Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Dr. Katie Toppel.

Dr. Katie Toppel is a K-5 English Language Development Specialist in Oregon. She also works as an Adjunct Professor for Portland State University, teaching classes in the ESOL Endorsement series. Katie has 12 years of educational experience which includes teaching Head Start, Kindergarten and First Grade as well as working as a K-12 Support Services Teacher at the Franconian International School.

Currently, #EllChat_BkClub is in its 6th round with a book study on Boosting Achievement by Carol Salva (@MsSalva) and Anna Matis (@AnnaTeachesELLs). Participation is at an all-time high thanks to Carol’s fabulous skillset in both writing and sparking interest in her book and also the power of our community to sustain interest via new pathways for participants to share ideas and reflections about the book’s content. Whether you’re a veteran participant to our book chat, a new member, or you’ve never heard of us, here’s all you need to know about navigating #EllChat_BkClub on Twitter, including “how to” links and ideas for anyone interested in creating their own online book chat.

1. Who to Follow: #EllChat_BkClub was the brainchild of myself, Katie Toppel, a K-5 ELD Teacher/ESOL Adjunct Professor and Tan Huynh, an ELL teacher in Laos/author of www.empoweringells.com.  It began with the idea that it would be fun to read Collaboration and Co-teaching by Andrea Honigsfeld and Maria Dove and then discuss via Twitter. Tan came up with a hashtag so that we could tag tweets with our own unique hashtag and also locate what other participants had tweeted by searching #EllChat_BkClub. We never expected how big our community would grow, but it has blossomed into an outstanding group of educators who are passionate about ELLs. We continuously engage in book chats based on books the participants have voted on and we think we’ve started a pretty exciting movement that capitalizes on engaging, convenient, and personalized professional development. Unlike many of the #educhats on Twitter, our book club operates as a slow chat, meaning participants can read, reflect, and tweet at their own pace. We do have a suggested reading schedule, but it is not necessary to stay on schedule as we are all familiar with the fact that life happens. Some key players to follow on Twitter are:

        • Katie Toppel, @Toppel_ELD
        • Tan Huynh, @TanELLClassroom
        • Carlota Holder, @Carlota_Holder
        • Valentina Gonzalez, @ValentinaESL
        • Emily Francis, @emilyfranESL
        • Shaeley Santiago, @HSESLTeacher

      Some authors who we’ve read/plan to read:

    • Carol Salva, Boosting Achievement, @MsSalva
    • Dr. Andrea Honigsfeld, Collaboaration and Co-teaching/ELL Frontiers, @AndreaHonigsfel
    • Dr. Jana Echevarria, No More Low Expectations for English Learners @jechev
    • Cathy Beck, Leading Learning for ELL Students, @Cathypetreebeck
    • Nancy Motley, Talk Read Talk Write, @NancyMotleyTRTW

2. How to “join”: First and foremost we want to emphasize that anyone is welcome to participate in #EllChat_BkClub. People in a variety of different educational realms have come together in the interest of improving instruction for ELLs. There is absolutely no exclusivity about our group and we welcome everyone! There is not an official way to “join” #EllChat_BkClub. If you’re interested in participating, search #EllChat_BkClub and take it from there. You can click on “recent” and you will see the most recent tweets that have included the hashtag.

3. How to Participate: We now have quite a variety of ways to engage and the beauty of #EllChat_BkClub is that participants can engage to whatever extent they wish! Here is a breakdown of the different ways to comment/reflect on the book:

