Book studies can be a great way for teachers to grow, connect, and learn together.

The Teacher's Guide to Professional Book Studies - SULS031There are many ways to facilitate professional book studies, so I decided to put together The Teacher’s Guide to Professional Book Studies to share some best practices.

Teacher book studies can be impactful. They can also be painful with the wrong approach.

In this episode, I will take a deep dive into book studies including, purposeful planning and implementation tips, as well as tips for meaningful participation.

Level up your professional learning with effective book studies!

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This guide is for leaders and for teachers who want to maximize the book study experience.

If you want to see results from your book study, follow the tips and best practices below.

Planning an Effective Book Study

Define Your Audience

Who will be reading this book? Is it open to educators at all levels and subject areas? Or is this a study for administrators? What type of administrators? Maybe this is a study for instructional coaches, a tech team, or even one that involves parents and the community.

Think through all of the possibilities for your audience and be sure you are forming a group with meaning. If not, consider forming multiple groups to better meet the needs of everyone. Trust me, nothing is worse than being forced to read a book about something that doesn’t really pertain to your role as an educator.

If you are unsure who will be participating, send out a Google Form survey.

Select Book Study Leaders

Do you already have a group of leaders? Or do you need to recruit?

Be sure to include a good mix of classroom teachers, instructional/tech coaches, and administrators.

You need to ensure that someone is taking the lead so this whole shebang doesn’t fall apart. Is that person you? Maybe. Better yet, form a collaborative partnership or team to take the reigns and help the group navigate.

This doesn’t have to be complicated, but in my experience, a book study without a leader can often lead to less participation and far less implementation.

Define Your Book Study Goals

Why are you doing this book study? Is it because your admin says you have to do two book studies per year? I hope not. A meaningful book study should always start with the why, just like the learning in our classrooms.

  • Is your goal to help teachers become more comfortable with technology? Is a book going to do that? Maybe.
  • Is your goal to get teachers to make the shift to facilitator?
  • Is your goal to help shift the mindset of your faculty?
  • Is your goal to help teachers learn how to develop better assessments?
  • Is your goal to focus on PBL?
  • Is your goal to introduce innovative ideas?

Think carefully about the vision for your organization, school, or group and connect this book study to your mission and goals. Make sure every one of the leaders is on the same page and in agreement before you move forward.

The Teacher's Guide to Professional Book Studies - SULS031

Choosing a Book for Your Book Study

Once you have defined your audience and selected your leaders, it is time to select a book. Give your participants choice! If you want buy-in and to truly effect change in your organization, you must give the participants a say in what they read. There is no shortage of books out there.

My suggestion is to have the leaders of the book study pick three to five books that fit the needs of your specific audience. Then share the choices to your participants for a vote. (Looking for ideas? Check out 50 Awesome Books for Educators, or check out my Amazon faves here.)

Voting on a book can be fun! This can be something you do as a group, face-to-face, where you offer a “tasting” of the book options. Or with larger groups, you can create a Google Form for voting. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ also offer some easy-to-use polling options, depending on how you communicate with your group.

If your group is over 20, DO NOT send this out as a mass email and ask for replies! What a waste of time. Use a digital tool to do the work for you.

Leaders, READ the Entire Book Before the Start Date!

Sometimes we rush to get started with our book studies and the leaders haven’t even read the entire book yet.

Leaders, please read the entire book before you start! You need the big picture to help you plan an effective book study.

You may even want to do a mini study among the leaders to help you better prepare.

You will find more practical ways to organize the study and facilitation strategies that you can model by planning this as a whole study and not in pieces.

Decide How You Will Facilitate the Book Study

Facilitating a book study doesn’t have to be complicated if you plan and organize.

  • Plan out your timeline and decide on due dates for each chapter.
  • Create discussion questions for each chapter.
  • You may also have activities associated with each chapter. If so, now is the time to plan those out.
  • Consider having participants create something to represent their learning, share reflections, sketch notes, booksnaps, lesson ideas, or other content related to the book’s topic. (More on that below.)
  • When and where will you meet to discuss?
  • BLEND IT! Choose an online platform to support the study. Even if you are meeting face-to-face, you will need something online that will help participants remember due dates and expectations.
  • Platform suggestions:

Facilitate with Finesse!

Facilitate your book study with some TLC and genuine support! Build relationships and go beyond the content of the book.

Set clear expectations about what is expected!

Find ways to connect and learn with your group. Don’t just ask and respond to questions, model how to respond.

Check-in with participants who don’t seem engaged.

Make this something special for participants.

  • Find ways to show positive support to those who struggle keeping up.
  • Make it fun and engaging!
    • Give away some swag or door prizes.
      • books
      • planners
      • something for the classroom
      • stickers
      • conference registration
      • chocolate
      • jeans pass (“jeanious!”)
    • Brag to administrators! Be sure you invite and tag your administrators if they are not participating so they can see the learning and support.

Create a Reading Schedule and Calendar

Make it easy for your participants to keep up with the book study assignments and due dates by creating a shared digital calendar.

I recommend Google Calendar, which makes it easy for participants to add all the calendar events and due dates to their own calendars.

If you are using Google Classroom to blend the experience, it will create a Google Calendar and share it with the participants automatically.

Connect with the Author

One of the awesome things about this crazy, connected world is that you can sometimes connect with the author of your book!

Consider inviting them to your study, your Google Classroom Class, or setting up a real-time Google Hangout!

