#BookSnaps: 21st-century comprehension

In 2016, Tara Martin (@TaraMartinEDU) first had the idea of using Snapchat with her students as a platform for annotating, analysing and connecting with literature. Tara believes in “meeting students where they’re at” and using tools that they are already engaging with. How many teenagers use Snapchat? A lot! Since 2016, she has developed this idea and it has become a phenomenon. The minimum age for Snapchat is thirteen, but there are many alternative platforms for younger students that work equally well. For more information and video tutorials, visit Tara’s blog.

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My first attempt on Snapchat, highlighting a great quote from Dave Burgess in Teach Like a PIRATE

What is #BookSnaps?

#BookSnaps are images of text that have been digitally annotated using functions like drawing tools, emojis, text labels, etc. One of my favourite tools is Bitmoji (available as an app or Chrome extension). With Bitmoji, you can create your own personal avatar and use it in most forms of communication such as instant messaging, emails, etc. They make great additions to #BookSnaps! (They can also be used to personalise feedback for students).

Why create #BookSnaps?

#BookSnaps can be created by students to annotate and analyse texts in order to demonstrate their understanding. #BookSnaps encourages students to slow down and think deeply about texts, ultimately improving their comprehension skills. It is a creative, fun way for students to do this and, as Tara pointed out, it is relevant to today’s youth. I am also a huge believer in utilising students’ interests. Furthermore, #BookSnaps has proven to help students to retain information.

Alternative platforms

Like I said, students under the age of thirteen should not be using Snapchat. This is typically the minimum age for social media sites/apps. Click here for more information. However, younger students needn’t miss out. Many other platforms offer similar functions. Furthermore, many of the alternative platforms offer unique features that can enhance #BookSnaps. For example, creating one on Seesaw offers the opportunity to add an audio message. When selecting your preferred platform, consider what unique tools they can offer your students.

Here is a list of some alternative platforms for #BookSnaps (there are many others):

  • Seesaw
  • Google Drawings
  • Google Slides
  • Book Creator
  • PicCollage
  • Aviary

Tara has created video tutorials on how to create #BookSnaps on all of the above platforms (and more). Click here to watch them.

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The example above was created on Seesaw by one of my students in response to The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson. He chose this page due to its important message about animal cruelty. Without much prompting, he made connections, identified the main idea, defined an unfamiliar word and expressed his own opinions towards the topic. This might not be the best example of #BookSnaps, but it isn’t bad for a first attempt. This student has demonstrated several reading comprehension strategies in one task and has shared his understanding. For many more examples, I once again encourage you to visit Tara’s blog. Also, check out the very active hashtag on Twitter.

Collaboration with G Suite

As well as creating #BookSnaps independently, there is huge value in creating them collaboratively. G Suite apps are famous for their collaborative capabilities. Even from different locations, students can easily collaborate on the same #BookSnaps and analyse texts together.

Even during independent work, I like to create Google Slide decks with twenty-eight slides (one for each student). Although they have a slide each for independent work, they can see each other’s work, use it for inspiration and even leave comments of encouragement and/or advice for each other. Organising work in this way also makes it easy and convenient for teachers.

Who should create #BookSnaps?

One of the most impressive things about #BookSnaps is how they can be used across all ages. All learners can connect with their texts by creating #BookSnaps. Many kindergarten students are creating #BookSnaps (typically using simpler software such as Seesaw) as well as all other age groups, including adults. If you look through the #BookSnaps hashtag on Twitter, many of the tweets are from teachers who are creating them to support their professional reading. Like I said, they help us to retain the information.

My next steps:

  • Continue to create #BookSnaps to support my own reading (for both professional and fiction texts)
  • Add my #BookSnaps to my class Seesaw and Google Classroom to model the desired thinking
  • Encourage my students to read slowly and carefully, and to use #BookSnaps as a way of responding to key extracts
  • Consider how #BookSnaps could be used within my Year Four team for professional reading (it is a year band target to conduct more professional reading and engage in discussions around them)
  • Create #BookSnaps as part of #pypbookstudy and share these with book study colleagues in between live chats

At this point in blog posts, I would normally encourage you to leave your questions below. I am always happy to answer them and help in any way that I can. However, for #BookSnaps, most of your questions will be answered by exploring Tara’s blog. It is full of fantastic discussions, ideas and tutorials. If you do have further questions, feel free to comment below. If I can’t help you, I will redirect your questions to Tara. I look forward to seeing your upcoming #BookSnaps!

If you and/or your students start creating #BookSnaps, please add your location to Tara’s map:


    1. Hi Karin,

      I think it would work particularly well with secondary students. Please share your students’ #BookSnaps and let me know how it goes. You might find it useful to visit Tara’s site for advice and examples.



  1. Thanks for sharing! I have seen BookSnaps before and thought about using them during our next EdTech Coaches PLN Book Study as a way to share more than the 140 characters that Twitter allows. Sorry that I haven’t been the best Blogging Buddy during the past few weeks. Summer is giving me a chance to unplug and focus on some non-technical things.

    1. Hi Gregory,

      No worries at all. Enjoy your summer break. It’s important to unplug and recharge. You’re still a fantastic Blogging Buddy! Let me know how you get on with #BookSnaps in your study group. I think it could work well.

      Enjoy your break!


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