Book Trailers

Book trailers, short video clips designed to entice viewers to read the book they are based upon, can be an effective tool for engaging students with age-appropriate literature.  Our fifth grade language arts students recently completed a book trailer project using Photo Story 3 for Windows and shared their final products on their class blog.  Here is a student example for Avalon: Web of Magic Book 12: Full Circle by Rachel Roberts:

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Getting Started: Planning and Preparation

Book trailers can be created using minimal resources, but planning and preparation are essential.  Before students even think about using a computer they should complete a Planning Sheet and Storyboard.  The  Planning Sheet helps identify the key elements of the book, and the Storyboard provides an opportunity to consider the relationship between images and narration.  Locating appropriate images can be challenging, and while Google and Bing are tempting, students should be encouraged to use resources like Flickr Creative Commons, Flickr CC, and FlickrStorm.

Citations are often overlooked in projects, especially by younger students, but a Bibliography Sheet with examples of proper formatting can reinforce good habits.  Our students use the following format when citing images:

Copyrighted Material

Use the MLA style as shown on the library bibliography page

ArtistName. “Title of Image.” Date Taken/Created. Online Image. Name of Image Site. Date you accessed/downloaded the picture. <>.

Example:  Patrick Woessner. “Black Skimmer.”  February 19, 2010.  Online Image.  Flicker.  March 22, 2010. <>

Creative Commons Material:

Use the guidelines found on the CC Marking page

Artist Name, “Title of Image”, Type of Creative Common License

Example: Patrick Woessner, “Brown Pelicans Flight.” Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons

It should be noted that due to time constraints,  a number of our students did not follow the MLA style for copyrighted works and instead included a hyperlink to the image source.  While not ideal, it is a step in the right direction.

Getting Started: Assembling and Sharing the Project

With the storyboard, images, and narration in hand, assembling the project is relatively simple.  Photostory 3 guides students through each step of the process and can export the final product as a .wmv video file.  For those wanting more creative control, Windows Movie Maker is a nice PC option, and iMovie can perform similar functions on the Mac platform.   A number of web-based tools are also well suited for making short videos/trailers, including VoiceThread and Xtranormal.  An extensive list of options can be found here.

Photostory 3 Tutorial

Sharing the final projects makes the book trailer more powerful than a typical book report.  We choose to use the class blog because (1) the students were already familiar with the tool and (2) they could easily view and comment on each others work.  Because we host our blog internally, we do not have to rely on third-party video hosting sites like YouTube or  If hosting is not an option and objectionable content is a concern, consider using a moderated space like SchoolTube or TeacherTube.

A Word About Summation

Of the many tasks within a book trailer project, perhaps the most difficult for students is that of not creating a summary video.  An effective trailer makes one want to watch the movie or read the book; it does not recant the entire story.   As part of the assessment process, students should reflect on how well they lured rather than informed their viewers.  It’s a delicate balance to be sure, but one that can make the difference between reading or skipping a good book.