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Got ESP?

By Britt P. Curran on Mon, Oct 14, 2019 @ 01:21 PM

While wafts of pumpkin spice-in-everything-nice fill the air, fall also brings a fresh batch of homework. At Halifax Learning, we know firsthand the importance of momentum. Reading requires practice; to take piano but not play a single key between lessons does little for progress. Reinforcement builds mastery and maintenance has purpose.

We also understand that homework can be daunting for both students and parents alike. A three-pronged approach (your other ESP!) can help learners conquer assignments with less tension and more confidence.

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WHAT IS ESP?

ENCOURAGEMENT

At the forefront of our initialism, encouragement fosters an environment of optimism. Although praise is important, it's deeper and different than a simple "you can do it!" If a child isn't feeling capable, being told they are might not successfully motivate. Slight rewording matters, and phrases like "I believe in you" and "I'm here to help" shift the emphasis from expectation to reassurance.

Guide your learner to say, "I would like to finish this task before bed" instead of "I must finish this task within an hour." Alleviating the pressure proffers the likelihood he or she will work harder or longer than intended⁠—or at least feel okay with what has been accomplished.

If your learner craves limits and goals, remember that wording matters here, too. For example, "try writing three sentences in the next 15 minutes" as opposed to "fill a page before supper." The key is realistic objectives followed by self-compassion if the task is not completed.

Similarly, encourage learners to swap phrases like "I should have been able to read by myself" for "I would like to read independently soon." Both sentences stem from the same notion: wanting to achieve. But speaking softer to oneself and othersboth in tone and verbiage—allows room for error and empathy.

A tangible record of success, like a reading chart or graph, can also fuel encouragement. Reading Rockets suggests parents or guardians "create a bingo card or passport where each space can be filled in by reading a mystery book, or a piece of non-fiction. Once the goal has been reached, reward your child with something... it doesn't have to be anything elaborate... just something that lets your child know how proud you are of his or her accomplishment."

SUPPORT

Sandwiched in the middle of ESP is support, which refers to action-oriented involvement and assistance.

Co-reading, even with older learners, can do wonders for literacy stress. Take turns reading pages and offer prompts when needed for that extra nudge. For longer books, chapters could range from 4-15 pages, so "sharing the load" helps. For shorter books, a page may only contain one sentence, but teamwork still allows text to feel less daunting.

To prompt, a sentence could say: "the string of lights made the street look brighter." Your learner might recognize the, of, made and look as sight words. For string, ask them to place their right pointer finger under the word while dragging it along. Help if needed by saying st, then str, then stri, etc. There's a chance they'll say string or something similar, like stripe (correct to string if they do). The goal is to recognize and apply this word on subsequent pages or in future books, and also understand the makeup of string (str + i + ng).

With mature and more challenging books, learners will likely come across several larger or unknown words. For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first chapter alone includes "cloaks," "seized," "persuade," "faltered," and "prodded"! Help pronounce or look up the definition together in a physical or online dictionary.

Jean Gross of Oxford Owl notes that "the important thing is to keep the flow going and keep your child interested and enjoying what they are doing." Furthermore, if confidence wavers, "notice what your child has done well and tell them... [also] react positively when your child is struggling or gets things wrong. You can make clear that mistakes are how we learn."

PATIENCE

Rounding out the approach is patience. Reading comes easier to those who can read. This may sound obvious, but imagine how challenging and discouraging learning a new language can be (even if the child's native tongue, it's still a language).

Gross also stresses that automaticity takes time: "You [may see] them read a word perfectly well one day, then forget it the next. But this is normal when we are learning a new skill. Our performance is always erratic to start with. We have to repeat something again and again before it sticks... tell your child this, and let them know that you know they are trying their best."

Effort, not perfection, is important. When learning barriers exist, it's common for individuals to hit emotional and mental walls. The adage "practice makes perfect" is dated and potentially detrimental. Instead of placing perfection on a pedestal, try "practice makes progress" and ensure learners know that language wizardry is a marathon, not a sprint. They can become stronger, they will gain self-compassion, and it is worth the effort.

As for total word domination? Leave that to Hermione.

 

BONUS: WRITING

jessica-lewis-4VobVY75Nas-unsplash-1If your learner struggles to summarize what's been read or seems defeated by the task, change it up! Give them a journal or lined stationery to start a running "vocab list." No pressure to write down every unknown word⁠—aim for two every five pages.

Alternatively, if they're truly reluctant and haven't been assigned specific compositions, have them jot down a few fun, detailed sentences about a personal topic (sports, school, best friends, holidays, etc.), so they begin associating writing with joy, not just frustration.

When spelling, students often want to copy directly from the book or ask adults how to write the words. There's a delicate balance to this request. If the child is really frustrated, offer the first or second sound as a start. Similarly, try to keep the book closed during writing so there isn't a temptation to peek. For slightly older students, offer to spell 3-5 words on paper or a whiteboard to jumpstart ideas.

