Lots of state library associations sponsor kid-lit book awards – that is to say book honors that are decided by readers, as opposed to a panel of bespectacled judges. I love these awards because they open up lots of discussion among students (and teachers) about why certain books are nominated and what criteria should be used to pick the “best” out of the list our little readers have to choose from. Often, to get teachers involved in the promotion of these books, I create curriculum and multimedia materials for each book. I also compile existing resources to share with students. This year, I am really excited because a high interest, moderate reading level work of urban fiction made the list: A Boy Called Twister by Anne Schraff (who is responsible for several of the books in the incredibly popular Bluford High Series). This is great for some of my students who don’t see themselves as readers or who are intimidated by the 600 page Harry Potters of the world.
But here’s the rub: in comparison to most of the other “big name” titles on this year’s list, Twister is a small book and there’s just not a lot of resources out there. No fun webpages with interactive games, no interviews with the author and no book trailers. So… we decided to make one.
Here’s how it went:
I started by passing our one copy of the book to a few students who I thought would enjoy it - saying that I had an idea for a movie that I wanted them to star in. Soon, other students were clamoring to be a part of it. I only had 2 rules for my budding movie stars: 1) I needed permission from their parents to share the finished product on the interwebs and 2) each student had to actually read the book. It wasn’t long before I had a small, but mighty, group of 8 students ready to for duty.
Our pre-production meetings occurred during our 20 “enrichment” period at the very beginning of the day. After getting off the bus, students grabbed breakfast in the cafeteria and met me in the library where we talked about the book, created a list of all the details we felt were important to include in our trailer and then cobbled together a VERY rough story board.
“Shooting” occurred at the same time. Often students were taking sips of orange juice or downing a blueberry muffin between takes, but we managed to shoot every scene and take every picture in a 2 week period. Early on, the crew decided they wanted their movie to be primarily in black and white and to consist of both still and video shots. Every picture and every video segment was blocked, directed and/or shot by a student.
Our post-production regiment (which happened mostly during lunch/recess or whenever I could find a few minutes with the kids) utilized (all but one) free resources, including Picnik for photo editing, Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle Studios (our one paid for resource) for video production and YouTube and Wix for online hosting. Although I did the video editing, students edited 99% of the photos and sat with me as I stitched together the video, giving me strict instructions as to the order of the footage and their vision for the finished product. Then they chose a teacher to narrate the script - which they wrote. Finally, we talked about where/how to host it and licensing their work under creative commons so that others could use and share it. (Then I burned them each a DVD to take home).
To say that I *love* the finished product is an understatement. I am so proud of these students and what they have accomplished – and not simply because many of them are struggling readers, but because what they’ve created is just plain good. I’m proud to share it with others and look forward to future projects with my new crew of book trailer creating READERS.
I have to be honest, this has been a tough week for me professionally. But these kids have reminded me of why I do what I do. Connecting kids with books, helping them discover new interests and talents, and teaching them that along with the privileges and benefits of the connected world we live in comes also the responsibility to contribute (positively) to it – these are heady and intimidating responsibilities. But they are also joyful and incredibly rewarding.