As 5th graders start each new Humanities unit this year, teachers Mrs. Thomson, Mr. Reed and I are trying something new to kickstart the excitement – Book-Trailer-a-Thons! On these special library days, students gather in the “FitzHenry Theater” and watch anywhere between 4-8 book trailers right in a row, however many can fit into approximately 20 minutes of class time.
A book trailer is a short, 1-3 minute video, similar movie trailer, meant to advertise a book and make people want to read it. Most give a quick synopsis of the story, highlighting the most exciting or intriguing plot points and characters. Many are created using tools like iMovie or Animoto, which allows the creator to add music, text, photos, and more to make the movie interesting. I look for movie trailers that fit the feel of the book, hook students from the very beginning, and leave them feeling excited and curious about the title, wanting to know more. Although I’ve made book trailers myself before, I find the process to be time consuming and a little boring – video is not my best medium! I’m glad that students, teachers, and readers all over the world share their book trailers so that I don’t always have to make my own.
Our first Book-Trailer-a-Thon centered on realistic fiction with themes of neurodiversity, mental health, and family, and you know how that day ended! After the great success of the first event, we decided to repeat it with the launch of their new historical fiction unit. I wanted to share this easy and fun unit-launching activity in case you’re looking for a way to excite students and pique interest in your own classroom or library.
Here’s how it works:
To prepare, the 5th grade team and I met and created a collaborative list on Google Docs of historical fiction titles that we think our 5th graders will love. We take time and care to make sure that we include an inclusive and diverse range of characters and viewpoints. We also intentionally include perspectives that are often ignored, and showcase power dynamics not always featured in textbooks, movies, and traditional lessons. This is critical to my teaching philosophy and my work as a librarian, and I’m grateful to have a team that supports this and feels passionately about it as well.
Once we have created a list, we split up the titles and search YouTube for book trailers for each. In a perfect world we would make a book trailer for all of the books we wanted to highlight, but our time is limited, so thankfully there’s a great existing selection for most books already! We search for the book trailer that we think will interest students the most (sometimes there are quite a few to choose from) and always make sure to watch every book trailer the whole way through. Once we find the right trailer, we put the link into SafeYouTube (a lifesaver – I never show YouTube videos without it!) and link it in the Google Doc for future reference.
Additionally, I pull extra books that won’t be featured in our marathon, and use them to create a display centered around the unit. My fabulous team of library interns creates signage and make the display look exciting and appealing!
The morning of our movie marathon, I prep the books and videos I want to share for each class and have them ready to go. When students walk in, we talk about the unit they’re about to begin, and they explain the genre or theme to me, what interests them, and what they want to know. Then we move over to the “theater” (I have a TV on a cart, but calling it a theater makes it feel much more fancy!) for the videos.
After each book trailer, we briefly discuss the book and I add it to the shelf for them to look at the cover. Students have to stay seated for the entire movie marathon, but once the lights come up, they’re free to make a move for a book or two that interests them. If the book that they wanted is taken by someone else, they are invited to come straight to the desk to put it on hold for after the current reader is finished. If their interest is piqued but they didn’t see a trailer that grabbed them, they can browse through other similar titles in the book display that the interns and I created. Students do not have to check out a book that goes with the theme, and we don’t push them. This day is just for students to explore and find new titles that might interest them.
A Few of Our Favorites
Here are some of the trailers that 5th grade students loved the most during our historical fiction Book-Trailer-a-Thon. These are linked directly through YouTube to make embedding easier, so please use a tool like SafeYouTube if you want to share them with your students.
After Marathon Day
This is just the “launch day” for the new unit, but the excitement carries over! Discussing the genre and featuring titles right as they begin a class novel means that students are not only enjoying and exploring the theme in their classes, but in their independent reading as well. Many students left this morning with a big stack of historical fiction titles and grins on their faces. The library interns and I will keep the display stocked with new and rotating titles throughout the unit, so students can come in and “shop” for titles at any time. The goal is to keep students excited, interested, and reading!