REMIND THEM: "What's better than best? You tried the rest!"



Looking for more personalized insight? Contact us to help gauge your learner's skills:

Book a Free Assessment

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What's in a Word?

By Britt P. Curran on Tue, Sep 10, 2019 @ 02:08 PM

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While you welcome September with open, slightly chillier arms, back-to-school buzz rivals the hum of bees. A new academic year is equal parts transition and awareness: students need time to find their footing, but it's important to be proactive and persistent with learning struggles.

These nine terms shed light on the structure and sounds of words. Understanding the science behind phonetic practices—and gaining the ability to decode—helps nurture a fundamental formula: information + implementation = comprehension.

(We really like math, too!)


SYLLABLE [si·lə·bəl]
A whole or part of a word consisting of one vowel sound alongside one or more consonants; often thought of as a word's "beat." For example, remember has three syllables: /re/ + /mem/ + /ber/. The word chop has only one syllable; its single vowel sound /_o_/ is surrounded by the consonant sounds /ch/ and /p/.

PHONICS [fŏn·ĭks]
A teaching method for reading that focuses on correlating letters with phonetic sounds or values; the ability to hear, distinguish, and apply phonemes.

PHONEME [fō·nēm]
The smallest unit of sound that is combined to make words. The English language has only 26 letters but 44 phonemes, which can share the same sound function. For example, /k/ and /c/ (kite and cord), and the consonant /c/ also makes an /s/ sound (city).

GRAPHEME [gra·fēm]
A letter or group of letters (and all of its sound possibilities) that merge phonemes. For example, /m/, /sh/, and /tch/ (my, rush, and watch). Graphemes can also be represented differently but make the same sound (comb, machine, and future).

DIGRAPH [dī·ɡraf]
Two letters that make a single sound. Consonant digraphs include /ph/, /mb/, and /sh/ (phone, lamb, and shop); vowel digraphs include /ay/, /ow/, and /er/ (day, cow, and her).

TRIGRAPH [trī·ɡraf]
Three letters that makes a single sound. For example, /igh/, /dge/, and /tch/ (sight, fudge, and witch).

DIPHTHONG [dif·thäng]
A vowel sound created by combining two vowels. For example, /i_e/, /oa/, and /ee/ (nine, boat, and peek).

MORPHEME [môr·fēm]
The smallest meaningful unit in language. Different from a word, which can always stand alone, morphemes are either bound (cannot stand alone) or free (can stand alone). Bound examples include /-un/ (untie); /-ly/ (quickly); and /s/ (cats). Free morphemes include words that, when combined with other words, create new ones but itself cannot be further divided.  Examples include "dog" (doghouse); "book" (notebook); and "pick" (toothpick).

ALLOMORPH [al·ə·môrf]
A combination of two or more morphs that transform into a morpheme. For example, the plural morpheme /s/ has three or more allomorphs, including: /s/ (cats); /z/ (dogs); and /iz/ (pushes).



Feeling definition dizzy? We get it!
Contact us to discuss our practices, programming, and purpose—and to see if Halifax Learning is right for you, your child, or a family member.

In the meantime, peruse our active research on SpellRead's success while building your own vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day!

Doesn't language totally coruscate?

 

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Jot, Jot, Jot: Keeping Pen-to-Paper Practice Alive

By Britt P. Curran on Mon, Aug 12, 2019 @ 10:08 AM

 

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"Dear Diary" entries may feel antiquatedand cursive writing has been gradually phased out of Canadian curricula since 2013—but penmanship and legibility are still valuable skills. Incorporating use through inspired means could help your learner track thoughts and emotions; decrease anxiety and build confidence; brainstorm story lines and develop narratives; and even improve fine motor skills.

As August reaches its halfway mark, encourage your budding Aesop or Atwood to embrace handwriting before another academic year begins. Herewith, four ideas aimed at igniting creative fires! (S'mores optional.)


PROMPT JOURNAL
BREAKDOWN
Often organized like an agenda with a calendar or undated pages, prompt journals allow individuals to use suggestions, lists, and questions to spark thoughts: "describe a ladybug in detail"; "what's your favourite food and why?"; or "pretend you're allowed back in time for 24 hourswhere would you go?" Various formats exist for younger kids and teens, and many include sections for doodling or stickers. Vet a book first to ensure the subject matter and style suit the recipient!
BENEFITS
The focus is enjoyment and expression, not pressure or perfection. Prompts give a nudge when blank loose leaf can be intimidating, and any amount of time spent writing is the right amount! Who knows? A tiny, two-line suggestion could lead to a big, literary idea!
LOGS WE LOVE
✏️ Big Life Journals by Alexandra Eidens
✏️ One Question a Day for Kids by Aimee Chase
✏️ Go! My Adventure Journal by Wee Society


SPECIAL NOTEBOOK
BREAKDOWN
In theory, a scrap of paper should suffice! But a tailored-to-you journal feels better geared for greatness. Remember: personalized doesn't have to mean pricey. Dollar stores and online marketplaces offer a variety meeting many budgets, plus thrift stores and yard sales can uncover gently or never-used notebooks!
BENEFITS
Having a journal is empowering and encouraging. Whether it's long, poetic compositions or little observations, learners have a comforting outlet that's just their own⁠; a sacred space to express, create, vent, and reflect.
TIPS WE LOVE
✏️Special pens enhance their experience.
✏️Tailor the journal to your child's interests (e.g. sports, hobbies, TV show) or needs (lined pages for neatness; binding on the right side if left-handed; etc.).
✏️Resist the economical urge to buy for siblings in bulk; find a separate style for each child to emphasize individuality.


