Book trailers with Chrissie Michaels

ustice and SurvivalChrissie Michaels* is a teacher of English, Drama and Humanities at a Gippsland school. She is also an author of YA fiction. She has been using book trailers in class to enhance teaching and learning. She explains more:

Why did you begin using book trailers as part of your teaching?

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to make tasks interesting and engaging for my students. This seemed a new and novel way to have them respond to a wide-reading activity; a change from the basic written review or oral presentation. A book trailer requires a different approach: working out how to portray the selected book in such a way that someone else is persuaded to read it. The task sets a multilayered challenge―to create visuals, audio and text.

Recently I was involved in the production of a book trailer for my YA novel In Lonnie’s Shadow. After doing a bit of my own You Tube and publishing-house research, and enlisting some willing helpers, I discovered it wasn’t that hard to put together a short film. A great big cheer for Windows MovieMaker which is the program we used. It’s readily accessible on most PCs. At home we had already been using MovieMaker to put together family DVDs. Making the book trailer was just the next step.

Which trailers did you use?

In the classroom I used the trailer for In Lonnie’s Shadow as a starting point. Being an author/teacher has its pluses! I also showed a simple student trailer from TeacherTube which used the basic MovieMaker elements. This provided enough background for the students to work on their task, which was to create a book trailer to market their chosen wide-reading novel to a new audience of readers (i.e. without giving too much of the plot away). First, students spent a period creating their own ‘test’ sample, using a set of photographs on a range of general interest topics (surfing etc.) and adding some audio/music clips. Teachers do have to remain aware of copyright issues of course. Students inserted text onto these pictures or made separate text frames and played around with transitions and effects.

How did students respond to them?

Since we started they have been really engaged. It’s still early days, but I’ve been delighted with their interest! Of course they picked up on how to use the program within about five minutes flat. Two students already knew how to use MovieMaker. Some could use Vegas (another movie-making program) which is a more complex program (at least for me). I gave those students the option to use it if they wished. Teachers may prefer to use Photo Story 3 as another simple option.

Have they made their own trailers?

Many are well on the way but they are still a work in progress. All have picked a key line of narrative or brief interpretive piece of dialogue from their chosen novel to work with in a new way. I dutifully bring in a video camera and the digital camera for this section of the task. Many still haven’t got their own pictures ready (part of their homework) so I am going back a step for some students where they have to map out a short storyboard. A website with some starting pointers can be found at:

We are planning to show the finished clips (1-2mins duration) in a class presentation probably in a fortnight’s time.

If so, what skills did they learn?

I think that being able to weave together a multilayered storyline using the visual, auditory and textual has been a great creative exercise. Of course, students start by reading. They pre-write: plan their response and storyboard those visual images to create a narrative line. The task makes it so important for the students to understand the key imagery and themes for each story they have read and then they have to work out how best to convey these in an original way. They decide on transitions and effects. They seek peer review. They revise and refine.

We are all looking forward to the presentation. Students have been discussing with each other how to best represent imagery, themes and characters. They have teamed up with others to film snippets of dialogue. Hooded students have been chasing each other down corridors (for the sake of the film clip of course!).

Can readers see what the students have developed?

At this stage the students have elected for a once-off viewing of their book trailers for the class only. I guess the next time we may be more adventurous and do something for a wider audience.

Since you mentioned a book trailer for your novel, tell us a little about it…

My new YA novel is called In Lonnie’s Shadow, and is out in May 2010. It is published by Ford Street Publishing.

The novel is about a group of teenagers living in Little Lon, Melbourne in 1891. Lonnie, Pearl, Daisy and Carlo are trying to make a fair go of life, although many things are conspiring to make their life difficult. Sometime it’s hard to know who they can rely on. Secrets are kept and promises made. There’s plenty of action and the characters find themselves facing many hot spots – theft and kidnap, gang warfare and murder – and they have to make some pretty serious choices. The narrative structure draws upon artefacts (some real and some imagined) found in the contemporary archaeological digs of Little Lon. There’s a wonderful collection at Museum Victoria. In fact this is what first inspired me to write the story. So I hope you will read the novel and most of all, enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Check out In Lonnie’s Shadow trailer here or through Vimeo, Blazing Trailers, or go straight to Chrissie’s author website or Ford Street Publishing which has a number of other book trailers readers might like to use in their schools.

