Connecting Communities – a Book Trailer Contest in Japan

February 18, 2021

In this article Kaori Hakone discusses the value in launching a book trailer contest as a way to motivate students to study language.

Connecting Communities -  a Book Trailer Contest in Japan

When you want to promote the subject you teach but nobody is there to support you, what can you do? 

How would you respond if your student says that mathematics and science can change the world but what is the point of studying language arts?

Many students at the international school in Japan mentioned that studying Japanese established a distance from contributing skills to society. Moreover, unfortunately, opportunities were limited for high school students whose Japanese skills were similar to elementary school level. Even those students with a good grasp of Japanese could not understand why writing a literary analysis would help them in real life. Teachers also want to improve traditional teaching in Japanese classes, which often requires lots of rote learning but does not foster creativity. 

Because of these reasons, a few teachers gathered together and founded a contest using technology–a book trailer contest to connect students and teachers through healthy competition. A book trailer is similar to a movie trailer, except it is created to promote a book. The product requires OECD’s 21st Century Skills, such as fostering students’ creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and the use of technology. Students should understand the theme of the book, the organization of the text, and the specific features of the author’s language use. Those are the exact skills required when writing a literary analysis. So, non-negotiable skills are defined. It is simply the end product that is different.

To create the book trailer, students must return to the book and re-read the text. They develop their skills by watching trailers from other schools. The students begin to think of how they can apply the scene to real life. Their teachers also start to see students’ viewing skills improve.

The students are free to use different ways to express their interpretation of the book to make a trailer. In creating the project, some students may create a script, act it out or draw pictures. Other students may take lots of photos and use a stop motion app to create a trailer. Animation, puppet play, composing music, adding sound effects, text, or narration can all be incorporated in the project.

Students also develop digital citizenship skills through this contest. The students should bear in mind any copyright laws and citations as the entries will be posted publicly. Apart from the book cover, they should use copyright free pictures, movies, and music unless they create their own. They should cite any sources that they have used as well. 

Students at different schools reached out to each other to have online discussions because they were impressed with each other’s trailers. The teachers watching the students’ discussion were very happy to see their enthusiasm while discussing their chosen book and how they incorporated technology. One student said to the other, “I read the same book but chose scenes A and B for these reasons. However, I can see that you chose completely different scenes from mine. What was your rationale?”. Without knowing it, the students were naturally analyzing the book, and enjoying it.

The book trailer contest had already been running for ten years, successfully connecting the community by fostering students’ creativity when new challenges arose. Firstly, transparency in the screening committee was necessary. Secondly, the workload for the judges was enormous. Thirdly, the contest needed to communicate to the participants the purpose of a book analysis and creating a book trailer. We ended up taking a year off to discuss how to fix these problems.

Finally in autumn 2020, the book trailer contest 2.0 was launched. A YouTube channel was set up, and entries added to a playlist. A rubric was created and shared on the contest website so schools could make a copy using G-Suite. Peoples’ choice awards and applicants’ teachers’ votes were introduced. 

The contest organizers ran two webinars on movie analysis and movie creation (focusing on iMovie) in November 2020. Interested teachers got together and learned from each other. The task itself was like having students swim in a pool, not in the ocean. In fact, the contest connected even more people and therefore became more powerful in the second phase. 

Just like the first phase, the book trailers that were created by the secondary school students encouraged many primary school students to pick up a book to read. Many primary school students were also inspired by the secondary students that participated in the project. Some other students remarked that they also would like to enter the contest one day. 

An online screening party at an orphanage has been organized. One of the organizers tried to convince a publisher to donate a book to the orphanage on behalf of the participating students’ name so that a good circulation would be created. However, it has not been successful yet. That is the next challenge that the committee is facing. 

The contest organizers will be more than happy to have your Japanese speaking students participate in this contest, if their environment is similar to those who study at international schools. Or we encourage you to set up a similar contest that fosters students’ creativity in your school. 

We would love to gain your input. Please feel free to share your comments and suggestions. If you have any recommendations or research that will be useful, please let us know.

Book Trailer Contest <English website>

Book Trailer Contest <Japanese website>



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *