Literacy in the NELC

This Week: Celebrating Literacy Success!

ILA’s recently published Frameworks for Literacy Education Reform state: "At school, students need to grow every year to perform at or above grade-level literacy standards".


This week’s issue will focus on the outstanding growth of English Learners at River Eves ES. ESOL Teacher Felicia MacFarland and her team achieved incredible results for their students: Overall, 81% of our students moved up at least one reading level from March 2016. 42% of our students are on level or higher.


Let’s hear from Felicia to learn how they did it!

Q: How often did you work with your team to examine student results? What did you look for and how did this information inform instruction?

The ESOL team assessed active ELs each quarter. Frequent assessment of our students is beneficial because of the fact that language acquisition can vary so broadly amongst our students. Each teacher entered the collected data on Google Drive so that any of us could always access it and see the progress of our whole department. We would discuss students individually, and as the levels came in, we would discuss the different grade levels. During 3rd quarter of this year, a noticeable plateau occurred. Concerned, we looked back at the general pattern of growth from 2014-2015 where growth at the same time frame had been much better.

Q: What were the consistent instructional practices that promoted this growth? Why did you choose these practices? What tools were used to support this instruction?

Personalized learning has always been our focus. Each member of the team decided to use the free website, Teach Your Monster to Read, an adaptive phonics-based program. Especially for our ELs, it is important for our students to practice phonics and language skills. This program helped with both. We analyzed the progress within the program to see how the students were learning letter sounds, blends, and words.


Meeting in small groups for reading also helped each of our students with fluency and comprehension. We were able to not only discuss reading comprehension and reading strategies with the students, but they often took the lead in the discussions in our ESOL classes.

Q: Some students moved several grade levels as readers. How did you gain those strong results?

We noticed the most success and leaps with students whose general education teachers communicate with us to establish best supports and ensure that students read in small groups in their classes as well. It is critical that students are involved in reading groups with native speakers in their regular classrooms and get the double exposure. My emphasis is on student-led learning that is focused on discussions and connections to text. If students are not interested in a text or can’t find any connection to it, it becomes too challenging and they lose interest. As the teacher, this is how I guide the discussions and allow students to uncover connections. It makes for great conversations, and I learn about the students, too.

Q: Last question, what makes you a Literacy Leader?

I promote a love of reading by helping students find connections and ways to relate to the text. If reading the text alone doesn’t help, I oftentimes resort to photographs and videos. This is another wonderful promotion of reading for language learners. Along with the assessment of our ELs, I started a morning Book Club for our EL students in K-2 where different books and magazines were available each month. Most of the time, it was a chance for students to choose from a variety of texts and free read. I also made a point to have read-alouds and discussions to model a joy of reading through fictional stories. For every 10 times students checked in, they got a book to take home. The books they chose from were donated from many places, friends, and fellow teachers. The goal is to get English books into these students’ homes and get a library started. Our hope is they find value in stories and appreciate the incentive of having their own books.