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Trailer: The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast
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083: Choice Reading Check-in: #Booksnaps (with Tara Martin)

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Are your students as obsessed with Snapchat as the ones at my school? While I know I just seem out-of-touch when I question it’s validity to them, I can’t help but wonder what good it does for them to take so many thousands of pictures of themselves.

Enter, Tara Martin, education leader and creative Snapchat-spinner. She’s taken students’ love of the snap and spun it into a worldwide phenomenon that helps students connect to books, creating a new 21st century form of annotation in the process. Today we’re talking about how she came up with the concept of booksnaps, how to use them in the classroom, and why they work so well for students today.

You can listen to our conversation on the podcast player below or on Apple PodcastsBlubrry, Spotify, or Stitcher. And/or, you can read on for the highlights.

By the way, today’s podcast comes with a CHALLENGE! Get into the spirit of booksnaps after you listen by downloading Snapchat and creating a booksnap of your own to post to Twitter or Instagram. It’ll be an easy first step to getting the hang of this creative method and engaging with the wider #booksnaps community. Tag me so I can come and cheer you on!

Here’s my first effort, a snap of Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down. I was struggling a little on the Snapchat dashboard so I didn’t quite get all the highlighting and color added that I want to next time, but it’s something to build on! I did manage to create my own “sticker,” something I’m very proud of.


OK, let’s get to it.

How it all began

When her son was fifteen, Tara Martin got a phone bill that showed her he was spending eight hours a day on Snapchat. While her first instinct was to delete the app from his phone, he soon convinced her that he needed Snapchat to connect with his friends, the same way she once needed hours on the phone in the evening, talking to her peers from the privacy of the bathroom. (Are the memories coming flooding back? I’m suddenly remembering long, awkward chats with my first crush in middle school).

So, she wondered to herself, how could she use the app for good? If teens everywhere were so drawn to it, how could that be channeled into “edu-awesomeness”?

And so came the booksnap, a new twist on annotation, made possible by everyone’s favorite little yellow ghost. Tara’s son got her set up on the platform and she took a picture of a page from the book she was reading, Teach Like.a Pirate, added her own Bitmoji, highlighting and annotation, and posted it to Twitter. Soon the author, Dave Burgess, noticed her booksnap and commented.

So began a new phase of her career, and a new movement among educators.

This seems like a good time to show you exactly how Booksnaps work. Below, you’ll see Tara’s helpful how-to for creating one in Snapchat, which is a great place to start, since that will give you the reference point for connecting the project to many teens’ favorite app. But once you get the idea, you can quickly branch out to use whatever app or program you prefer. Tara’s got videos to help you launch booksnaps on any class platform.

After you watch below, you can click to see all the how-to videos for Snapchat, Seesaw, Google Slides, Flipgrid, Google Drawing, Flipgrid Appsmash, Book Creator, Buncee, whenever you’re ready.


One of the great things about booksnaps is that they allow you to accept that students will have their phones, and get them using them for their learning so they aren’t using them for other things during class.

But if your school doesn’t allow students to have their phones, or you prefer to use another app, that’s just fine. It doesn’t matter how you create the booksnaps in class, what matters is that you’re connecting their reading with a method of expressing themselves that students already like and feel comfortable with, and you’re engaging their brains in a way that helps them remember information.

Reading comprehension happens in the left side of your brain, but the booksnaps also let them engage the creative and artistic parts of the right side. By engaging both with the content, you let the content move from the working memory to the track to the long term memory. They will remember what happened around their booksnap months later.

One quick and important point: students save or screenshot their booksnaps to share, there’s no need to friend them in Snapchat!

Booksnaps are now on the Common Core website as a comprehension strategy. Though Snapchat may fade, we will always be attracted to visual representations of learning, it’s simply the way modern communication is moving.


Booksnap Examples from Tara Martin, using Snapchat
How to introduce Booksnaps

There are a few basics for any booksnap:

  • The title and author of the book (having students add a sticker of the book cover is an easy way to make sure this gets included)
  • A bitmoji showing the reader’s reaction or emotions as they process what’s on the page they’ve photographed
  • A pull quote or an annotation of some kind to interpret or respond to the text

There are a lot of ways you could use booksnaps in class, but one easy and popular option Tara recommends is to open a collaborative Google slideshow and let every student drag a booksnap related to the day’s reading onto a slide. Or you can even have everyone booksnap the same passage. At this point let students view and respond to each other’s takeaways.

Sharing #Booksnaps + Digital Citizenship

Try letting students post their booksnaps on Padlet, or post them to a class account on Twitter to participate in the larger #booksnaps community. Then get students commenting on each other’s work.

Monitoring their comments and guiding them to make edits as needed can lead to wonderful conversations about digital citizenship and what it means to be a responsible internet citizen. Out in the world beyond your classroom walls, you know your students are commenting, liking, and not liking like mad, so giving them a chance to practice with your help in class is a great opportunity for them.

You can show kids other booksnaps from the Twitter community from all over the world. In May, Tara hosts a booksnaps challenge to help inspire kids to keep reading as the school year comes to a close for many. You might want to get involved in this challenge.

Participating in the wider community also gives you the potential to tag authors and potentially set up Google hangout conversations between your classes and the people who wrote their books.

Booksnap by Tara Martin, using Book Creator 


Booksnap by Tara Martin, using Google Slides

Looking at booksnaps from students in other countries is an intriguing cross-cultural experience, since students can tell a lot from the images and Bitmojis, even if they can’t read the words of the text. Checking out booksnaps from students around the world reading the same books as your students can lead to wonderful conversations.

You might even consider finding a partner teacher in another country and tweeting your booksnaps to each other to share on purpose. (Hop into my collaborative Facebook group, Creative High School English, to look for a partner anytime).

Booksnap on Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, by a student of English teacher Katie Leahy

Independent Reading Inspiration

Having students create booksnaps about their independent reading books is a great way to do a quick check-in. And at Tara’s school, they turned those snaps into a slideshow they played on a community screen in the cafeteria, promoting literacy and leading many students to head off in search of new titles to read. This is an easy win, letting students see their own work being celebrated while also being supported in their literacy growth.

If your school has stray screens here and there broadcasting the weather, the daily schedule, announcements, etc., perhaps a colorful array of booksnaps could have their turn now and then.



Connect with Tara Martin


“Tara Martin is an enthusiastic educator, national speaker, and author who thrives on change and refuses to settle for the status quo. She has served as a classroom teacher, an instructional coach for several years, and most recently, a district administrator.

As the founder of #BookSnaps, the latest reading comprehension strategy currently implemented in seventeen countries, she is always seeking unique ways to make learning fun, relevant, and meaningful.

Tara is the author of the inspirational book, Be REAL: Educate from the Heart and Cannonball In, a motivating children’s book illustrated by Genesis Kohler. Tara firmly believes machines and artificial intelligence will never replicate an individual’s REAL identity–the unique strengths, talents, and life experiences of every human. Tara’s passion for education and love of writing led her to a new role where she coaches and serves educational authors as the Director of Public Relations and Communication for DBC, Inc.”

Visit Tara’s Website
Follow Tara on Twitter
Follow the #booksnaps hashtag on Twitter

Want to help students focus as they listen to your First Chapter Friday readings? Sketchnotes can help! Grab my free pack of six fun templates here. 




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