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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Waiting for a Psycho-educational Assessment?

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Nov 24, 2021 @ 06:47 PM

Students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, social or emotional difficulties, or any other learning challenge can significantly benefit from having a psychoeducational assessment performed. They offer valuable direction for a child's future development and needed support. In fact, an assessment can be an excellent investment even when you don't suspect a learning disability, as it can evaluate a child's difficulty comprehending assignments or completing work accurately or on time.

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Unfortunately, the wait time for a psychoeducational assessment inside the Canadian school system can be long, sometimes two years or more. Sadly wait times have increased due to Covid-19 school closures.  Assessments are also available through private sources but often cost thousands of dollars, which makes them a nonviable option for many.

The good news is that Halifax Learning’s free reading assessment, while not a replacement for a full psychoeducational assessment, can expertly and accurately highlight where students need support now. That makes it a good option while you wait for a more comprehensive evaluation. 

What Is a Psychoeducational Assessment?

For students who need to access additional or customized learning support, a psychoeducational assessment is a must. It identifies learning challenges in students of all ages, from young children to adults, and provides a deeper understanding of their educational abilities. It also helps diagnose the root cause of a student’s academic or behavioural challenges, signs of which can include:

  • Low report card grades
  • Difficulty focusing during class
  • Disruptive behaviour in the classroom
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed during tests
  • Not performing at full potential academically

The assessment process involves interviews, document reviews, formal testing, and completion of rating scales and questionnaires. The resulting report provides recommendations for special services and resources in both the home and school environments. 

Sometimes parents are worried an assessment will find something is “wrong” with their child. But people with reading and other learning challenges are often quite intelligent. They just don’t process learning the same way other students do. Identifying a child’s unique style and determining their cognitive strengths and weaknesses is an important first step in getting them the necessary support to improve their academic performance; it can even increase their enjoyment of school! 

How Halifax Learning assesses a student’s needs

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person assessments measure a student’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and weaknesses and give us a picture of the way the student is reading. 

Halifax Learning believes  all children can learn to read and read well. Our fully integrated approach uses language-based reading and writing activities to help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills. 

To learn more about our story and how we can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us or book an in-person or online reading assessment today.

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Helpful tips for Parent Teacher Meetings

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Nov 12, 2021 @ 07:15 AM

Parent-teacher conferences are put in place for communication, accountability, to celebrate success, and to overcome challenges. They are an opportunity for teachers to relay insight about a child's interactions with their peers, their approach and attitude towards challenging material, and their reactions to new emotions and ideas.  Everyone should take advantage of this time, albeit limited, to increase opportunities for the success of the student. 

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Halifax Learning has educators with years of experience as public school teachers and also clinicians working as reading specialists. The tips below are a collection of experiences we’ve found most useful when communicating with parents. At Halifax Learning we have the privilege of frequent parent-teacher consultations.  We also have a systematized assessment procedure that also ensures a discussion at the mid point of a SpellRead student's programming and upon completion of the program. 

Here are 5 ways to maximize your parent-teacher conference.

1. Don't Wait!

Don't wait for Parent-Teacher Conferences to open lines of communication. Remember, you are a team and communication is critical. We all know our public school teachers are overwhelmed with demands, but offering support, relevant information and ensuring you're supporting your child's needs at home will only reduce the demands on our classroom teachers.

You can help support your child's classroom teacher by asking for advice on ways you can support your child at home. Ask for recommendations for:

  • an online course, reading material or an upcoming conference that puts a spotlight on your child's learning challenges. 
  • an incentive program that can be carried out both at home and in the classroom. 
  • additional practice, activities and/or apps.
  • professional services and support in your community. 

2. Ask for Honesty

Give your child's teacher permission to be honest. Let them know you are prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly in order to move forward. In order for your child to thrive, the adults overseeing their education need to work together, even if it hurts. 

Teachers want to tell all parents that their child is exceeding expectations and your child's teacher is likely agonizing over focusing on the positive. As hard as it is to receive difficult news, it's also hard to share it, but when we sugar coat reality, we are providing a disservice to our students.  At Halifax Learning, ss providers of a structured literacy program, too often we are asked why no one spoke up sooner. When parents ask for honesty and open communication, parents and teachers can more quickly develop solutions for the child's learning needs.

3. Share Information

The golden rule for teaching success is "get to know your students" and no one knows your child better than you do. Relationships are paramount and parents can help fast track this process by sharing as much information as possible. Share with your child's teacher:

  • the challenges and successes that have defined your child.
  • what motivates your child.
  • what causes your child anxiety.
  • what programs and services they have received up to this point.
  • the strengths and challenges you face as a parent in reinforcing the goals set out by your child's teacher.

4. Include the Student

Your child is the subject of your meeting and one of your best sources of information.  Students should have an opportunity to assess and provide feedback about their teacher, classmates, and learning environment. Yes, a child's perspective can be skewed, but regardless, what they perceive to be true impacts their learning outcomes.

How they feel matters and can help inform their educational journey. Have multiple, meaningful and intentional conversations with your child about their experiences at school and record their comments in a journal at a later time. Ask your child specific questions and allow them to express their feelings completely. After several conversations about school, reflect on your notes and look for patterns that resulted in success or presented barriers for your child's learning. Take this information to your child's teacher with the intention of finding a resolution, not to point fingers. 

5. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

Advocating for your child doesn't mean being a bully and making unreasonable demands. Asking informed questions with the expectation of an informed response is well within your rights. When it comes to your child's reading, you should ask: 

  • When were you last able to read with my child one on one? 
  • What are they reading in comparison to their peers? 
  • What do you notice about my child's reading? Are they using compensatory strategies such as memorization, context or pictures to guess or are they using the sound-letter relationship of the alphabet code to attack unknown words?
  • Are you teaching the five core components of essential reading skills? How? 

… 

If your child is struggling to read, remember:

✓ Reading skills do not develop in a short time.

✓ 95% of the developing readers benefit from explicit, systematic instruction to decipher the alphabetic code.

✓ Developing readers need multiple, repetitive opportunities to master skills.

✓ Reading programs must incorporate all five of the core components to ensure skilled, confident, reading.

✓ Halifax Learning uses evidence-based programming that offers effective, sustainable results, delivered by exceptional, experienced, experts. 

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Understanding The Science of Reading

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Nov 04, 2021 @ 08:00 AM

Halifax Learning embraces the Science of Reading. It’s a term often used when discussing remedial reading programs, but many parents we talk to aren’t entirely clear on what it means. 

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We know that being a proficient reader has a huge impact on a child’s entire education. In this post, we want to talk about what the science of reading is and how it enables students to succeed not only in reading but in all areas of learning.

What is The Science of Reading?

As the name implies, the science of reading is based on methods and statistical analyses drawn from the work of experts in education, special education, psychology, neurology, literacy, and more. Over 20 years in the making, their evidence-based body of knowledge has helped uncover the deficiencies in traditional observation-based methods. 

The conclusive research of the science of reading gives educators the information they need to gain a deeper understanding of how children learn to read, what skills are involved, and which parts of the brain are responsible for reading development. From the research, experts have been able to develop a best practices approach for teaching foundational literacy skills often called “structured literacy.”

By helping educators understand the cognitive processes essential for reading proficiency, the science of reading helps prevent many reading difficulties in young students who are most at-risk. And studies have shown that for students in higher grades, intensive phonemic awareness and decoding training coupled with opportunities for repeated practice with reading controlled text has been highly effective. 

How Science of Reading Differs From Traditional Reading Instruction

Conventional reading instruction emphasizes whole world memorization, which can impede a student’s progress. Phonics empowers students by increasing their reading power. Here’s how it works.

Reading development can be divided into three stages: letters and sounds, phonic decoding, and orthographic or spelling mapping. When a child memorizes 10 words, they generally can read those 10 words well. However, if the child learns the sounds of 10 letters, they can read:

  • 350 three-sound words
  • Over 4,300 four-sound words
  • 21,650 five-sound words

As learning to read is a complex neurological process, it only makes sense to use evidence-based methods to support all readers.

