This year we read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland then we decided… that we were going to make a lovely, funny, amusing, interesting, and awesome Alice in Wonderland book trailer.
The point of the trailer was to tell people that Alice in Wonderland isn’t a scary book written for older kids. It’s a clever and funny story written for a nine year old girl. A great book for all ages.
From reading the book to writing this post, I have been thinking to myself, “This is the best project yet this year.”
The final step was to publish the trailers and so the children put them on their individual blogs along with a written overview of the project. Since these are private we also put them on a public blog and so you are encouraged to head over there where all the trailers are available along with excerpts from the children’s blog posts (a few of which are above). And for those of you who want just a taste, here’s a montage:
I purposely have waited to mention the book being featured in this trailer project as I didn’t want to put any of you off. However, at this point I will reveal that it is (unsurprising to those who know me) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. As I have done for decades I read the annotated version aloud while my students followed along in my large collection of illustrated editions. They loved the different approaches to the art, the puns, the characters, dancing a quadrille, playing indoor croquet, and everything else we do as we read the book. Because I know how much fun the book is for them I challenged them to communicate that in a book trailer, especially to those who are dubious that it is still a book for children.
My wonderful colleague and tech specialist Ellen Nickles who has embraced the project did a lesson taking apart my model trailer to show different ways it could be created. We then asked the children to consider the mood they wanted to impart in their trailers and then to come up with some text, quotes, and images to use in it. They did a great job with this, getting the sense of the book in their text and choices of quotes from the book. The only problem for some was having too many quotes or just too much text. When this was pointed out they eagerly return to rethink this. As for the illustrations they could create their own or use John Tenniel’s as they are out of copyright.
After Ellen did a fabulous Imovie demo, they were off creating their trailer. I was amazed at how well they did this. Not only did they require minimal support, but the room was incredibly quiet — they were completely focused and engaged. Admittedly, they have been working on various tech projects all year and most of them had used Imovie before so they quickly adapted to the specific demands of this project tech-wise. Still, I think it was their complete engagement in the project that was what mattered more than their tech ability.
Students drafted versions of their trailers and then I looked them over with them and gave them suggestions (just as I would a piece of writing). They did, as was to be expected, get a bit carried away with effects, often putting way too many for such a short piece of video. But once I pointed this out to them, they were very open to bringing them down into a reasonable and less distracting number. Lastly, we introduced music. Ellen made several versions of my trailer with different kinds of music (from this royalty-free music site) so the children could easily see why some did not fit. With remarkable ease they selected their own and added it to their own trailers. Interestingly, I had expected them to go wild with this and have to suggest better choices, but that wasn’t the case at all. They made excellent choices, every single one of them!
To prepare for this first session I had found several book trailers that I felt would be good models for my students. Like the the ones they would do these relied on images rather than live action, had only text to read and no voice overs, and were all books familiar to them.
I began with this one for Jack Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt, a book I was reading aloud to them.
Not very long, but tells the story without giving it away.
Quotes from people about the books.
Make people want to read it.
Make it look intriguing.
Music gives a tone.
Short, but not complete sentences.
I followed this with a student-created trailer for Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (familiar to them all because of the recent movie).
Music was good for the book.
Very mysterious titles make you want to read.
Used art from the book to let you know a bit of what it is about.
Art matched the titles.
Ken Burns effect used well.
Maintained the black/white color of the book.
Questions about the book: What does it all mean?
Next came a video for Cat Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. Cat had visited us recently and the children knew we were soon to begin a unit reading the book.
Very strong music. Lyrics are about the story. Mysterious.
Tone is gentle, but story is not (ironic).
Had a slightly more adult feel even though the audience is kids.
Object that was in every image — the key.
Some images moved (e..g the clouds).
Fairyland is indicated by music and images.
Next: Presenting to them my process in creating a book trailer and then setting them up to begin preparing for their own.
After reading several articles about making book trailers with kids I figured the best way for me to figure out how to proceed was to make one of my own. Now it so happens I have a book coming out next year, Africa is My Home: The Memory Book of Sarah Margru Kinson and some years ago I put a version of it on a private blog for my students to read during their study of forced immigration. Since we all knew it well I figured it would be a good subject for my model book trailer.
I began by doing something logical: storyboard the trailer. But I discovered after a while that what I was doing was writing a complete summary of the book, much too much for a trailer. I then thought harder about what I wanted to communicate in the trailer and realized I wanted to make it serious, solemn, respectful, not too scary, and also intriguing. For it is not just the story of the Amistad through Margru’s eyes, but also the story of how she returned home to Africa. I also realized that I had to keep it simple; I knew from other projects that without some boundaries and limitations as to what sort of film effects they could use many of my students would become overwhelmed. And so I set some guidelines: no voiceovers, no live action, and a finite number of images.
For my second attempt at a storyboard I took a paragraph I’d written at one time to introduce the story and used it as the text for the trailer. I then selected several images (I originally conceived the book as illustrated with primary sources) to go with them. After that I dived into Imovie where I experimented with title placement, timing, and special effects. I added in music (from this site with royalty-free music), tinkered further with it, and finally — voila, I had a book trailer! Still a bit rough and very rudimentary (probably need something more professional when the book comes out), but adequate to show my students. Certainly the making of it gave me quite a bit of insight into what I’d be asking the children to do.
And my book trailer? For what it is worth, here it is:
This is the first in series of posts about a book trailer project I’m doing with my fourth graders.
Having my students do their own book trailers is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. That said, I have had reservations, say that so many of the kid-created trailers I’ve seen seem to be more witty parodies rather than presentations of the actual sensibilities of the books themselves. Live action I find particularly dicey, say some of the 90 second Newbery offerings. As delightful as they are they do not, in my opinion, represent well the books as much as riff off of them in entertaining and amusing ways. An example is A Wrinkle in Time in 90 Seconds; those of us who know the story find this extremely fun and those who do not may be curious, but it does not to my mind communicate the ominous quality of the book itself. Same problem in my opinion is with this one for Charlotte’s Web.
Frankly, I think drawings, graphics, and animation make for a more successful kid book trailer. This one by twelve-year old Lily for Lauren Synder’s Bigger than a Bread Box does a beautiful job communicating what that book is all about. I also like this stop-animation one for Island of the Blue Dolphins and this one for Everything on a Waffle. You may disagree, but I feel these graphic-oriented trailers give a better sense of the books than those by live actors.