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The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario is committed to providing professional development for it members in a variety of forms. Teachers are best able to determine what professional development they need to pursue as life-long learners and ETFO Book Clubs are designed for voluntary participation of interested members. As ETFO professional development programs and services continue to evolve to meet the challenging needs of educators and their students, the 2008-2009 season of offerings has been expanded to include book clubs with a focus on classroom management, differentiated instruction, and Kindergarten.

Professional book clubs provide an excellent opportunity for members to reflect on their classroom practice, enhance their professional knowledge, and engage in the professional learning that best meets their needs and the needs of their students.

A book club is a staff learning experience that gives educators an opportunity for professional networking, sharing, and reflection through an in-depth examination of ideas, concepts, research, and strategies presented in a professional resource.

The main goals of ETFO Book Clubs are:

  • To enhance the professional knowledge of our members.
  • To enhance the professional practice of our members.
  • To foster leadership at the local level.
  • To implement high-yield, research-based instructional strategies.
  • To monitor the impact or effects of instructional decisions on students.
  • To reflect on current teaching practices.

When professional book club experiences are tied to the real work of teachers, and to authentic issues they are grappling with in their classrooms, teachers have a deeper understanding of their impact on classroom practice and student learning.


Professional book clubs provide an excellent opportunity for our members to enhance their professional knowledge and practice. Participants attend four two-hour sessions that focus on specific chapters of the various resources highlighted, consider strategies they can try in their classroom, and reflect on and share their experiences within a community of learners. As a facilitator, you will contribute to building leadership capacity within our locals in the area of professional development.

#!28#!Book Club Structure

Grounding is an excellent inclusion activity for introductory meetings.  It serves several purposes including:

  • establishing a norm for respectful listening;
  • bringing people into the here and now;
  • allowing people to connect with one another; and
  • allowing for expression of hopes and apprehensions.

Directions - Each person in round-robin fashion, speaks to these points:

  • name;
  • current role;
  • school;
  • reasons for joining a professional book study; and
  • expectations of the book club experience.
#!20#!Building Inclusion
Any group that meets regularly to work together needs to identify a set of norms or ground rules that will help a group do its work and discourage behaviours that interfere with a group’s effectiveness.  Norms govern how the group will interact, share, and learn together.
It is ideal to set norms at the beginning of a group’s work together inviting group members to suggest ideal behaviours for groups, eventually refining them into an agreed-upon set of norms.  Once established and posted, groups need to continually remind themselves about the norms they have created.
Some topics you may want to raise as starting points for discussion with your group are:
Expectations for behaviour – How will your group relate to one another within (and beyond) the group?  Considering norms in TRIBES such as right to pass, attentive listening, and taking turns, may be helpful.
Shared leadership – How will members share responsibility for the group?  How will decisions be made about what to read, when to meet, and where to meet be made? 
Participation and interaction – How will members work together?  Considering roles such as recorder, timekeeper, and encourager may ensure that all group members become involved in the discussions.
One strategy that may be helpful when reviewing group norms is ‘Round-Robin Reflection’.  In this process everyone takes 30 seconds to silently reflect on the extent to which he/she honoured the group’s norms and to what extent it enhanced the group’s work.  The facilitator then chooses someone at random to share their reflections. When this person is finished then another group member paraphrases what they have heard.  This process is repeated in round-robin fashion beginning with the person to the right of the first speaker.
#!22#!Establishing Group Norms

A book club facilitator guides a group of participants through an interactive discussion of a selected title. The facilitator organizes the session and conducts the meetings.  Group members can expect the facilitator to use open-ended questions, wait time, and paraphrasing to encourage participation.  The facilitator also emphasizes the importance of keeping the discussion on track, focusing on one topic or task at a time.  The person in this role is not an expert and should remain neutral allowing group members to share different perspectives.  All group members are valued and encouraged to participate in their own way.

#!24#!The Role of the Facilitator

ETFO Book Clubs are offered in partnership between locals and the provincial office.  Facilitator guides, such as this one, have been developed by members to support you as you facilitate this book club.

#!26#!Roles and Responsibilities
Regardless of the nature of the group and its purpose, some basic needs must be met within the group setting for it to be as focused, productive,  and interactive as possible. A good facilitator looks for signs of the characteristics listed below to determine whether it provides the kind of satisfaction group members need. Periodically it may be helpful to give group members time to evaluate the extent to which the group is meeting their individual needs.
The following are important needs group members value.  As the group evolves, it is about finding the balance between the needs of the group members and the group work that needs to be accomplished.
Feeling a sense of belonging – Group members need a collaborative environment where they feel safe and supported in their presence and their contribution to the group’s work.
Commitment to group goals – Group members achieve commitment when they see value in the goals selected, having a part in selecting and refining those goals, and directing the group process.
Sense of progress – It is important to give group members opportunities to reflect on their progress toward goals so that members feel a sense of accomplishment.
Having confidence in the facilitator – A good facilitator establishes a supportive, risk free learning environment emphasizing the importance of professional dialogue.  The facilitator organizes the sessions and conducts the meetings.  The person in the role of facilitator is not intended to be an expert and should remain neutral, allowing participants to share different perspectives.
#!18#!Needs of Individuals in Groups
When developing a group’s capacity for powerful conversations, Robert Garmston suggests that group members set aside unproductive patterns of listening, talking, and participating.
However, from time-to-time, facilitators may need to confront challenging situations.  Late arrivals at meetings, overbearing participants, and conflict among group members can negatively impact on a group.  Although there is no “right” way to respond to these problems, here are some possible solutions to common problems faced by facilitators.
Non talker – Honour an individual’s right to pass.  Each member has the right to choose when and to what extent they will participate in the group discussion; ask open ended questions and learn to be silent.
Underminer –  Focus on the agenda and topics agreed upon by the group.  Don’t acknowledge or over react; at the end of the session revisit the group norms and their purpose.
Rambler – When the member pauses, refocus attention by restating the relevant points and move on; ask "How does that relate to ________?"
Side talker – Re-direct conversation by asking the person an easy question or to paraphrase what has been stated; create a parking lot (flip chart, sticky notes) to post questions or issues that can be discussed in a later session.
Over talkative – State "We only have a limited amount of time today. We want everyone to have a chance.”
#!16#!Knowing Your Participants

Robert Garmston. ‘Teacher Talk That Makes a Difference’ Educational Leadership, ASCD, April 1998
Garmston, R. & Wellman, B.  ‘The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups’, Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 1999
Richardson, J. ‘Norms Put the ‘Golden Rule’ into Practice for Groups’, Tools for Schools, NSDC, August-September 1999
Easton, L.B. ‘Powerful Designs for Professional Learning’ NSDC, 2004
Richard G. Weaver & John D. Farrell. ‘Managers as Facilitators: A Practical Guide to Getting Work Done in a Changing Workplace’, McGraw Hill, 1999
Bennett J., Dawson R., & Torney. ‘Book Study Facilitator’s Guide for Teaching Student-Centred Mathematics.’ Pearson Education Canada, 2007
Wisconsin Staff Development Council –

#!14#!Further Reading