Are Phonics and Science of Reading the Same Thing?

The science shows that systematic, explicit phonics instruction is the foundation for successful reading. Yet while phonics, which is about decoding words, is a critical component in early reading education, other techniques are used by educators to keep students focused and energized as they master challenging skills. The science of reading also:

  • Incorporates connecting phonics to spelling instruction.
  • Recognizes the importance of language and reading comprehension.
  • Focuses on building vocabulary and background knowledge.
  • Helps students develop comprehension skills.

So, while phonics is certainly an essential element in the science of reading, it’s not the whole thing, in fact, ​​ efficient reading instruction includes: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency, and reading comprehension - all working together.

How Halifax Learning Can Help

Halifax Learning is committed to transforming students’ lives through the power of reading. Halifax Learning's delivery of the SpellRead Program is a fully integrated approach based on specific skill mastery that uses language-based reading and writing activities to help children, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills.

To learn more about the science of reading and how Halifax Learning can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us today.

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Why Parents Love Halifax Learning's Assessments

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Oct 27, 2021 @ 11:21 AM

If your child struggles to perform as expected in school, you may have been advised to have them take part in a psychoeducational assessment. These assessments can be invaluable in both identifying areas of need and helping your child understand their strengths so they can apply them in the classroom and daily life.

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A psychoeducational assessment involves an in-depth interview with the parents, your child, and teachers as well as personal observation and multiple standardized assessments. One downside to the assessments in the Canadian school system is that it can take two or more years to obtain one. To get one sooner, you’ll need to pay a private psychologist or agency.

Halifax Learning’s Reading Assessment

Fortunately, there is another option available while you wait for the more comprehensive psychoeducational assessment.

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person reading assessments are accurate, reliable tools that help measure your child’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They can be highly beneficial for students with learning disabilities or other social or emotional challenges.

Parents who have their child assessed through our program come to us for a variety of reasons:

  • Their child’s school has pointed out areas of concern, including low literacy skills.
  • The parents themselves have noticed their child is behind academically.
  • The student has been diagnosed with or suspected to have a learning disability or ADHD.
  • The "the Covid Slide" has caused a student to fall behind their peers.
  • They were referred by the school, an educator, or another professional such as a psychologist or speech therapist.

For more than 20 years, we’ve delivered the best evidence-based reading support program for thousands of Halifax students and would love to do the same for your child.

How Our Reading Assessment Works

Available in-person or online, our professional reading assessments are free of charge, quick and comprehensive, and for all ages. They take approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Once concluded, we can meet with you to review the results and provide you with a copy of your child’s assessment and any other resources necessary to meet their goals. The results of this initial evaluation are then used as a benchmark for the student’s midpoint progress and exit assessments.

The assessment itself measures phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency and comprehension, word recognition, and spelling and writing skills. It provides us with an understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, so we have a clear view of the way they’re reading. We can then introduce specific strategies and techniques that can dramatically improve reading ability and comprehension, often within one year. Best of all, your child gains reading comprehension and fluency skills they can use for a lifetime.

Progress Reports

Once your child is enrolled in our program, their progress is tracked weekly so you can request a check-in at any point. Two additional assessments are performed during the program, one halfway through and the other at its conclusion. These assessments give us a clear picture of your child’s progress and let you see how well your child is advancing, where they’re excelling, and which areas might still need improvement.

At Halifax Learning, we believe every child should have the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. Our fully integrated approach to improving reading skills uses language-based reading and writing activities that help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, develop into strong, confident readers. To book an in-person or online reading assessment or to learn more about how our program can support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us today.

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The Covid Learning Slide: A Year Later

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Oct 19, 2021 @ 06:24 AM

Educators have long dealt with the “summer slide,” the loss of learning that takes place while students are on summer break. Today, a new phrase, “the COVID slide,” presents a whole range of novel educational challenges.