There are new essay questions for In Lonnie’s Shadow on Chrissie’s author website: Themes covered:

  • Justice and survival
  • Identity and belonging
  • Imaginative landscape

Thanks Chrissie. We would love to be able to show the students’ book trailers on Bright Ideas if at all possible.

*Chrissie Michaels is an author pen name.


Gliffy is a very cool drawing and drafting tool.  Free access and ease of use will appeal to many users including teachers and students.


With the ability to create:

  • floor plans
  • diagrams
  • flowcharts and
  • technical drawings

there are many possibilities for educational use as well as personal use. Visual Communication students may find it useful to create floor plans and technical drawings while Humanities, Science, Maths and English could take advantage of the flowcharts and diagrams for planning and mindmapping.

Gliffy offers a library with a large range of shapes and items. Once completed, drawings can be exported jpeg and png and files can be shared or published to the internet.

Library staff planning a new or updated library could use the floor plans and anyone designing or building a new home may find the floor plans worth while.

Gliffy has free and premium accounts. The academic account is free.

BBC’s Bitesize

The BBC have numerous websites that are useful for teachers and students. Their Bitesize collection focuses on Key Stage 1 (Prep, years 1 and 2) – numeracy and literacy, with Science games and quizzes, Key Stage 2 (years 3, 4, 5 and 6) – English, Maths and Science and Key Stage 3 (years 7, 8 and 9) – English, Maths and Science. The sites include games for students and lesson plans and worksheets for teachers.

BBC bitesize

KS2 Bitesize includes resources for:

  • Spelling
  • Microorganisms
  • Grids
  • Fractions
  • Changing state
  • Argument
  • Probability
  • Light and dark
  • Planning

KS3 Bitesize includes resources for:

  • Reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • Shakespeare scenes and play summaries
  • Number, algebra, handling data, measures, shapes and space
  • Living things, energy and forces, chemicals, Earth and space.

Another excellent tool from a reputable source.

Feature blog – Whitefriars College – Tania Sheko’s year 7 English blog

Thanks to Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko for sharing another of her virtual creations. This time, Tania has developed a blog to support her year 7 English class. Tania explains: is basically something I started to support the year 7 English class I teach collaboratively with an English teacher at my school. I decided to document the progress of our journey through this class because I’d read other teachers’ blogs and found them to be helpful and inspiring. I wanted to include what worked and what didn’t work and why. I think it’s important to be honest so that readers can benefit from your experience. I include resources and links, student work, videos used and created, in the hope that a teacher may find something they could use – an idea, a word of caution, recommendations or advice. I also include a short list of my favourite English teachers’ blogs. These have been a wonderful, rich resource for me.


I also find that making myself record what we do in class is a worthwhile discipline. Nothing is forgotten or wasted, and I can look back to review what we’ve done, as well as clearly see the path we’ve taken and how far the students have come.

 Thanks again Tania for your contribution to the world of Web 2.0 and for sharing your efforts with the readers of Bright Ideas.

Feature blog – Monivae College

Nicola Crawford and Maree Bell from Monivae College Library & Information Centre have developed a strong Web 2.0 presence in their school. Nicola explains how this came about.

The WILD Library

 Since completing the SLAV Web 2.0 course last year, we became inspired by all the terrific resources out on the World Wide Web. We wanted to share some of these with the rest of our school community, so we created  ‘The WILD Library’   which is the blog of the Monivae College Library and Information Centre. The WILD Library contains lots of Web 2.0 Resources, plus “Good Library Stuff” such as authors, reviews, book requests, competitions and links to other useful information and resources. Students have begun to make contributions to the blog, but as yet it is early days. 

'The Wild Library'

'The Wild Library'

 From little acorns…big trees certainly grow!! From a single Library oriented blog, we now have a nest of blogs to disseminate information to the different areas of the school community.  The WILD Library acts as the primary blog, and from this there are links to all the other Monivae blogs. Some of these are more advanced than others, but all are a work in progress. 

Exciting English

Exciting English

If you have a wander around the various blogs, you will see that the different Domains utilize them in different ways. Some use them as “go to” points when they begin a new topic. For example, “Super SOSE”, “Sensational Science” and “Fortes in Fide” (the Religion @ Monivae Blog) carry web lists for particular projects.  These are used as starting points, or depending upon the scope of the topic can act to limit students to a particular selection of sites. 

