Starting and Running a Productive Book Study for Teachers

Most of us, particularly in education, have participated in book studies before. You may be thinking back to an obsession with Nancy Drew or Harry Potter books from your younger days—or poetry and niche subjects in college. If you teach reading, you’ve also overseen book studies (of sorts) in the classroom. Starting a group for teachers, however, is a different animal.

If you’ve been tasked with creating and running a book study with your colleagues, you’ve probably already considered the who, what, where, when, and why. And that’s where we often get stuck. Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you work out the how.

Logistics

You’ve set a regular meeting place and time, but how flexible can you be about attendance? Are you planning to meet during a regularly scheduled PLC time? Since schedules and evening/weekend obligations vary, you could consider building an online option into it—and possibly even recording each meeting so absentees can view it at their convenience.   

Choosing Books

If you have a list of books in mind and want to take the lead on selection, let everyone know that. Otherwise, how will books be nominated? Two good options are:

  • Hold one planning meeting at the beginning so you can collectively identify the books you’ll study throughout the year
  • Conduct a survey via email or with a platform like SurveyMonkey to give everyone a voice without bringing about too much time-consuming debate

However you decide to go about it, plan ahead to ensure that everyone has each book, as well as ample time to start reading it, before the discussion commences.

Download the LSI 2019-20 Back-to-School Catalog for new PLC books

A Shared Vision

Your school most likely has a succinct vision statement, either in general or for the current school year. If you don’t know what it is, your principal should be able to share that with you.

In turn, that vision should play a role in your conversations about books. If you’re very deliberate about prioritizing that shared vision, it will keep your book study focused on collaboration for growth and progress, making your group’s efforts all the more productive.

Building Collegiality

A great way to start the first meeting is to ask each member, “What was the first book club you ever joined and what was your favorite thing about it?” Then try to build some of those key features into your book club for teachers. Really delve into what each member hopes to gain from the meetings, in addition to polishing his or her professional practice.

Ground Rules

It’s okay to establish a set of rules to help streamline each meeting and let everyone know what’s expected. This will help everyone understand things like:

  • Who will lead the discussions?
  • Will there be one leader or will you take turns?
  • How will each person know when it’s his or her turn to host or lead?
  • Will there also be a snack schedule?
  • How many pages or chapters will you discuss in each meeting?

Whether your personal organization style is more free-wheeling or granular, getting things situated ahead of time will reduce extra hassles and make it easier to stay focused on the books.

Social Media

A closed Facebook group can give everyone access to the group throughout the week, and it’s also a great way for you to make announcements. LinkedIn groups are another option. Ask your participants what they’d prefer—if most of them say Twitter would be easiest, create a hashtag to use for general book study tweets.

  • Do not use a general hashtag like #BookStudy; the tweets will be buried. Pick something unique, like #[Your School]BookChat2020 and tell members to save that hashtag in their searches.
  • Keep Facebook groups under control by setting them as “closed” or even “secret” and requiring each member to get approval from an admin.

Discussion Topics

Here’s the “meat” of the book club. If you want to minimize the amount of work you and others will have to do for each meeting, stick with books that come with a ready-made study guide and simply dive into the questions therein. Understanding Rigor in the Classroom and The Power of Student Teams are great examples to start with. If you’d like to discuss volume discounts, contact Learning Sciences International.

Good luck!

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