrieved from https://www.soundeffects.dk/article/view/20330/17917
Marsh, D. (2010). The case for picture books in secondary schools. Lianza, 51(4), 27. Retrieved from https://doms.csu.edu.au/csu/file/f7b0a0c2-d0c5-4ba3-8644-6955ea9850b6/1/marsh-d.pdf
Moore, J., & Cahill, M. (2016). Audiobooks; Legitimate ‘reading’ material for adolescents? Research Journal of the American Association of School Librarians. Retrieved from www.ala.org/aasl/slr/volume19/moore-cah
Tobin, M. (2012). Digital storytelling: Reinventing literature circles. Fischer College of Education. 12. NSU. Retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=fse_facarticles