Sensational Science

Sensational Science

The “Exciting English” blog has evolved differently. It has pages containing information and resources for teachers. This site is only in its infancy, eventually the aim is to provide resources for all the literature studied at the different year levels in the College. 

Bathurst Island blog

Bathurst Island blog

The Bathurst Island Blog” is run by my colleague Maree Bell. The aim of this blog is to provide information to students and parents about the 2009 Mission Experience to Bathurst Island. During the trip later in the year, it will be used as a travelogue of their adventures. 

Ultimately, our aim is that the Monivae Blogs be the first port of call for staff and students when they are looking for resources or information from the World Wide Web. To date, this is probably quite optimistic, but we continue to encourage people to use and contribute to the blogs.

  When we first dipped our toe into blogging, we never expected that it would blossom into such a wide ranging affair. We now have ten blogs at various stages of development, and we still have plans for others. We have just created an ICT Committee Wiki and our next project is a class blog in collaboration with one of our LOTE teachers.

Ten blogs ranging across a wide range of curriculum areas is certainly a major achievement. Well done to Nicola, Maree and all the staff involved!

Online resources for teaching Shakespeare

English teachers are always looking for new ways to support teaching Shakespeare. Here is a site that provides just that. Provided by the UK’s Department for Children, Schools and Families, Powerpoints, Word Documents and Smartboard files are available for anyone to use.

Enjoying Shakespeare homepage
Enjoying Shakespeare homepage

With strategies that incorporate ICT into teaching texts such as Macbeth, King Lear, Othello, Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as more specific information on teaching Romeo and Juliet, this is a site you should share with your English teaching colleagues. They’ll thank you for it!

Tania Sheko’s English wiki

Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko has been busy! She has also created a wiki for the English class she has been working with.

Tania explains how the wiki came about:

The English wiki was created to support a particular English class but with a view to sharing resources with all English teachers. It’s in its very early stages, and will continue to evolve with time, according to the needs of the English class.

There is a variety of information and resources, including resources and ideas to support teachers (lesson ideas, rubrics, warm-ups), support for students (brainstorming ideas and research), ideas for using technology (cool tools, using multimedia, videos, Voicethread – podcasts are still coming), ideas for units of work (digital storytelling, using picture books), resources for ESL and VCE, and links to English blogs and wikis. Some pages have only one example, and others (lesson ideas, picture books, videos and Voicethread) have a longer list of resources.

Recently I’ve created a NING, which is a virtual learning community, and this will house the wiki, as well as providing a space for individual student blogs and countless discussions and groups.  At this stage the NING is a closed community.

The wiki and the NING are both in their early stages. I’m learning how to construct it as I go, and I’m using people in my own PLN (personal learning network) to help me. It’s great to be able to ask questions at any time, and receive replies from people all over the place. The best part of being a teacher is being a learner.

Tania is more than happy to have people join the wiki and make contributions.

Thanks Tania for sharing your hard work and ideas with us. Congratulations on the development of all your ICT tools.

Feature blog – Lowther Hall AGS

Glenys Lowden, Head of the LRC at Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School has agreed to share information about her Book Raps blog.

Book raps homepage
Book raps homepage

This is the blog I set up for Year 7 English.  Each class in Year 7 are spending a term on this Book Raps program.

Originally I set the blog up at another school and then transferred my ideas to Lowther Hall.  The blog was designed to appeal to students as a new way to journal their ideas about their reading.  The aim is for them to communicate with each other on the blog rather than just journaling in their notebook. They are able to share their thoughts and comment on other responses particularly if they have read that book.

one discussion page

One discussion page

This connectedness is one of the key goals behind the program.  Once the program is finished then we will encourage students to evaluate the use of this blog. As I have used all their names in the pages, the top of the home page looks rather messy so I need to work on that element.  I have also used the blog to practise using ‘image generators’.  These were a fantastic tool that I found out about through the Syba Signs course. I also learnt in the course how to add in the live feed.

Congratulations to Glenys on developing a resource that is well used by her students. By reading their comments, it seems that they are engaged both in reading and communicating with each other via the blog. A terrific way to combine both reading and ICT.

