Developing Comprehension Skills Through Teaser Trailers

In preparation for our joint conference 'Improving Reading and Writing through Popular Children's Movies and Media' in Newcastle this coming January, last night John Murray and I were editing and developing some of the ideas for the day itself. The main approach for the day is to demonstrate how, when taught alongside the written word, other forms of media can be extremely useful in helping children to develop key reading and writing skills. We focus on a variety of texts that are underpinned by a range of media types (including films, adverts and songs) and explore how reading texts within context enables children to realise that stories, no matter how short or in what format they are told, have both purpose and audience as a driving force. We consider also the effect the combination of text and the visual form has on story telling and its importance in the teaching of Emotional Literacy when developing the whole child.

In searching for some examples to use, a certain teaser trailer seemed to be shared everywhere! I have previously blogged about teaser trailers linked with Star Wars, which you can read here. 

Here is another teaser trailer that you can use in the same way -


Here are some questions we put together for you to use in class - 

Pre-Watch


  • What time do you think the witching hour is?
  • Would it be during the day or at night? Why do you think this?
  • Would people be awake at this hour? Why? Why not?
  • What might you see, hear, feel if you were awake at this time?
  • Would you likely be alone or with your friends if this was the case?


Aim: to enable learners to begin to imagine what it would be like to be awake during the witching hour: to gain a sense of the eerie silence and shadowy loneliness the witching hour brings together with an underlining fear that stokes the fires of uncertainty.

Now read the script, reading slowly and quietly and stressing key aspects of the text in order to maximise the sense of fear the narrator has.

Note: Get them to close their eyes so that they are plunged into the darkness the witching hour brings.


It was the witching hour, when the boogieman comes out, when people go missing. The girls say the witching hour arrives at midnight, I think it comes at three in the morning, when I’m the only one left awake. Like always, like now. Never get out of bed. Never go to the window. Never look behind the curtain. And that is where our story begins…

Show them the script. In pairs highlight the parts that make the reader scared.


  • Why do you think it is written in first person?
  • What effect does this have on the reader?
  • Do you like or dislike the uncertainty of what time it is? Why?
  • Does this add or detract from the overall atmosphere of this opening scene?
  • Why do you think the narrator says ‘Never’ three times and does so with short simple sentences? Why does she not elaborate?
  • Do you like the final sentence? 
  • Why do you think it ends using an ellipsis? 
  • On a scale of 1-5, how effective do you think this start is? Why?


You are now ready to watch the trailer.

Note: Play the trailer all the way through without stopping. This will allow them to acknowledge aspects of their previous discussion which you have just facilitated as well as make links to the pictures they will undoubtedly painted in their head. Once done, allow them the opportunity to discuss with a partner and/or class how closely their pictures matched those seen on the screen. 

  • Was the narrator a boy or a girl in their head? Why? 
  • Were they surprised by the fact that it was in fact a girl?


Now watch the trailer again, as a means of understanding it more deeply.

Pause after opening shot…



  • In which capital city are we in? [London]
  • Draw and label 2 things that evidence this. [London bus, Big Ben, Tower Bridge]
  • What time of day is it? [Night] 
  • How do we know? [Lights are on, few people on streets, darkness]


Pause at 20 seconds…


  • We are shown a shot of a street. How modern is this street? 
  • Why do you think this? [Cobbles, bicycle, lamp posts]
  • We see a building in a side street; can you see the sign? [Orphanage]
  • Write this sign [ORPHANAGE] on your wipe board. Underline the root word that starts this word [‘orphan’]. Do you know what an orphan is?
  • Can you think of any orphans from other books or films you have seen?
  • How does this make us (the viewer) feel? Why?


Pause at 41 seconds…

  • Who is the main character? 
  • What tells us she is afraid of the witching hour? [Lock windows, blanket for comfort, changes time]
  • What is the first clue that the director uses to show us she is not alone?
  • Why do you think a cat is placed in this scene with her?


Pause at 49 seconds…

  • Does the character like reading? Why do you think this?
  • How easy does she find reading? [Note her glasses]
  • What can we infer about her as a character?
  • What does she hear? How does she react? How would you react?


Pause at 1 minute 8 seconds…


  • Why does she whisper the first statement?
  • Why does she do the opposite to what she says? 
  • What do we now infer about her as a character?
  • Does this surprise you seeing that she is a girl? Why? Why not?
  • How does this contrast to how the street cats feel?
  • How sacred are they? How do we know? [the arch their backs in terror and scream]


Pause at 1 minute 20 seconds…


  • What is in the shadow? Why do we think it can’t be human? [Height, size]
  • Why does the director not reveal the character completely?
  • Does this make the situation more or less scary? Why?
  • How does the girl react to the character? How does she feel? How do you know?


Pause at 1 minute 28 seconds…

  1. What does the girl do to try and protect herself?
  2. What might this tell us about how old she is?
  3. Does it work?
  4. What do you think the creature is? Why do you think this?
  5. Now that you have watched the trailer and heard the script, how effective is the last line? Discuss.


Post-Watch

  • Who do you think the trailer is for: infants, juniors, teenagers or adults? Why do you think this?
  • What is the main purpose of this trailer: To tell you what the film will be about or to get you to ask questions so that you’ll want to go and watch the film when it comes out?
  • Do you think it accomplishes this purpose? Why? Why not?
  • What questions are left unanswered? Make a list with your teacher.


  • Ask the children if they know what book this trailer relates to.
  • Do they know who wrote The BFG?
  • What do they know about this author?
  • Have they come across any of his stories before?
  • Using this knowledge, can they predict what might happen in the book/film?

Use this as an introduction to use BFG as the class read. 


Any questions your learners have come up with while watching the trailer can be put on post-it notes and answered as you read the text in the coming weeks. Also, comparing the trailer script with the opening pages of Dahl’s book is a lovely way in which to discuss the differences and similarities in terms of both style and content, as well as to facilitate a discussion as to which is better: watching a film  or reading the book.


The following link allows you to access the unedited version of Dahl’s original text on screen:

http://www.freeport.k12.pa.us/cms/lib2/PA01001445/Centricity/Domain/253/The_BFG.pdf


If you have found this blog useful, please join us in Newcastle in January or Peterborough in June or Newport in July! More details and booking forms can be found here. 

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