This will give participants the opportunity to connect with the material in a new way, ask questions, and go deeper.

As an author myself, I do this all the time!

Follow Up

One of the critical missing pieces to most professional learning experiences is follow up.

Don’t forget to set a few reminders, schedule some tweets or posts to help your participants review important concepts and IMPLEMENT ideas from the book study.

Offer a way for participants to share what they have implemented with the group. Just don’t let it all fade away.

You may also want to connect this back to a bigger project where participants are required to design and implement by a certain date.

Check-in, follow-up, and coach your participants along the way!

Tips for Participants

Tip #1: Go in with a positive attitude and growth mindset.

No matter how much you really don’t want to participate, take a deep breath and focus on the growth opportunity that a book study can provide.

Tip #2: Don’t just answer the required questions, engage with other participants, ask your own questions, respond to others comments.

Tip #3: Mark up your text and highlight important points.

Tip #4: Try Booksnaps!

#Booksnaps, an idea from the fabulous Tara Martin, are simply a digital, visual representation used to annotate and share reflections of any excerpt of a book or text.

There are lots of different tools you can use to create a booksnap, but it just starts with a picture or screenshot of your text then you mark it up, add stickers, whatever you want.

Tara has several tutorials that you can find on her site here.

Below is a booksnap from the Shake Up Learning book by Mason Mason. He created a booksnap for each chapter of the book and shared them on his blog.

The Teacher's Guide to Effective Book Studies - SULS031

Be sure to share your #booksnaps with the hashtag!

And, of course, try this strategy with your students!

Tip #5: Take Notes

Yes, I know it’s a shocker that a teacher is recommending you take notes as you read, but everyone needs a reminder!

Write in the margins if you like, or if you are reading Shake Up Learning, I’ve provided reflection space at the end of each chapter. Or, use a notebook, journal, or go digital and take your notes in Google Docs, One Note, Evernote, Google Keep, wherever you prefer.

Tip #6: Try Sketch Notes!

Sketch notes are purposeful doodles that illustrate you own visual thinking and reflections as you listen to a speaker or read text.

Sketch notes do not have to be works of art, they are just a way for you to learn and process information. In fact, there’s a lot of research that supports this strategy so it is great for the classroom as well.

Keep in mind, there is not right or wrong way to do this.

Below is an example from Pam Hubler, where she sketchnoted ideas from the Shake Up Learning book!

The Teacher's Guide to Effective Book Studies - SULS031

To learn more about sketch notes, check out Kathy Schrock’s resource page.

Tip #7: Add Due Dates and Assignments to Your Calendar

Keeping up with all of the reading on top of everything else you have going in your life and classroom can be a challenge.

Don’t forget to add all of the reading assignments and due dates to your own calendar, whether you use paper or digital.

Tip #8: Implement!

Don’t let this simply be a reading experience, use this book study as an opportunity to implement in your classroom.

Many teachers don’t make time to plan and implement, but hopefully, that won’t be you!

If you want to grow and improve and help your students to grow and improve, we have to be willing to implement new ideas!


Podcast Question of the Week

“What is your biggest challenge with professional book studies?”

Share your response on social with the #ShakeUpLearning hashtag, or join us in the FREE Shake Up Learning community to discuss further.


The Shake Up Learning Book-Study-in-a-Box!

This is something I’m working on and I’d like to gauge interest.

I’d like to put together book study packages that can make it easy to lead a book study with your group. This is still a work in progress but the Book Study in-a-box will most likely include autographed copies of the Shake Up Learning book, bookmarks, stickers, and a t-shirt for each participant, as well as access to ready-made materials to guide the book study, like discussion questions, pacing guide, images, challenges, etc., that will be available in a shared folder.

If you are interested, please fill out this form so I will know if this is worth moving forward!


Shake Up Learning book by Kasey BellThe Perfect Book Study Package!

The Shake Up Learning book was designed with book studies in mind! Not only is this book a great read for any educator, any grade level, any subject, any role, but this book has the entire package to help you facilitate a successful book study!

Included in this book,

  • Discussion questions after each chapter. You don’t have to write your own! These are ready to go!
  • Dedicated reflection pages after each chapter, helping you to encourage participants to think and reflect on their reading.
  • An entire website of resources to support the book! (ShakeUpLearningBook.com)
  • The Shake Up Learning Community: Join the Facebook group to share your reflections, ideas, questions, lesson ideas, and connect with other like-minded educators.
  • Planning and Implementation Chapters, to help readers TAKE ACTION on the content they read by designing meaningful lesson plans.
  • FREE Downloads and Templates to make it even easier to implement!
  • A Lesson Plan Database, where you can search and find dynamic lesson plans.
  • Submit Lesson Plans, you can also CONTRIBUTE and share your dynamic lesson plans on the website. (Hint! You could make this the culminating project for your book study.)
  • The Online Course, take your study a bit further and enroll in The Dynamic Learning Workshop, the online companion course for the Shake Up Learning book.
  • This book has it all and then some!

Join the Shake Up Learning Online Book Study!

I facilitate 3-4 online book studies each year. They are completely FREE, fully online, and asynchronous so you can respond to discussion questions at a time that is convenient for you.

Get all the details for the latest book study on this page.

© Shake Up Learning 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kasey Bell and Shake Up Learning with appropriate and specific direction to the original content on ShakeUpLearning.com. See: Copyright Policy.

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