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Professional Development Book Studies Go Virtual

One of the many hats instructional coaches have is to plan professional developments. We all know that teachers don’t exactly LOVE to participate in PD, but if you create an engaging way to do things, teachers will love to be apart of the sessions. With the onset of COVID-19, many of us have turned to the computer for all of our coaching including presenting professional developments. So, how do you keep it relevant while you are on a screen?

One idea is to incorporate is to host a virtual book study.

What Am I Dealing With? 

In my district, we are all virtual for the first quarter. Because of this, I have been searching for ways to use the professional development we do during virtual learning and continuing with it when we come back to school. Currently, teachers are more than overwhelmed with all of the changes, new models needing to be implemented, and more! That’s why I am have been working to create teacher toolkits around the topics of blended learning, flipped classroom, and technology tools. 

We complete a book study every single year. Therefore, it only makes sense to utilize them for professional development. Why? Because book studies are easy to put online. You can use Google Classroom and Google Meets to host the book study or you can simply go with Zoom. When you host your book study, you can teach your teachers how to use various tech tools by implementing them during your book study as well. 

While this is what I am dealing with, your situation might be completely different. Here is how you can implement your own virtual book study. 

How to Start a Virtual Book Study 

A virtual book study can only be effective if it set up and facilitated in a way that conveys strong meaning and purpose for the participants and well… You know me! I love the planning process!

Virtual Book Study Planning Process 

Before the book study even begins you are going to want to do some pre-planning work. This will ensure your book study has meaning and hopefully your teachers will have more of a buy-in. 

Step #1 – Set a Purpose

When you set a purpose, you want to make sure it is meaningful for the teachers. The purpose of the book study should be something that is relevant to the teacher right now. 

Step # 2 – Write the Goals

This is an instructional coaches trademark. If you don’t have a goal, what are you really working for? Having a goal keeps the teachers as well as you focused on the overall purpose.

Step #3 – Create Roles for Participants

You want as many teachers to be involved as possible. Some teachers are perfectly fine sitting on the sidelines. Therefore, it’s important that you give each person a role. When you create roles, you should make sure there is a job description for each one. If you don’t, a teacher who might be a bit reluctant might choose not to do his/her job. 

Step #4 – Choose a Book 

Of course, before you start you need to choose a book. It’s always good to get teacher input on this since they are who it is really for. You can get input by using Survey Monkey or a Google Form. If you don’t want to give teachers the choice of book, you can ask them questions about what they think they need help with. The answers to the questions can lead you to a book on your list. 

Step #5 – Plan Your Content 

Once you know which book you are going to use, you have to plan your content. I would suggest making a content outline. This outline should tell you what you want to talk about during the meetings and any activities that you want to do. Much like lesson plans, these are probably not going to be set in stone, but you can do your best to ensure you know what you are going to be doing each week. 

Step #7 – Implement a Weekly Schedule 

Every week you will want to meet with the people in your virtual book study. This will ensure everyone is staying on track and make it more relevant for the teachers. When you only meet once a month, your book study will be put on the back burner time and time again. 

Now that you have your book study planned, it’s time to think about engagement. It’s easy to tell teachers that we are going to complete a book study, it’s even mandated in some buildings and districts, but how do you get teachers cognitively engaged in the content?

Teach Your Teachers Tech with an Interactive Virtual Book Study 

There’s a lot that teachers are dealing with right now. One of the many things is keeping students engaged via distance learning. While teachers are just trying to keep their heads above water content-wise, they are also trying to learn new technology. You can help them with this by making your virtual book study interactive. 

Weekly Video Discussions

One way you can help your teachers with online work is to host weekly video discussions. These discussions can be done on Zoom or in Google Meet. When you plan the discussion, make sure you send out the agenda as well as the questions they will be asked before the meeting. This is good practice not only for you as an instructional coach but for teachers as well. So often teachers struggle with students communicating online. If we send them what we want beforehand, they are not put on the spot. If you are doing this with your teachers, you are 

beforehand, they are not put on the spot. If you are doing this with your teachers, you are modeling good virtual learning behavior. You can also use Classroom Screen instead of Google or Zoom. 

Create a Fun Weekly Game

Competitions are always going to be fun! If you have a weekly bingo board for professional development, it’s something that teachers can follow along with. Whenever there is a prize involved, teachers are going to pay closer attention, just like students, because who doesn’t like to win. With this game, teachers answer questions on the Bingo Board in the “PD Classroom.” Teachers get to post the board with their answers and then respond to other teachers’ posts. 

Make a Video 

FlipGrid is really a great tool for having a conversation when not everyone can be there. If you have a teacher who has to be absent, have them create a video discussing some of the discussion questions. These can be posted to FlipGrid and then other teachers can respond with a video as well. This is very effective if there simply isn’t a good time for everyone to meet. 

Another way to use FlipGrid is for weekly reflections. After you have had your meeting, have teachers do a two or three-minute FlipGrid reflecting on what they learned. 

Keeping Accountability in your Virtual Book Study

Whenever you are doing anything virtually, people can easily skip out. Why? Simply because you are not there to track them down. To help keep teachers accountable, you can try a few different techniques. 

Show Your Work

You should have your teachers showing their work. One of the goals might be to implement something from the book in their class. Have the teacher write about what they did and how it worked in the classroom with a FlipGrid reflection video. You can also have teachers have a reflective journal. Having “assignments” for teachers will keep them accountable every time. 

Make It Fun

We all loved reading in elementary because if we read enough, we got a free personal pizza. That was always the best! Having teachers complete various tasks and if they do, maybe they can get a virtual $5 gift card to a coffee shop or Instructional Coaching Coupons. You can ask your principal or school board for donations. If you have supportive parents, you can ask them for little virtual prizes as well. 

Our new normal is here whether we like it or not. Because of the new responsibilities teachers are taking on, relevancy is more important than it has ever been. There is not enough time in the day to be a teacher right now. Therefore, it’s vital that your virtual book study is a help not another burden.