Connected Learning Professional Learning Teaching Writing

Nurturing Middle School Readers through Reviews and Book Trailers


Whether students are reading an actual book or reading on their phone, tablet, or any other device, I am a firm believer that even the most reluctant middle school readers can be nurtured and develop ap- preciation for literature and reading. Kelly Gallagher (2009) states in his book Readacide that we have been killing our students’ interest in reading by constantly bombarding them with worksheets and boring classroom lectures.

Recent publications from advocates of adolescent reading such as Penny Kittle (2013), Kylene Beers and Robert Probst (2012), and Jeff Wilhelm and Bruce Novak (2011) demonstrate the salience of this perennial topic and remind me that I am not alone in my struggles to motivate struggling readers. On the other hand, teaching 7th- and 8th-grade students has challenges all on its own: Adding reading and the implementation of the Common Core State Standards into the classroom while trying to help students interpret and effectively understand digital literacies could make a teacher’s head spin. However, if we don’t meet our students at the door, willing to show them how literacy has transformed in the digital age, we will continue to see more and more students become disengaged with our lessons, units, and projects.

Excerpt from Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely:

Written Book Review (Fiction):

You are a book reviewer. Your audience is potential readers that are possibly interested in the book:

  • Top center of your paper – The book’s title and author, publisher, year published, # of pages, written at the top of the review
  • 1st Paragraph – A brief summary of the plot that does not give away too much. Leave the reader in suspense about major conflict resolutions while painting a clear, interesting portrait of the novel’s story.
  • 2nd Paragraph – Character analysis. Are the main characters believable? Do you know anyone like them? Does the author adequately describe the characters? Does the author do a good job of revealing characters’ thoughts and feelings?
  • 3rd Paragraph -Comparison/contrast to another novel, poem, or movie (character, theme(s), setting, historical relevance, conflict, societal issues/topics, emotion, tone, writing style, or author’s personal values, etc…).
  • 4th paragraph – Comments on the book’s strengths and weaknesses (List at least 1 of each).
  • 5th paragraph – The reviewer’s personal response to the book, with specific examples from the book provided as support.

Digital Book Trailer Using Animoto (Fiction)

You are now the producer of a video book trailer for the book you read. Think about your potential readers. You have 30 seconds!

  • Sign up for an account at me if you were absent)
  • Take time to play around with Animoto’s features first. Get familiar with the tool.
  • Your book trailer should be 30 seconds in length.
  • Think about the type of music that can relate to your book.
  • Text – Include your title at the beginning or end of your video and short blurbs about the book.
  • Pictures of the book cover and other pictures related to the book should be included in your trailer.
  • Your book trailer should have no Mistakes! For example, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
  • Book Trailers should be a snap shot or sneak peek into what the book is about. Do not give away key plot points to potential readers (Think about a movie trailer).
  • Check out YouTube for more examples. Search book trailers!
  • It must be school appropriate!