Let’s talk about sparks. No, I do not mean sparklers, fireworks or something igniting. I mean the opening moves, hooks, writing prompts, provocations or other ways to spark attention, motivation or engagement for both teachers and students. And specifically, let’s talk about sparks to launch book study conversations.

I’ll admit there has been more than one occasion where I eagerly open a book club conversation only to hear silence. I then offer a few carefully-chosen prompts to start discussion….but teachers cast their eyes down rather than jump into conversation. Please tell me that has happened to you, too.

Now, once the ball gets rolling, teachers jump into more lively conversation, but there’s something about being the first one to share our reactions in a whole group setting that makes us freeze. So, what’s a coach to do? I’ve found success using social media sparks to literally spark conversations among teachers.

Social media sparks are tweets, posts, blogs, podcasts or other media that offer perspective on the book or content your group is exploring. Essentially, they are bite-sized reflections already shared publicly by others online. And these sparks can be the perfect conversation starters to launch your book club discussions. So, if you’ve ever found yourself greeted by silence when opening a book club conversation, give this a try.

First, read your chosen article or text and track your thinking with notes in the margins, colorful sticky notes or a notebook. Note hot topics sure to spark conversation and list possible discussion stems and questions for teachers to ponder.

Next, head to your favorite social media platform to learn from others who have already read the book. You might visit Twitter to browse the hashtag feed for the book’s title or content and save compelling tweets. You could peruse your favorite Facebook groups for posts to share from other educators. You could even head to your favorite blogs to read reviews of the book or posts on the topic from fellow coaches and teachers. I love using MiddleWeb for this. Here are four examples of social media sparks for Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy Paperback by Gholdy Muhammad. Click on the images to see the original posts.

Save these posts and tweets to easily use them to spark discussion on the topic. I use the snipping tool on my PC to copy each tweet or post and paste each one into a Google Slides presentation to collect them together. This way, I can find them easily when I need them rather than like the post and then struggle to find it in my feed later. Been there, done that, not doing that anymore.

So now, when it’s time for your book study conversations, you can open the conversation by posting a question or conversation starter and showcasing what other educators are thinking and feeling about the topic, too. This way, we can avoid the awkwardness of waiting for one brave teacher to launch the conversation by launching it ourselves. And the best part? We can all learn from the multiple perspectives shared online rather than limiting our discussions to the teachers in the actual book study. It’s a win-win.

So, here's your challenge: Identify an article or book that you are currently reading or plan to read with teachers. Search the title of the book on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram and scroll through the feeds. Snip, save and compile compelling tweets, posts and links to share with your teachers in your next book study session. You might be surprised at just how effective this practice can be to not only spark initial conversations, but to deepen the learning, too!

And one more thing….pay it forward! If you’re learning from the posts shared online from other educators, chances are, they’d like to learn from you, too. So, share your own thinking about the books you are reading and topics you are learning about. You never know….your posts could be just the spark a fellow instructional coach needs for their next book study session!

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