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When we first wrote about this phenomenon in September 2020, we talked about how the COVID slide turned the school system upside down, disrupting millions of children, families, and teachers. Sadly, a year later, the slide has continued, with experts calling the education disruption a “shadow pandemic” that’s widening learning gaps and causing Canadian students, particularly those at-risk, to fall behind their global peers.

While many educators are eager to emphasize their students remain motivated and are on target with their schoolwork, they also acknowledge a concern about students not keeping up academically. They especially worry about students who have underlying learning challenges or lack appropriate resources to keep pace.

Fortunately, there are things parents can do to help their children who might be experiencing COVID slide, including investing in online instruction such as Halifax Learning’s SpellRead Program.

Shrinking Learning Gaps to Minimize Disruption

Many experts agree addressing learning gaps now can go a long way in keeping students’ education journeys on track. Student well-being, home-school resources, and consistent evaluation and assessment, they say, can help at-risk students by providing flexible approaches to the delivery of learning.

These same experts also see the current crisis as offering an opportunity to improve educational pathways for learners and build resilience for all students. They believe educators can alleviate student learning loss that many say will last through the end of 2021’s school year by putting three crucial initiatives in place:

  1. Acting now to reduce learning gaps and commit for the long term.
  2. Embracing holistic and flexible interventions that enhance the multiple worlds of individual students, including resources that enable the use of a variety of delivery methods.
  3. Rethinking and embedding evaluation and assessment components to maximize impact.

Including students and parents in the design and delivery of learning interventions is an especially useful way of achieving these goals. Programs like SpellRead can accelerate learning and ensure a student receives the ongoing support and assessments they need to thrive and meet their full potential.

How Parents Can Help Students Experiencing COVID Slide

Before they can help their child cope with the pandemic’s effects on their studies, parents must recognize how their child is doing. Has the child lost interest in subjects they once thrived at? Are they using the phrase “I hate reading” more often? These might be the sign of academic struggle. At-home reading lessons that include activities in phonemic, phonetic, and language-based reading and writing can ensure a child’s skills in these areas remain current with their grade level while keeping them engaged in overall learning.

A University of Alberta study confirms that students who were already struggling with reading are falling even further behind in their reading skills due to the COVID slide. Halifax Learning is committed to helping educators, students, and their families, turn the situation around. To learn more about the COVID slide and how our program can help your child strengthen their reading skills, reach out to us today.

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Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Oct 08, 2021 @ 12:42 PM

Every child that comes through our doors is unique and bright. We love getting to know their personalities and strengths, and we also love helping them work through their struggles with reading and building strong, confident readers.

In celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month, we want to share the story of one of our students. It’s a story of struggle and success, recognizing the signs of a struggling reader and knowing there is help available.

If you wonder if your child is developing age-appropriate phonological skills, we offer a complimentary Speech and Language screening. We can help you determine if your child is meeting communication milestones by gaining and using skills as expected for their age. Click to learn more and sign up.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story, as told by his mother, Kirsten.

 

Our child is a bright, loving and caring boy. What we didn't expect were the other traits he was blessed with, such as and not limited to; difficulty with; reading, performing tasks in a specific order, the order of the days of the week, expressing himself, anxiety and temper tantrums at home, but not in the classroom. We thought that this was normal child behaviours for the age, and as individuals, we each possess our unique personalities and such, so this will pass, and we will move on, no big deal, right? It wasn't until we discovered our child wasn't at the same level in reading and writing as his peers in a classroom setting that there may be something else at play here. How could he know a word on one page of a book but not recognize the same word on the next page, or mixing up the order of events or tasks, and why can he spell a word out loud but struggles to spell it correctly when written. I admit, I also struggled with learning to read, spelling, reading out loud, and several other things. Even with my struggles and experiences, I still failed to recognize the signs until hearing about the struggles he had in the classroom environment compared to his peers.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story (brothers)

We started down the path of discovery with the help of the school. He was in grade 2 at this time, and the teacher sat with me to show me examples of writing from other students compared to our child's writing skills. She showed me samples of the books others were reading compared to the ones he was reading; they differed more than I realized. Without that comparison, I was unaware until that moment what position my son was actually in. How did we not know about this sooner as he was about to start grade 3 next year? We had a lot of unanswered questions at this point. 

