Most books geared toward teaching reading acknowledge that activating prior knowledge and providing frames of reference are essential to achieving deep comprehension. This does not just mean teaching information essential to understanding the setting or plot but also means giving students necessary information that will help “frame,” as Kelly Gallagher refers to it, their reading. For difficult literature, this is especially important as it helps students have a better context for what they read.
Prior to reading a text, I will spend time with my students examining the title, reviewing the back of the book, the cover, and the first line of the text as a way for them to think about what they read before actually reading it. In addition, I create iMovie trailers of the book for the students to view. These, I believe, have been especially helpful and give the students a good context of the story. They also, if done well, can really work to get a student interested in a story they may otherwise find burdensome.
The key benefit to making a trailer is that it can be adapted to connect to the goals of the unit. For example, I want my students to focus on the ideas of power and corruption when reading The Chocolate War, which I was able to emphasize in my movie trailer. The trailer can be used to make predictions prior to reading the novel and can be shown again throughout the novel to confirm or negate these predictions or as a means to remind students what they should focus on while reading. Frequently, my students have referenced the movie trailer in our discussions of the book, as it did help give them a sense of the story before they read it and allowed them to make connections. In addition, it is a great source for visual learners.
Below is the iMovie that I made for The Chocolate War to give you a sense of how I use it in the classroom. Some clips were taken from the actual film that were found on YouTube.
Although I did not use them, I do think the iMovie templates found on iMovie 11 could be very helpful for a novice user. Teachers could also use iMovie trailers as a way to extend a novel by having students create them after finishing a book. All in all, I find this a very good strategy to prepare my students to better understand their reading.
Camera Photo Credit: Mike Licht