Enhancing Literacy With Digital Creativity

My 3rd and 4th grade students embarked on a new endeavor–creating book trailers. I had never created trailers before, so I learned alongside my students. Since I meet each class only once weekly for 40 minutes, the project spanned twelve long weeks. While this duration can be too long for some projects, student engagement was continuously an enthusiastic 100%!

The goal for the exercise was to use book trailers as a vehicle for engaging students with text in fundamental ways while using technology. This project enhanced student literacy while promoting creativity, particularly in the process of “framing.” Students needed to apply their knowledge of the major events and their sequence, as well as identify the problem and solution in the story to create a new product. Talk about authentic learning! The end products of this exercise will serve to entice other students to read the book.

Book Trailer Exemplars

We started by watching several good examples of book trailers, discussing the purpose of trailers and noting their use of audio (music and speech), text, and images, and the fact that just like movie trailers, book trailers don’t give away a story’s ending in order to entice their audience to read. Our exemplars included:

Elements of a Quality Book Trailer

We spent a good amount of item dissecting each trailer, determining the elements of a quality book trailer:

  • Capturing audience attention by including
    • interesting images
    • readable text in concise language
    • proper timing of images and text
    • music that reflects the mood of the book
    • narration that is louder than the background music
  • Not sharing the ending of the story by
    • providing just enough details to be interesting but not too much to give away the ending
    • by ending with a question or scene that makes the audience want to read the book

The actual process creating a trailer involved multiple steps with build-in teacher and/or peer checks after each.

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Brainstorming Content

After choosing a book, students then organized their ideas regarding the specific book trailer elements we had identified earlier. Several students found this step rather challenging and in discussion revealed that either they were not (or no longer) as familiar with the story as they had thought, or, while they had found the story quite entertaining when reading, they really did not understand it well enough. Some students changed their book choices, but most decided to re-read passages in the books to help them remember.

OrganizerBookTrailer

Completing a Storyboard

Students then used their notes to create a storyboard roughly outlining their book trailers frame by frame. This step required students to transfer their knowledge about the story into a coherent new product reflecting all the various elements we had previously identified.

Template- Storyboard

Digital Creation

This was by part the most enjoyable part of the process for all students. We used the Frames software by Tech4Learning. It’s a wonderful tool, allowing students to use images from the software’s library or upload images (ensuring images were in the Public Domain or Creative Commons licensed and then attributed them properly, something the students had learned about earlier in the school year). The software comes with an integrated drawing tool, a music library, the ability to record audio, several slides/frames transition choices, and, its absolutely best feature, the ability to animate text or images. I only introduced the students to some very basic software features and then let them loose to explore on their own. Students had so much fun letting their creative sides shine!

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Peer Check

While I built-in teacher checks after each major step, I also wanted to make sure that students could provide feedback to their peers. The kids loved this as it gave them a sense of empowerment. They were checking for both content (Do I understand what the book is about? Can I easily spot the hook? etc.) and design (from spelling to font size etc.). By the time the first trailers were finished, all students had discovered lots of different options and features they eagerly and expertly shared with their friends, improving on each other’s product.

BookTrailerQualityCheck

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Publishing and Reflecting

Students published their trailers on their blogs and wrote a brief reflection about the book trailer creation process, answering the following questions: What did you do? What worked well? What did not work so well? What would you do differently next time?

3rd grade student-created book trailer:

4th grade student-created book trailers:

Evaluation

Since I had never created book trailers with students before, I solicited feedback to help me better guide this project with future classes–but also because I simply wanted a better idea of the kids’ thoughts. I created a Google form consisting of a mix of nine multiple choice and open-ended questions.

Of the total of 31 students in both classes, engagement was very high with all students responding “yes” to whether they enjoyed creating the book trailers. Only two of the students indicated that they did not have enough time to complete their trailers.

What did you learn from this project? While many students wrote about learning to use Frames and its different features, following is a selection of more detailed student responses:

  • I learned that you have to be really creative when writing a book trailer, and you can really challenge yourself by doing a biography.
  • That you can make almost anything when you try!!
  • I learned from this project because I now know how hard it is to make a trailer. People that make trailers make it look so easy.
  • That people that make real book trailers have hard jobs.
  • I learned that if you’re a child or a professional, you can still make an amazing book trailer.
  • What I learned from this project is that I can always be creative.
  • I learned that it is not about speed it is about skill.

After viewing your classmates’ trailers, what would you change? Several students were happy with their products and would not change anything. Others would change anything from adding voice recording to changing their background design to adjusting frame duration time to using the drawing tool rather than clipart from the library.

In response to the last question, whether students found Frames easy to use, 25 responded yes and 6 students responded no.

Final Words

School librarianship has always been about literacy enrichment, but digital technologies have allowed us to expand the more traditional approach. For me, in creating the book trailers, technology has allowed students to engage with and synthesize text in new and individual ways. When used in the right ways, technology can and does improve literacy.

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