After two years of using book trailers in my Language Arts classroom, not only can I assert, "Yes, they're great!", I can also offer reasons why you should use them.
I first began using book trailers after realizing that they serve, for books, the same purpose that previews serve for movies: They whet the appetite for a story. How many movies have you seen after viewing an intriguing preview? Would it work the same way with students and books?
Each week before heading to the library, my classes watched one or two book trailers -- more when the book fair was on campus. Invariably, this caused a stampede for the featured books, a race that was always won by the kids in my first period class. For the sake of fairness, I began to have each interested student fill out a chit with his name, class period, and title of the desired book. The chits then went into a goldfish bowl for a drawing at the end of the day.
After the class has learned characteristics of some literary genres, book trailers can offer on-going informal opportunities to infer genres of books based on the details provided. Here's the trailer for a historical fiction novel titled Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson:
Pausing the trailer before it reveals the "historical fiction" genre, you would pose a series of questions:
- So, into what literary genre would this book fall?
- What are your clues?
- Who is the main character of this book?
- What does her conflict seem to be?
- How do you think she will try to resolve the conflict?
- Who saw two adjectives you could use to describe this book?
- Did anybody see a noun you could use to replace the word "book"?
Do you see the academic vocabulary this discussion would reinforce -- not to mention the higher-level thinking involved in drawing conclusions and making predictions? If any of the questions go unanswered when they are first asked, watch the video again with the purpose of finding those answers.
The best part of interacting with book trailers is that the students think you're "just" talking about the video instead of delivering a substantive lesson! It's kind of like slipping Fido's heart worm pill into a ball of hamburger meat: Fido gets his treat. You deliver what's needed. Everyone goes home happy!