Trailers and Teasers for Learning

Yes, you did just see the trailer for the new Star Wars film appear on your timeline as a waffle from me. I do like Star Wars and of course I am super excited about the new film, but that is not the reason it is appearing as a waffle. Why is it here? Well because it is an excellent starting point for learning.

All teasers have one very specific role – to entice us as the audience into buying, watching or just talking about the film, book or gadget. An effective trailer leaves you wanting more, saving your pennies or searching for a release date. There exists within the advertising a wealth of learning for the children. This can be based on a range of curriculum areas and covers the actual creation of an advert/trailer to the actual understanding of the tricks of the trade that advertisers use. So this waffle will have a look at how teasers and trailers can be used to support learning in the classroom.

  • Persuasive Language and Blurbs – I really must stop talking about literacy – you might get the idea that I actually like the subject :). As I think about publicising my discussion forums and tweets I also think about the language which I use. This is my best attempt to engage with some sort of advertising or marketing for my site. Persuasive language is an important part of anyone’s literacy toolbox and the use of trailers or blurbs on the back of books is a useful starting point for learning about this area of writing. Trailers, like the Star Wars one, will allow the key features of attributes of a good trailer to be analysed and discussed before using these as a basis for creating new ones. The form can be used as a scaffold, beginning by just changing a few individual words or phrases to creating something completely new. Half truths and the use of descriptive language can also be investigated with voice overs or actual blurbs being the end point of the work. These can then be shared with another class or with peers in order to get some ‘two stars and a wish’ feedback – or just a rating to say how likely they would be to read the book or watch the film. I would watch Star Wars no matter how bad the trailer was – although some of the films are better than the others in the series.

  • Musical Compositions – Now you are really worried – Mr Waffling talking about music! The actual language used within any trailer is often the minor part of the whole effect – often it is the actual images (more of this later) or the music that actually grabs your attention and draws you into the actual trailer. That opening of the Star Wars music always gets me! Composition is, for me, the most exciting part of the music curriculum and when creating a ‘sound track’ for a trailer, there might not necessarily be a melody as such, more clashes and bangs or ‘background tinkling’ which is a lot easier for children to create and play. Graphic scores can be created, using cues from the trailer, or, if scoring is not desired, the trailer itself can be used as a the score. Many music applications, such as Garage Band, has its own set of cinematic jingles which can be used to add the appropriate effect. Appropriateness is an important learning point here and presenting the children with different types of scenes to add music to, for example fight scenes, sad or romantic scenes or the end, often explosive’ scenes, can allow for the children to learn the appropriateness of music. Again, assessment of the final product can be achieved from peers and other classes with the pieces being performed for them or recorded for sharing via the virtual learning environment.

  • Video Trailers! – For me, this would be the highlight of a unit or work covering trailers – the actual creation of one! This could be based on a book or, even better, the children’s own pieces of writing. The actual video could be created in a number of ways. Camera stills could be used with text added over the top of these or, if you are feeling really adventurous, actually videoing scenes via mobile technologies and then editing these together. The creation of storyboards are very important with the creation of trailers and this can be a separate learning activity linked to sequencing and persuasive writing. Many editing software, including the well used Photostory, has its own built in cinematic music/sounds which can be used to further enhance the trailer. Group collaboration is important with specific roles being allocated at the start of the activity. This is the sort of activity that might be engaged with at the end of a unit or in the final weeks of a term. It also is a good follow up activity after the class has returned from a school trip/visit. With several cameras on the go throughout the visit a wealth of clips can be used and ready for the final project.

  • Learning benefits from the connection with a real life context and these activities allows the learning to have both a purpose and an end point. Technology can be used in a range of different ways and the final assessment/feedback can be achieved both virtually or as part of a class or sharing assembly – showing them on a screen at parents’ evening would also give the parents something to look at other than the books if you are running slightly over. If you have a go at this then please let me know how it goes by contacting me via via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun, engage and I’ll catch you later