The first step was to engage a speech and language pathologist as part of a program offered through the school over the summer break. He passed with flying colours in all areas and was on par or exceeded his peers in some areas. Given this, we were puzzled. It was recommended that we try tutoring, which we did, and it wasn't working. It was then recommended that we obtain a full education assessment by a trained psychologist. This was something we could do through the school; however, there was a large demand for this service, and the wait was over five years long.

We had recently moved back home to Nova Scotia at the time, both my husband and myself were laid off by our former employers out west in the downturn, and we took this opportunity to move back home. We were in the process of finding a family home while temporarily renting. Our son was missing his friends; the family pet passed away, I had a baby to care for, I started a new job, my husband wasn't working, among many other challenges knocking on our front door. All of those things aside, we decided that for the best interest of our oldest child, we needed to go privately for an assessment and figure out the finances, so we did just that. We engaged our family doctor and found a reputable resource to perform the assessment. The assessment process was long and painful for all involved. Having said that, every bit of the pain was worth the effort. We underwent several interviews as a family, lots of paperwork and surveys were completed and submitted by the school, our doctor and myself. Our son underwent many hours of testing and interviews, taking lots of breaks to get through it all before we finally had a diagnosis. It was very thorough, which gave me confidence we had an accurate result. It was discovered that our son has all of the following, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, anxiety and poor working memory, quite the cocktail of a mix. Even though we applied for disability on our taxes, we did not qualify since it was determined by the government that they felt our son wasn't affected by these challenges 100% of the time, so any financial support was all up to us. We didn't let this get us down. Once we had the diagnosis and recommendations from our psychologist, the real work began.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story

After a few tears, laughs, realizations, self-reflection and a few more tears, mainly due to the fears of the unknown ahead of me for our family and our son, I quickly got to work, and I started researching like crazy. I ordered reading material. I reached out to other parents, friends and family that had children with similar diagnoses, friends that were officially diagnosed and living every day with these same challenges to bounce ideas off of, building up a support system and learning about what resources were available to us. During the research process, SpellRead was mentioned more than once by the resources in that support system. I admit I didn't love the cost as we had many obligations at this time in our life, and COVID-19 was just about to hit us, adding further uncertainty to all of this. We had been taking part in the Reading Recovery program offered at the school, but that wasn't enough when COVID-19 hit us as we lost the in-person interaction. We decided, in the end, to engage SpellRead and see where this would take us all as a family and give SpellRead a chance. We owed this to our son to provide him with the best possible chance to grow and build up his skills. We were skeptical in the beginning but stuck with it since it came so highly recommended by others within our personal support system. It took a couple of tries to get him into the right online class. Keep in mind that we were all just sent home from schools and offices as COVID-19 hit us, so emotions and uncertainty were very high at this time for us all. This added many new stresses into the mix that we didn’t have to contend with before like, working from home and homeschooling. For our family, this was a very challenging and stressful time as with just about every other family and business working together to figure things out.

The staff at SpellRead were very patient and willing to work with us through the process during this difficult time to ensure our son was in the right class for his specific individual needs. The first six months were a struggle for our son in the program, and in general, as life threw some interesting challenges our way as a whole family. We stuck with the program and believed in their teachings. We were skeptical at times; we stuck with it anyway and trusted the program. We completed the homework and practiced when we could. The flashcards worked great for us in the car on road trips or long drives when we needed to get out of the house and have a change of scene or to check on the progress of our home build, which had significant delays due to COVID-19 and presented us with a whole other set of challenges associated with that.

