Project Members

Annalee Schnebele
Melissa House


This unit describes how English teachers, a school librarian, and a school based technology specialist (SBTS) will collaborate to help eighth grade English students create book trailers based on self selected fiction books. The unit will take students through the process of video production and will introduce students to two possible programs they can use to create videos (Animoto and Photostory). The rest of the unit plan will describe the standards that will be addressed in this unit, the context and setting of where this unit was designed to be taught, the materials and technology needed, the method of assessment, and three detailed lesson plans.

The Topic & Standards

This unit asks students to analyze what makes effective book trailers and use those qualities to create effective book trailers of their own. This unit is designed for eighth grade students. However, it could easily be adapted to work with students from fifth to twelfth grade. The big goal of this unit is to promote self-selecting reading in a variety of genres. Students will create book trailers to share the books they read with their peers. The intention is that the peers will use the book trailers to help select appropriate and interesting reading selections for the next quarter’s independent book project. Based on anecdotal evidence from another teacher in this school, book trailers have been very effective in getting reluctant readers interested in reading books.

AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner

  • Responsibilities
  • 1.3.1 Respect copyright/intellectual property rights of creators and producers
  • 1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within the learning community
Standard 3: Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.

  • Self-Assessment Strategies
  • 3.4.2 Assess the quality and effectiveness of the learning product.
Standard 4: Pursue personal and aesthetic growth

  • Skills
  • 4.1.1 Read, view, and listen for pleasure and personal growth.
  • 4.1.2 Read widely and fluently to make connections with self, the world, and previous reading.
  • 4.1.3 Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres.
  • Dispositions in Action
  • 4.2.4 Show and appreciation for literature by electing to read for pleasure and expressing an interest in various literary genres.
  • Self-Assessment Strategies
  • 4.4.5 Develop personal criteria for gauging how effectively own ideas are expressed.

This project allows students to choose reading materials that are of interest to them. Not only is the student allowed to self select a book for the trailer, but then they are also exposed to his/her peers’ trailers to help them make informed decisions about what book they would like to read next. The choice of a book trailer as a response to literature is a creative choice that will engage students and allow them to respond in a manner different from the typical written book reports or dioramas.

Students are responsible for correctly citing pictures and graphics used in their book trailers thus practicing ethical information use.

Students will view a variety of preselected trailers and analyze what is effective and ineffective in a book trailer. Students will use their self-generated list and the instructor created rubric to revise their book trailer.

ISTE Standards (__
1. Creativity and Innovation
Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
a. apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

Students will use their existing knowledge of the book they have read and their understanding of the elements of fiction to create a book trailer. They will use a variety of hardware and software to create a new product, a student made book trailer, to express and respond to the book and to try to convince others to read the book.

Common Core (__
Grade 8: Speaking and Listening
2. Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.
5. Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

Grade 8: Reading: Literature
10. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of grades 6–8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Students will view a variety of book trailers and analyze the tricks and tools used to make them effective commercials for books. Students will then use those same tricks and tools to create their own products that will hopefully engage and interest peers in reading the book. The book trailers will allow students to illustrate that they can read and understand literature independently and proficiently in a way that helps engage them and allows students with different learning styles and strengths to shine.

Grade 8: Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
5. With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed.

Video creation and writing use similar skills. While students will literally use writing skills to write a script for their book trailer, they will also engage in many stages of the writing process to create a successful book trailer. Storyboarding the book trailer is very similar to outlining an essay in that it requires the creator to organize his/her ideas in a coherent manner in order to convey ideas. It would be possible to argue that story boarding is an even more advanced skill than outlining an essay as it requires the creator to not only think about the power of words, but also how the visual elements (pictures, video, transitions) and auditory effects (soundtrack, sound effects, voice acting) will work with the text. Students will revise their book trailer using both self-generated checklists, instructor created rubric, and peer revision feedback.