Feature wiki – Casey Grammar School

Casey Grammar School Head of Secondary School Teaching and Learning and teacher librarian Julie Squires has developed a very useful wiki for her year 11 English class.

Wiki homepage
Wiki homepage
Julie explains, ‘Although I created the wiki specifically for my class, I made it public so that any English teacher and/or student can use it. I am introducing my students to the wiki slowly; they need to complete their VCE profiles via the wiki and I want them to get used to doing homework online. I want the students to take responsibility for their own learning. I am encouraging them to use tools such as Essay map and to plan their essays online. Students can contribute to the ‘Reading/responding resource bank’ so that others can see what their classmates are doing. I really hope it becomes a collaborative effort between them as often students don’t realise what their classmates are writing and thinking. It’s not cool to share too much in class, so hopefully this way they can experience the power of learning collaboratively.’
Useful online resources

Useful online resources

Julie continues, ‘And by giving them links to useful resources, like Glogster and Ergo, I am helping them find resources they would not necessarily come across themselves.’

Congratulations to Julie for her great ideas, creativity and for sharing her wonderful wiki with us. Julie really is a leader in her field! If you have a moment, check out her ning, a place for Victorian teacher librarians to meet and share.

The Portal – Blogging at Scotch College Library

One of Scotch College’s Librarians,  Michelle Sweeney, has kindly informed Bright Ideas about their wonderful library blog. Michelle explains, ‘Blogging has become incredibly popular over the last 12 months, and in the Senior Library at Scotch we have embraced the trend! Blogging on The Portal is a safe and fun means for the boys, staff and friends of Scotch to engage in discussion about the books they love (or love to hate), to debate contentious book-related topics and to learn about events in the literary world.’

The Portal homepage

The Portal homepage

Michelle continues, ‘Since Brendan Gullifer launched The Portal at our ‘Library’s Longest Literary Lunch‘ on March 13 2008, we have seen the number of users swell to over 100.  Articulate and passionate boys are airing their opinions on diverse topics including the journalistic merits of the Herald Sun and The Age, the decline of the English language, the poignancy of soldiers’ letters from Iraq, controversy over school texts and the modernisation of Shakespeare’s texts. The boys are also displaying their own creativity (and competitive spirit) by participating in The Portal’s various competitions and writing high quality book reviews.



‘Staff at Scotch have long been writing book reviews about their holiday reading for the library website, and these are now also published on The Portal.

‘Initially The Portal was hosted by Edublogs, in many respects a fantastic site developed especially for blogs in schools. However we did become frustrated with some aspects of Edublogs and decided to shift our blog to our school domain where we could have more control over the appearance and the method of registration. Boys and staff may now register in a few minutes without the need for emails to be exchanged.

‘A blog committee was formed and during six meetings we established the aims and objectives of The Portal, the User Guidelines and discussed ways to maximize the potential of this new library tool.


The Portal provides an online forum for the Scotch Community to engage in discussion about books and reading in order to encourage Scotch boys to develop a lifelong love of reading.

Our objectives for The Portal are:

  • To harness the boys’ interest in technology to engage them in books and reading
  • To enable 24/7 access to stimulating discussion about books and reading
  • To provide a publication platform for aspiring Scotch writers
  • To allow the wider Scotch Community (parents, siblings, teachers, etc.) to contribute to discussions about books and reading in order to provide a range of reading role models for Scotch boys
  • To promote interaction and mentoring between students of different ages (and beyond!)
  • To inform Scotch boys about current literary events and awards
  • To provide an informal/recreational environment for boys to discuss their reading

‘Currently The Portal is promoted through word of mouth, introductory sessions to Literature Circles groups and English classes, fliers in the library and an article in the school magazine. We intend to use it extensively before, during and after our Literature Festival which runs every second year, by inviting guest authors to initiate discussion with our students before meeting them at the festival and encouraging students to comment on the workshops they have attended. Hopefully there may be some ongoing blogging contact with festival presenters once the festival is over.’ 

Scotch Scribes

Scotch Scribes

Michelle concludes, ‘All in all The Portal has been a great success. Year 7s and 8s in particular are excited when they see it and English teachers are keen to use it with their classes. Competitions and controversial posts are definitely winners!’

Congratulations to Michelle and all at Scotch College who have been involved in the introduction and ongoing promotion and develpoment of The Portal.