We also enrolled in the summer program to keep our son fresh in his reading and writing skills over the summer. We are finally moved into our new home just in time for our son to attend a new school and go into grade 4, along with his little brother starting pre-primary. He is currently in the next phase of the program, where the program's focus is on real words and decoding of real words. Since having our son in the program, he has gained so much more confidence with reading, writing, and so much more. Some of the changes we have seen since the program began are and are not limited to; He is no longer guessing at words. He is taking the time to sound things out more often and trying bigger words without a big a fit or blow-up of emotions. He is spelling with more confidence, he's picking up harder books to read on his own, reading difficult words while playing video games he plays as well as, show and movie titles. He doesn't always spell a word correctly. However, I can make out what he has tried to spell for the most part whereas in the past, I would have to get him to read it to me since it was quite cryptic when written. Even though he didn't know what he wrote most of the time. This still happens but not nearly as frequently and happens more frequently when he is tired or needs a snack. All of these are huge wins in our books. Oh, and another fun one that I must mention is, if my husband and I spell out a word to one another in secret, he is starting to know what the word is we spell out loud, even if we do it super fast! I can't express just how far he has come from where we started and it's all down to all of our hard work and dedication. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but it's true! It takes a community to raise a child.

Of course, there is still work to be done as he has a learning disability, this will not change, the program afforded him newfound confidence he didn't have before, which is invaluable and a big part of success in learning. This program has proven to be a benefit to our son's learning and we are glad we stuck with it despite the many challenges dealt with us these past few years. The financial side is a very small price to pay for his confidence and individual growth, which he will need to succeed and thrive in the world with all of the traits he was blessed with. The main piece of advice I can offer you is, stick with it and don't give up. Your kids are worth the effort and hug them often.

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Linking Early Speech to Reading

By Natalie Corbett Sampson, MSc, SLP(C) on Thu, Aug 19, 2021 @ 04:01 PM

Children typically start reading in the first years of elementary school, but building foundational skills to do so starts several years before they start sounding out words. Words of any language are made by mixing up and combining individual sounds. As babies learn to create words to speak, they do so by gaining phonological awareness; the ability to hear individual sounds and manipulate sounds to create and change the meaning. For example, by three a child knows that for most nouns, you add a /s/ sound to the end to mean more than one (cat to cats).writing connections

As children learn to speak, they often go through a period of time where their use of sounds is inaccurate. They may drop sounds from words, use the wrong sounds in the wrong places, leave out whole syllables. Examples of these common errors are:‘top!’ for ‘stop!’, ‘tat’ for ‘cat’ and ‘nana’ for ‘banana’. Speech errors are part of the learning process, as with crawling and walking, researchers have developed a timetable of milestones to mark expected ages by which children will use each sound accurately. 

But what if they don’t?

When speech errors persist beyond the age they are expected to be corrected, a Speech Language Pathologist may recommend intervention to improve the child’s use of sounds in words, phrases and sentences. Speech therapy will help a child improve intelligibility which in turn boosts confidence and communication skills and reduces frustration and negative behaviour. 

And strengthens a shaky foundation for reading. 

The sounds the child is struggling within speaking are the same ones she will need to use to read. Having a strong enough understanding of ‘t’ and ‘k’ so she can hear the difference and produce them differently helps when learning the letters that represent the sounds. 

English is hard. It has 44 sounds but only 26 letters, spelling rules and exceptions to rules, words that look the same and sound different, words that sound the same and look different. It’s important that all early readers have as many tools in their toolbox as possible including intelligible speech, strong phonological skills and the confidence to tackle reading head-on that comes with being a competent, assured communicator.

Are you wondering if your child is developing age-appropriate phonological skills?  We offer a complimentary Speech and Language screening to help you determine if your child is meeting communication milestones by gaining and using skills as expected for their age.  Simply click below to learn more and sign up.

Speech Language Screener

 

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Black History Month 2021

By Shakisha Downey on Sun, Feb 14, 2021 @ 01:41 PM

February is Black History month in Nova Scotia.

We are so appreciative that our own Shakisha was willing to share her story and some excellent resources on why we need to focus on Black History this month and every month.  

Thank you Shakisha for all you do for Halifax Learning and for sharing.

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Below are 11 articles and videos that I believe everyone in Nova Scotia should read, reflect on and consider as we start 2021. It is a lot of information BUT if we are to really examine the history of Black Nova Scotians and have meaningful and informed conversations about Black History and the experiences of Black Nova Scotians, this is a good starting point. 