The Setting and Context

This unit is designed to be taught to all general education and honors eighth grade students at Walt Whitman Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia. The book trailer project will be a collaboration between the English teachers, school based technology specialist (SBTS), and the school librarian. The library currently has a mixed schedule with open times on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for classes and scheduled book exchange times with English classes on Thursday and Friday. This could be a problem for providing the students with a librarian on the last day of the unit. However, this problem can be worked around by involving the school based technology specialist in this unit as she can work with both students and teachers to help solve problems and teach the lesson on the last day when the librarian is busy and there is extensive technology use. As we plan on using laptops to create the book trailers, it does not matter if unit takes place in the classroom or the library.

The school has approximately one thousand students. The student population is very diverse (28% Black, 29% Hispanic, 27% White, 5% Asian) with 22% of students with limited English proficiency, 47% eligible for free or reduced lunch, 15% receiving special education services, and one of the highest mobility rates in the county (19%). The students have a wide range of abilities and interests. Students have been reading self-selected books all year in English classes. Some of them are more engaged than others. Students have reading levels that range from three years below grade level to five years above grade level. Due to a redesign of English language learner classes, the students who are in the general education English classes are either at a level four or five in English acquisition and require very little modification of assignments or extra assistance. The students who receive special education services in the general classroom are supported by a co-teacher who helps assist with questions and instructions when students need additional support. All students will be provided with tools to help them succeed like self-paced tutorials, live demonstrations, rubrics, checklists, and graphic organizers. Since not all of the students have access to the internet at home, the students will be given time during class and after school to work on the production of their book trailers.

The creation of book trailers is something that students of all abilities in the general education and honors classes can accomplish. Since there are many aspects of open-endedness and student choice, all students can use technology to create book trailers with minimal modifications. Since students are allowed to choose their own book to read, they can pick a book that is appropriate to their reading level. Allowing students to create something of their own will also help with student motivation and engagement. The novelty of creating book trailers will also help motivate students to complete the assignment. Also, giving students something to do in English that is not writing or reading intensive will also help motivate students who dislike reading and writing.

Scheduling time to collaborate could be a problem. The English teachers meet weekly (Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m.) with the school based technology specialists for their collaborative team meetings. The librarian is extremely busy at that time attending to the large lunch and study hall crowd. As a result, one English teacher will be the point of contact person with the librarian and meet with her after school to help coordinate this unit. Usually, collaborating with this many people can cause many problems in designing and implementing a lesson. However, since the English teachers have been collaboratively designing instruction for the past seven years, collaborating with them will be a quick and professional process. The English teachers came up with the idea for book trailers, so the librarian already has teacher buy-in to the unit. The librarian and teachers will have to modify when each teacher is doing this lesson as it is impossible to getting to all of the four teachers’ classes during the same week. However, since this is a more flexible unit that does not impact the flow of instruction in the classroom, scheduling this activity during four different weeks is a feasible solution.

The technology skills of the students and teachers are varied. There are some students who are creating and editing movies on their own during their free time. There are also students who do not know how to save a file on a computer. For these reasons, the students will have options of which program they would like to use to create their book trailer. Animoto is very easy to use, but does not allow as much control over the final product as other applications. Photostory is more complicated, but still very easy to use and allows for more control over the end product than Animoto. If a student wants to work with different technology (a digital video camera and video editing software), they may be granted permission by the instructors based on their prior knowledge and abilities with the understanding that they will not get as much support with the technology. The teachers are pretty proficient users of technology. All of the teachers would be capable of using both Photostory and Animoto with brief training. Some of them, however, might need some support while troubleshooting problems or answering advanced questions. For this reason, either the librarian or the school based technology specialist will be with the teacher and the class for each step of the project.

