Essential Toolkit: My Favorites

Welcome to “Essentials,” where I share the gems that have significantly shaped my educational journey. Here, you’ll find everything from the books that have inspired me, to the teaching tools that have revolutionized my approach, and the AI-powered instructional design tools that are redefining our field. Each item includes a link, either to Amazon for easy purchasing or directly to the tool’s website where you can learn more or acquire a license. After years of training teachers and founding Juniper Consulting to tackle new challenges, these resources have stood out as true game changers. Dive in, explore, and let’s make every educational adventure innovative and inspiring!

Favorite Reads - Instructional Coaching

Clicking on the images will take you to Amazon.

The Art of Coaching Teams by Elana Agular

Elena Aguilar's "The Art of Coaching Teams" is a must-read for anyone leading educational teams. It goes beyond individual teaching to focus on team dynamics, offering practical guidance on everything from organizing and decision-making to fostering emotional intelligence and resilience. This book has been indispensable in my coaching career, especially as I've focused more on team development than individual coaching. Whether you're an instructional coach, team leader, or administrator, this guide is invaluable for mastering the art of team leadership.

Instructional Coaching by Jim Knight

Jim Knight's work in "Instructional Coaching" is foundational for anyone in the field of educational improvement. This book lays out a systematic, research-based framework for coaching, emphasizing practical strategies like modeling lessons and conducting reflective conversations. It's filled with firsthand stories from successful coaches, useful sidebars, and a wealth of resources for deeper exploration. Knight's insights are essential for instructional coaches seeking to effectively support and inspire teachers in their professional growth. As an experienced practitioner, I can affirm that this book is a timeless resource for educational leaders.

The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar

Elena Aguilar's book on transformational coaching is a cornerstone in my professional library. While Jim Knight has shaped much of what we know about instructional coaching, Aguilar's work is the one I revisit each year. Her focus on adult learners, equity in education, and systemic change makes it an invaluable resource for any educational leader. This book is not just recommended; it's essential. I find the audiobook version particularly helpful for refreshing my strategies before each school year starts.

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier's "The Coaching Habit" offers profound guidance for leaders looking to master the art of coaching in the midst of their busy schedules. This book is a treasure for instructional coaches and leaders alike, emphasizing the power of asking over telling. While not solely for instructional coaches, its principles are universally applicable, teaching us to engage more deeply through powerful questions and concise dialogue. It's a reminder that sometimes less is more, and that's a lesson that resonates well beyond the pages. This book is a strong recommendation for those looking to enhance their coaching interactions and leadership impact.

The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching by Jim Knight

Jim Knight's "The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching" is the culmination of over two decades of research and experience from the Instructional Coaching Group. It's an essential read for those in educational leadership, providing a thorough blueprint for creating a supportive coaching environment that prioritizes student success. With its practical approach to implementing ICG's seven "Success Factors" and real-world insights, this book is an invaluable asset for both new and seasoned coaches aiming to enhance teaching and learning outcomes.

Student Focused Coaching

Shifting the instructional coaching focus towards student outcomes can catalyze real change in the classroom. "Student-Focused Coaching" offers a blueprint for coaches and teachers to collaborate effectively using evidence-based practices. Endorsed by Jim Knight, this guide by Jan Hasbrouck and Daryl Michel equips educators with the tools to become facilitators, problem-solvers, and learners in their shared quest for student success. It's a comprehensive resource packed with practical activities and materials to foster professional growth and improve classroom learning.

Favorite Reads - Professional Learning Communities

Learning by Doing

The works of Richard DuFour and his colleagues are indeed synonymous with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Their comprehensive guide is a vital resource for anyone looking to bridge the gap between knowledge and action in educational settings. It's an invaluable tool for fostering a high-performing PLC, replete with strategies for staff retention, assessment, and intervention, encouraging a culture of collective efficacy and rigorous self-evaluation to truly enhance school improvement processes.

Frequently Asked Questions

This companion guidebook to "Learning by Doing" is perfect for teachers and administrators eager to deepen their understanding of PLCs. With strategies to build positive learning environments and sustain PLC progress, it's an essential tool for addressing common queries and fostering collaborative culture. You'll find it indispensable for navigating the PLC journey and enhancing student learning outcomes.

4th Edition of Learning by Doing

This is on my can't wait to read it list. The fourth edition of "Learning by Doing" is a timely update for PLCs navigating the post-COVID-19 educational landscape. It provides K-12 educators with enhanced strategies for coaching and tools to address learning gaps, with a practical, action-oriented approach to continuous improvement and a multitiered system of supports. This guide is pivotal for educators committed to driving student success and transforming knowledge into impactful action plans.

Favorite Reads for Modeling Instructional Stratgies for Teachers

Teaching Reading Sourcebook - Science of Reading Aligned

The "Teaching Reading Sourcebook" is a cornerstone for ELA coaching, offering extensive research-based strategies for teaching reading. Its comprehensive content on the science of reading, including phonics instruction, is pivotal for educators. I often drew upon its wealth of knowledge for modeling lessons, making it an indispensable tool for impactful literacy instruction. Highly regarded by the NCTQ, it's a resource I wholeheartedly recommend for every ELA educator's toolkit.

Shifting the Balance

"Shifting the Balance" by Dr. Jan Burkins and Kari Yates is an excellent resource for educators looking to harmonize the Science of Reading with balanced literacy approaches. The book presents six practical shifts to enhance early reading instruction, making it a valuable study choice for teacher groups. It’s a guide to integrating sound, evidence-based strategies into reading practices, perfect for those teaching K-2 and seeking a blend of research and practical application.