I would encourage you to download and read one of these pieces each week, giving time to reflect on the social context in between. 

I chose these pieces to share because they are very close to home to me. It was not until I began my Social Work program at Dalhousie University that I realized how truly removed and unengaged I was about my own cultural history, even as a Black Nova Scotian from the largest Black community in Canada, North Preston. 

My ancestors were refugees from America and Jamaica who upon arrival to Nova Scotia were provided land in what is known today as the Preston communities. These communities were nearly impossible to build up and support efficient standards of living. Despite an incredibly rich legacy of dedication to the land they built into the communities they are today, residents of Preston still struggle for clear titles from the government to land that has now been in our families for many generations. In this way, structures in society enable the segregation of Black peoples within areas associated with and subject to poverty, crime, waste and pollution. In addition, the media predominantly portrays North Preston, in particular, as dangerous, violent, and puts emphasis on the issues of drugs, guns, and sexualized violence that the community has struggled with. These representations play a huge role in perpetuating the oppression of Black Nova Scotians as well as Indigenous populations in this province- they are strategically demonized into the position of “the others'', as depicted in these pieces.

With increasing awareness and remembering this history through literature and community engagement, I am able to recognize and critically analyze how our Black and Indigenous communities have survived on the basis of resilience, resistance and reclamation for so many years, and take action towards advancing social justice. I aim for this in both my professional and academic career, recognizing a clear connection between the opportunities for success, stability and autonomy available to marginalized communities and literacy skills. The importance of literacy to this cause is that it is essential for social and human development and expression.

Literacy provides us with skills that empower us to comprehend dynamic social justice issues that persist today and in turn transform lives, including our own.

Gbenga Akintokun. (2020, June 2). Once Upon a Black Halifax [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCFsRcOZT7A&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop

How do we ensure that the historical teachings today and in the future are presented in whats that properly represent Black people in the development of this province and the Country? We must look back and remember, and never allow ourselves to forget.  
 
Once Upon a Black Halifax discusses the history of the Black community in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the struggles Black communities faced trying to achieve recognition and acceptance in our society. This history of Halifax taught in schools is very much rooted in colonial ideals of community with pockets of information regarding highly publicized Black communities such as Africville and North Preston. Though a look at Black history in Halifax reveals the richness of the Black community in Halifax and the varying achievements of its people despite continued racism and segregation. We need to continue to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of the Black community for generations to come, and not just during Black History Month. 
 
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"If you are White, you belong here, if you are Black, you are just, here." - Shindgai Nyajeka
 
Back in 1992, a number of Black students from a predominantly white high school in Halifax began working to establish a Cultural Awareness Youth Group (CAYG). The CAYG would become a vehicle for endorsing pride and self-esteem among Black students through education and cultural programs aimed at remembering the richness of their heritage and learn new ways to effect change in their communities. In particular, this video highlights the ways in which "whiteness" has historically been and remains the norm in our society including in the education system. The normative "whiteness" is maintained through institutionalized racism which holds Black people and other marginalized peoples including Indigenous communities, away from positions of power, privilege. 
 
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Hamilton, S. (Director). (1992). Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia. [Film]. National Film Board of Canada. https://www.nfb.ca/film/speak_it_from_heart_of_black_nova_scotia/

 

From 1992- 2021, has real change been implemented to make room for Black students and Black History in education?  

 
I challenge educators to expand their own understandings of history to include the unwritten and previously seldom taught legacy of Nova Scotia's Black communities and the achievements of our people. These stories are still being written, and it is not too late to encourage our students to write their own stories in bold so they will never be forgotten. 
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Side note to educators- Something to think about
 
With Covid 19, how has access to quality education differed within the Black and Indigenous communities of Nova Scotia in comparison to the predominantly white communities and schools? 
How as an educator can you reduce the gap in equal opportunities for progress and literacy amongst all your students to ensure no one is left behind? 
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I came across this article featuring a classmate of mine from High school who is finishing up his MSW. He highlights the importance of making space for Black learnings and teachers within the education system.