The school is well-stocked with technology. We have three computer labs for teachers to use with their classes and fifteen carts with sixteen laptops each. Each of the computers already has Photostory loaded on the computer. Since Animoto is an online application, there is no need to install anything. Some of the laptops are more than five years old, but all of them would be able to run either Photostory of Animoto. The school is also in possession of three Flip cameras and is in the process of ordering three more. While this would not be enough for the majority of the students to create book trailers with video clips, it will allow for a few who do not have video cameras at home to have the option to make a video trailer. Since the teachers will be completing this unit during different weeks to ensure the librarian and school based technology specialist can work with each class, it should not be difficult to obtain two laptop carts for each teacher for the week. Scheduling eight lap-top carts for a week would be very difficult, but finding two carts for a month would be easy as the English department has four dedicated carts in the school. All of the English classrooms have good wireless connectivity, so accessing the internet should not be a problem.
This project does not pose any policy challenges as the internet filter in Fairfax County Public Schools allows YouTube (for the book trailers) and Creative Commons (to find music and images). Students will not be posting their finished projects on any publicly accessible website, so there is no concern in maintaining their privacy. Students will post their finished trailers to Blackboard so that other students on their team may view them. Exceptional trailers will be posted on the library’s Blackboard site.

There are many ways to work around the possible technological problems that could happen during this unit. On the first day of the lesson, the librarian can download a copy of the book trailers she was planning to show in case they are removed from the site or the internet is down. On the second day, if the internet is down, the librarian would not have the opportunity to demonstrate how to use Animoto. However, she would still be able to demonstrate how to use Photostory as all of the computers already have Photostory working and installed on the computers. If, for some reason, Animoto is out the day we plan on using it, all students can use Photostory to create their book trailers. Since we are using two carts of laptops, we have a few extra laptops available in case one runs out of batteries, is broken, or is having difficultly connecting to the network. By including the school based technology specialist in our last day of the unit (the day we actually create the book trailers), she will be more motivated to fix any technology problems that come up on that day. If we did not have her scheduled to be with us, she could be in a meeting or working with someone else and unable to fix things like students being locked out of the computer or the wireless network going down.

The Materials and Technology Tools You will Need

Instructor laptop with projector and speakers

  • The instructor will need to show the sample book trailers in a format that is large enough for all students to see. Speakers are needed to ensure that all students can easily hear the book trailers.
  • The instructor will also use the laptop to demonstrate how to fill out a storyboard, how to use the two different programs, and how to search for images and music.
  • The laptop needs to have Photostory installed and wireless internet access.
Laptops computers (1 per student)

  • Each student will be creating their own book trailer (students will not have read the same books) and will need their own laptop.
  • Internet access is necessary for students to access online tutorials, find images and music, and use Animoto.
  • Photostory needs to be installed on each of these computers.
Animoto accounts

  • Students will need account information to use Animoto. Animoto is a good application to use for this assignment because it is simple to use and produces a professional looking final product. Since Animoto is simple and intuitive, students who are unfamiliar with video editing will not be frustrated by a steep learning curve.
  • Educators can get 50 free pro accounts for six months.
Digital scanner to capture hand-drawn artwork

  • A scanner attached to a computer in the library would be sufficient to allow students to scan in hand-drawn artwork to use in their book trailers.
Preselected book trailers

  • The instructors will need a list of preselected book trailers that illustrate the qualities that instructors are looking for in the final product. There should be excellent trailers and some mediocre samples for students to get a better idea of what makes an effective book trailer. The links to the trailers should be provided to students so they can go back on their own to view the trailers.
Project website to post materials, tutorials, and samples

  • Students have a difficult time typing in URLs (especially long ones) correctly. By posting all the web based resources on a web site, all students will have to do to access them is click on a link.
  • Having samples and tutorials available for students on a website will allow them to access them during any part of the unit. This will let students work at their own pace and have the opportunity to solve their own problems by using a tutorial instead of asking the instructors.
  • The website is a Google Site so that all instructors can have access to the site to add, edit, or change information. While Google Sites are not the most visually appealing, they do allow for multiple users to access and edit the page. Since it is likely that different students and teachers will find good resources as the project goes on, using a Google Site will allow for all instructors to share these new resources with students.
Brainstorming activity sheet

  • Giving students a sheet to help organize their thoughts about what qualities a good book trailer has will help ensure that students record and keep this information. Having a focused sheet will also help keep up a quick pace during the activity because students are not spending time drawing their own chart or wondering how they want to format their paper.
Script worksheet

  • Giving students an organizer to help write the script makes the writing task less threatening to poor writers and helps prevent writing block caused by lack of knowledge of format. Since learning how to format a script is not an key outcome of this unit, giving students a format to follow will let students get to the most important parts of this lesson (creating an effective book trailer).
Storyboard organizer