3rd-5th Grade Shifting the Balance

"Shifting the Balance, Grades 3-5" is an essential guide for upper elementary teachers seeking to align reading instruction with the Science of Reading. It builds on the foundational work by Burkins and Yates, offering six new shifts tailored to the needs of 3rd to 5th graders. The book focuses on research-backed revisions of common practices, providing practical routines for brain-friendly instruction that keeps students at the heart of learning.

Making Words: Grades 1 - 3

"Making Words" is a treasure trove of mini-lessons designed to enhance phonics skills in a fun and interactive way. Ideal for teachers, this book provides activities that help students manipulate letter sound patterns to form new words by adjusting letters or their sequence. It offers a hands-on, non-intimidating approach to practicing phonics and spelling, making it a favorite resource for educators aiming to build foundational reading skills.

Making Big Words: 3rd to 5th Grade

"Making Words" for 3rd to 5th graders transforms phonics and spelling into a fun, interactive experience. This book contains 150 activities that engage students in constructing words using letter patterns, prefixes, suffixes, and more. Each lesson encourages children to explore word formation by altering letters or sequences, enhancing their understanding of language and spelling nuances. It also provides guidelines for tailoring lessons to meet specific educational needs, making it a versatile tool for enriching students' learning experiences.

Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

The 2008 revised 2nd edition is an excellent resource for teachers needing to assess reading skills comprehensively. This collection of tests helps identify the causes of reading difficulties in students and informs the next steps for effective remediation. It's designed to assist teachers in pinpointing instructional needs and monitoring progress throughout the teaching process, making it a valuable tool for enhancing student reading outcomes.

Favorite Tools for Modeling Lessons

Magnetic Letter Tiles

Magnetic letters are my top choice for hands-on phonics lessons. I prepare each lesson by placing the letters we'll use in a snack-sized baggie, then distribute a dry erase marker and magnetic whiteboard to each student. This setup makes learning new phonics skills engaging and effective for students from kindergarten through 5th grade. After seeing these lessons in action, teachers often request their own class sets, making these magnetic letters the most requested item by teachers for their classrooms.

Foam Magnetic Letters

Foam magnetic letters are a popular choice in Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms, though they're not my personal favorite. These letters are soft and engaging for young students but tend to be less durable, often finding their way into little mouths or getting lost. While they are widely used and loved for their tactile appeal, the traditional hard magnetic letters prove to be more practical for repeated classroom use. The bonus for this particular set is it comes with it's own storing case that keeps them neatly sorted.

Organizer for Magnetic Letter Tiles

While the beloved Magnetic Letter Tiles don't come with their own organizer, this particular sorted letter holder is a fantastic storage solution. It allows for easy access and organization, making it simple to distribute tiles into snack-size baggies for hands-on phonics lessons. This holder enhances the efficiency of lesson preparation and helps maintain order in your phonics resources.

Magnetic Whiteboards

This set of six magnetic whiteboards is an excellent tool for enhancing classroom activities. Measuring 9.5" H x 13" W, these boards are perfect for practicing writing, math, and more. They're especially great for student use, as each board comes with a dry erase marker and space for magnets, ideal for various subjects including STEM, art, and geography. The whiteboards are designed with rounded plastic corners and a ribbed frame for durability and easy handling, and their flat, stackable design simplifies storage.

Portable Double Sided Whiteboard

This portable, double-sided magnetic easel whiteboard is ideal for small group phonics lessons. Its double-sided design supports simultaneous use or different content on each side, with a magnetic surface for attaching letters or notes. The board features a stable, adjustable aluminum alloy stand and folds for easy storage. It includes a 12"x 16" surface, three magnetic pens, additional magnetic pieces, and a dry eraser, enhancing its convenience for room-to-room use without losing accessories. The surface is easy to write on and wipe clean.

Magnetic White Board Eraser

These mini cube whiteboard erasers are my top pick for student use during modeled lessons. Made from non-toxic EVA foam and high-density felt, they are durable, washable, and magnetic, easily sticking to any magnetic surface. Lightweight and multifunctional, these erasers effectively clean whiteboards, glass, and other smooth surfaces while also serving as handy magnets. Ideal for classrooms, they're essential for both teachers and students.

Lined Double Sided Dry Erase Board

This whiteboard set is an essential tool for engaging kindergartners and 1st graders in interactive learning. Each set includes 25 double-sided whiteboards, with one side lined for writing and language exercises, and the other plain for drawing and creative tasks. While the included markers are not the highest quality, the boards themselves are invaluable for classroom activities like practicing writing, drawing, and checking understanding. This complete set equips any classroom for a variety of educational activities.

Whisper Phones - Toobaloo

The Toobaloo is hands down my favorite tool for fluency practice and revising writing pieces. Designed to help children learn to read and enhance their speech, this educational tool accelerates reading fluency and pronunciation in a fun and engaging way. Kids love using the Toobaloo because it combines the effectiveness of a learning aid with the appeal of a toy, making it an indispensable addition to any educational toolkit.

Budget Friendly Whisper Phones

Looking for a more budget-friendly alternative to the Toobaloo? Consider this affordable option. The package includes 60 reading phones available in four vibrant colors: red, yellow, blue, and green. These colors cater to different children's preferences, and the ample quantity is perfect for classroom use and replacements. These phonic phones are practical teaching materials designed to enhance children's reading fluency and speech clarity. By using them, children can hear their own voices more clearly, helping them to concentrate on their speech without distracting others.


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