Acting for Change.

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https://blackspan.com/include/african-descent-education-reports.htm -

Links to a number of works on educational barriers for Black Nova Scotians from 1994- 2019.

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More states, from the government "How Are We Doing? Baseline Data on African Nova Scotian Learners"

https://dbdli.ca/wp-content/uploads/Baseline-Data-on-African-Nova-Scotian-Learners.pdf

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The Nova Scotia Brotherhood Fund expands Black Nova Scotian's Mental Health Supports (for Black men) 

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Africentric Mind, Body and Breath- A Mental health Partnership of the Black Wellness Cooperative and the Heather Association of African Canadians Funded by the Canadian Red Cross, based on yoga, breathe and mindfulness practice to open and relax the body, release tension build spiritual awareness and reduce stress.

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And of course (our continued support for)  L.O.V. E NS- HRM youth inspiration and goal achievement in academics and social skills. 

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Also, this article highlights Black Nova Scotian writer and their work and they situate themselves and their identities within our society, which is built on white colonialist agendas and frameworks.

https://roommagazine.com/7-black-nova-scotian-writers-you-should-be-reading/

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 Article on the need for Africentric counselling in Nova Scotia

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February Means Primary Registration!

By Natalie Corbett Sampson, MSc, SLP(C) on Thu, Feb 11, 2021 @ 01:08 PM

creative_writing_workshop_-328986-editedSchool entry is a huge step for kids. They are introduced to new settings and new people who don’t know them well enough to anticipate their needs and wants. They learn new rules and routines as well as new facts and concepts. What if they don’t have the tools necessary to understand what is being said around them? Or the skills to make themselves understood? Making sure they have solid communication skills as they venture into all that newness is essential to optimising their school entry experience. 

Pre-primary and Primary kids should be able to:

  • Speak in full sentences, using a variety of words such as action words, labels or nouns, attributes (colour and size), prepositions (in, on, under) and pronouns (he, she, I, you) correctly.
  • Follow complex directions
  • Answer questions that ask Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
  • Speak clearly enough to be understood by unfamiliar people the majority of the time.

Some children have difficulty with language learning or trouble learning to pronounce the sounds of English well enough to be understood. If a child is having difficulty learning language and speech skills, it may be necessary to consult a speech-language pathologist (SLP). That professional will assess the child’s skills, identify any specific areas that need some intervention and provide therapy to address these weaknesses.

Sign up for your free Speech Language Screener today.

Speech Language Screener

 

 

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Report Card Time in a Pandemic

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, Nov 26, 2020 @ 09:08 AM

This is a special time of year for many students and teachers - report card time! This year’s report card time is different from any other, because school has been much different for most kids. Whether students are now studying virtually at home or in school, there are likely gaps in most students’ education. Last school year at least a third of the scheduled in-person class time was missed for most students. For some students, this was a pivotal moment in their education to miss out on; as Dr. Heidi Beverine-Curry points out, kids at this sensitive stage (now in Grade 1) have missed key points in their journey to learning to read. 

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Keeping in mind this missed class time, should teachers and administrators should change their expectations for student progress? According to reading expert
Timothy Shanahan, students’ future employers and educators will not lower their expectations, so we shouldn’t either. 

If your child’s report card is coming home soon, how can you best use your conversation with your child’s teacher? 

  • Keep your expectations in check, because it has been an unusual year. 
  • Get a clear idea of your child’s skills.
  • Understand how to help them get to where they need to be, educationally. 

We should expect our kids to keep learning even when times are hard; one really important way we can do so is to make sure their reading skills are strong. When kids can read well independently, they can learn about anything in the world. Families who invest time now making sure their kids can read independently are giving them a skill that no one can take away, and that will continue to help them learn as they grow.

There absolutely should be a sense of urgency in making sure students are getting the education they need, and it’s more important than ever that kids learn to read the right way. Halifax Learning can help - we can assess your child’s current reading skills quickly and easily online, and our online SpellRead classes are a safe and reliable way for students to strengthen their reading skills.

Book an Assessment

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