  • Students must plan out their book trailer on a storyboard before they begin creating their final product. Without preplanning how the words, graphics, and sounds will work together, students will have a more difficult time creating an effective book trailer. Since creating a storyboard will be something new for students, it would help ease frustration if they are provided with an organizer to fill in.
Tutorials on how to use Photostory and Animoto

  • While some students will be able to use Animoto and Photostory through self exploration and watching the instructor’s demonstration, some students will need more support. It is impossible for the instructors to sit with each student who has a questions and help them use the programs. Providing students with access to tutorials will allow students to independently solve problems and use the programs. Reading tutorials is also good practice reading informational text.
Exit pass for students to describe how they are going to get their visuals

  • After showing students the different programs they may use to create their book trailers, students will have to make a decision about where they are going to get their images. Requiring students to make a decision and do some preplanning about how they are going to get their images will move the lesson on the next day. Students will come to the next class with a plan for how they are going to get their images and can get started right away.
Checklist for book trailer

  • Students will use the effective qualities they found in the sample book trailers to help revise their book trailers. However, giving students a specific checklist to use to make sure their project is done satisfactorily will help students ensure that they get the grade they desire and will help create more excellent book trailers to share with peers.
Rubric for book trailer

  • To ensure that students have mastered the objectives, a rubric should be used to assess final products. Making the rubric available to students and encouraging them to self-assess their book trailer using the rubric will help students focus their revisions and help create higher-quality products.

The Implementation & Assignments

This unit is designed to be taught during the end of the third quarter or the beginning of the third quarter. At this point in the year, students will have completed two fiction units and will be better independent readers than they were at the beginning of the year. The end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter are good times to do a more creative, expressive project with students as most classes are focusing on review activities for the state standardized tests. Creating book trailers will be a welcome creative outlet.

The final book trailer will be assessed using a rubric. The rubric assesses the book trailers on the following criteria: effectiveness, economy, visuals, soundtrack, and intellectual property rights. Effectiveness judges the trailer on its ability to entice or persuade viewers to read the book. Economy looks at the creator’s ability to include the right amount of details. These two criteria assess the student’s writing ability by judging on how effectively the student has engaged their audience and how selective they have been with the information they choose to include in their book trailer. The next two criteria, visuals and soundtrack, assess the student’s ability to use the technology. A good book trailer will require the students to be able to organize their images into a logical sequence and use transitions to help create the appropriate mood in the trailer. The students will also need to use the audio editing capabilities of the two programs to create a soundtrack that enhances the mood and has emotional appeal. The last criteria, intellectual property rights, will assess whether the student has been an ethical user of information.

The Lessons

The unit is designed to guide students through a process to create high quality book trailers.
The first lesson asks students to analyze and evaluate effective and ineffective aspects of book trailers. Instructors will help guide the students to make sure they looked at the script, images, music, and transitions in the book trailers and how the creators used those aspects to create mood and emotional appeal in the book trailers. Since the students practiced evaluating book trailers before they even begin to make their own, students will have practiced the skills needed to revise their own work. With the qualities of good book trailers fresh in their minds, students then use a graphic organizer to help them write a script for their book trailers.

The next lesson builds on what students did the first day. Students will take their scripts and the qualities of a good book trailer, and use them to storyboard their book trailer. Once students have a more detailed plan for their trailer, the instructors will show students ways they can find images, music, and sound effects to create their trailers and will demonstrate how to use each of the two programs (Photostory and Animoto). Before students leave, they will need to decide which program they will use and how they will get images.

The final lesson is a quick review of the two programs and how to find images and music for the book trailer. The rest of the class period will be time for the students to work on creating, revising, and reviewing their book trailers. There is a large portion of time devoted to completing this project in class as some students will not have the resources to work on this assignment outside of school. After the unit is completed, the classroom teacher can have a film festival for the students and allow students to vote for their favorite trailers.

Lesson Plan 1

Lesson Plan 2

Lesson Plan 3