    • Weekly Questions: I post a reading schedule prior to each round as well as weekly questions from my Twitter account (Toppel_ELD). The questions are listed such as 1Q2. The first number indicates which week of the chat the question is for (chats typically last between 4-6 weeks depending on the length of the book). The Q stands for Question. The second number indicates the number of the question (we typically have between 3 and 9 questions each week). 1Q2 would be week 1, question 2. Participants can respond to any/all questions if they wish. We ask that responses identify which question is being answered by using the numbers listed and changing the Q to an A to indicate Answer. For example if a participant is answering 1Q2 they would include 1A2 in their tweet.  Make sure to include our hashtag so other participants can find your tweets!
    • Photo Tweets: Tweet a pic of your highlighted text, your notes/takeaways, or yourself reading the book. We kicked off round 6 with book selfies, which was really fun! Make sure to include our hashtag so other participants can find your tweets! 
    • Regular Tweets: Nothing fancy here, just tweet anything about the book that fits within 140 characters. Maybe there’s a quote you liked or an idea that came to mind when reading….anything goes. Make sure to include our hashtag so other participants can find your tweets! 
    • BookSnaps: Some participants use #BookSnaps to capture interesting quotes and passages from the text. Essentially a book snap is a photo of text (possibly highlighted text) that allows the reader to annotate and reflect on the content. Many booksnappers add Bitmojis as well. A Bitmoji is your own personal emoji that you can design to look like you. You can create booksnaps using a variety of methods, however common ones are Snapchat, Seesaw, and Buncee. 
  • To learn how to create your own book snaps, see a tutorial here:


  To learn how to create your personalize Bitmoji, see a tutorial here: 


  • Padlet: Sometimes we use Padlet (a virtual bulletin board) to create a shared spot to brainstorm ideas around a particular concept or question. For Boosting Achievement, we asked participants to post ideas relating to how teachers can go about getting to know and building relationships/trust with SIFE. The link to the padlet will be tweeted and then any participants can contribute.

  Take a look at our Boosting Achievement padlet here:

Made with Padlet


Learn how to use Padlet:


  • Flipgrid: We use Flipgrid to add a video component to our discussions. The link to the flipgrid is tweeted and then participants can record videos up to one minute and thirty seconds in length, responding to the questions that were posed or just sharing their thoughts about what they’ve been reading. More than one response can be added when 1:30 just isn’t enough time!

  Check out our Boosting Achievement Flipgrid created by @carlota_holder here.

  Learn how to use Flipgrid: 


  • Storify: At the end of each week, all of the tweets from the current week are compiled using Storify so that participants have everything captured in one easy-to-view place.

  Check out the Storify @HSeslTeacher created for week 3 of #BoostingAchievement: 

  Learn how to use Storify: 


  • Hangouts on Air with Youtube LIVE: During this round, we started doing weekly LIVE Hangouts to discuss the readings. A request for Hangout participants is tweeted and you can choose to either participate in the Hangout (in which case you will be sent a link to join via Direct Message and you are part of the live discussion being broadcast to YouTube) or you can choose to just watch the discussion (in which case you access the video via a link that is tweeted out).

  Check out one of our Hangouts here: 


  Learn how to set up a Hangout on air from youtube LIVE  here: 


  • Share Resources: Another amazing outcome of #EllChat_BkClub is the sharing of resources that has taken place. Participants have created resources and infographics specifically based on the content of books we’ve discussed, which they’ve shared with links and images. Participants have also shared lesson ideas, photos, and articles they’ve found useful and effective for working with English Learners specifically related to the content of the books we’ve read. Why reinvent the wheel when we can share stellar resources within our PLN!

  Take a look at some amazing resources created and shared by @carlota_holder:

  Printable Co-Teaching Models Descriptions

  Free Academic Conversation Cards

As our community of passionate, enthusiastic educators grows, we will likely continue to add additional ways to participate, discuss, and reflect on the amazing books that we are reading. To date we have read the following books:

  • Collaboration and Co-Teaching by Andrea Honigsfeld and Maria Dove
  • ELL Frontiers by Heather Parris, Lisa Estrada, and Andrea Honigsfeld
  • Writers are Readers by Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth
  • Academic Conversations by Jeff Zwiers & Marie Crawford
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond
  • Boosting Achievement by Carol Salva and Anna Matis

We look forward to growing our community and providing stellar PD for interested educators!