Katy Padilla is a fifth-grade ESOL specialist at Mason Crest Elementary School in Annandale, Virginia, a school with a high percentage of ELLs. Working in collaboration with the rest of the fifth-grade team, she and her colleagues have identified the low reading levels of some of their fifth-grade newcomer ELLs as one of their most pressing challenges.
While pulling students out of the classroom is not typical at Mason Crest, Katy and the team have determined that this approach will build student confidence and comfort and provide an opportunity for targeted lessons away from the larger group setting. Phonics instruction is one component of the school's balanced literacy approach, which includes many different elements, and the team integrates these lessons into a comprehensive plan for students rather than using it as a strategy provided in isolation.
Other ELL supports at Mason Crest include supporting students during classroom focus lessons, co-teaching in a variety of models, front loading and teaching content vocabulary, modified guided reading, modifying materials and the vertical articulation that the ESOL team engages in every day.
Mason Crest is also a school built upon the foundation of collaboration — among classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators. Grade-level teams meet between 4-5 hours per week to plan instruction and then meet for longer periods every couple of months to evaluate student progress.
To learn more about how Mason Crest has developed its collaborative approach, see Chapter 3, "Collaborating in the Core", of It's About Time: Planning Interventions and Extensions in Elementary School, written by Mason Crest principal Brian Butler. The chapter includes detailed charts and schedules showing the ways in which the school has made collaboration a priority and found time for collaboration throughout the school day and school year.