SENDING SUBMISSIONS
BREAKDOWN
Usually paired with a minimal "reading fee" (or none at all!), writing contests are typically categorized by age level, submission length, and/or style (poetry, short fiction, etc.) While creative writing is often beloved as a practice without constraints, boundaries can help kids take on challenges with limits or understand future academic expectations, like essays.
BENEFITS
For some, writing is a private, personal past-time. For others, a little competition can spark courage and confidence! If your learner is feeling inspired to compete, help facilitate and be his or her biggest cheerleader!
RESOURCES WE LOVE
✏️ A Guide to Writing Prizes for Young Canadians (CBC)
✏️ Where Young Authors Can Submit (Karen Krossing)
✏️ The Writing Corner (Teens Now Talk Magazine)


FAN MAIL
BREAKDOWN
Revive the joy of letter-writing by helping your child send their favourite athlete, actor, advocate, or artist a "hello!" When seeking contact information, use certified, legitimate websites (official URLs and company pages). If leery about providing a home address, opt to have replies redirected to your workplace, or ask your neighbourhood post office about holding mail for pickup.
BENEFITS
In an insta-reply world, the value of carving out time to scribe a note, physically send it in the mail, and (hopefully!) wait for a response promotes effort, patience, and can curb expectations. With fan letters, your child might not get one back. But that's OK—the joy is in sending, not receiving. If you'd prefer to foster a rapport, a pen pal service could work better!
IDEAS WE LOVE
✏️ Toronto Blue Jays
✏️ Pixar Animation Studios
✏️ Parliament Hill/The Prime Minister of Canada


Hoping to improve your learner's practical, grammatical skills? Our Writing Connections program can help! Contact a location director for more information and to book a free literacy skills assessment.

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Bask in Books!

By Britt P. Curran on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 @ 03:55 PM

 

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At Halifax Learning, we love to celebrate literacy all year round. Our camp is the perfect example, incorporating activities and adventure with academia! While there are benefits by the sand bucket for summer readinglike improving skills, developing interests, and fostering confidence—our practice pointers can also help maintain momentum!

Below are six recommendations (and a bonus!) for varying ages. So, let's make room for stories in backpacks, carry-ons, and beach bags, and be ready to read wherever the sunshine takes us!


BOARD BOOK

Maisy Goes Swimming by Lucy Cousins | Candlewick Press
Little hands can use the flaps and tabs to help beloved storybook mouse, Maisy, go from a wintertime wardrobe to poolside primed!
 

AGES 3-5
Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman and Scott Magoon | Scholastic Canada
Sharks get a bad rap for being toothy, terrifying tyrants, but maybe they're just misunderstood! Follow along as one shark navigates the murky waters between accusations and acceptance.

AGES 5-7 
And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner and Jaime Kim | Candlewick Press
Rife with vibrant imagery and nostalgic winks, embrace a sunny state of mind with this homage to all things summer (lemonade stands and lakeside campfires, anyone?) 

AGES 8-10
The Secret Treasures of Oak Island by J.J. Pritchard | Formac Publishing
This Canadian classic was originally published nearly 20 years ago! One summer, siblings Joel and Emma travel from British Columbia to Nova Scotia to help their Uncle Jake uncover a magical, mysterious island's gold, gems, and secrets.

JUNIOR NOVEL
The Season of Styx Malone
by Kekla Magoon | Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books
Aimed at preteen readers, brothers Caleb and Bobby set out for adventure in their small town. But their new neighbour, Styx, offers excitement and enterprise, which could lead to either cool victories or catastrophic consequences.

YOUNG ADULT
In a Perfect World by Trish Doller | Simon & Schuster
Caroline's summer plans in Ohio take swift zigzags when her mom accepts a job in Cairo, Egypt. But her anxieties about culture shock also make a 180; she begins to understand, appreciate, and love a world once so far off her personal map.

GRAPHIC NOVEL
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki | Macmillan Publishers
Rose is used to spending summers at the lake house with her parents, and hanging out with a local girl, Windy. But this year is different. Focusing on family, friendship, secrets, and danger, the book's illustrations help illuminate the highs and lows of finding your way.



When choosing books, remember that age doesn't always reflect current ability. If your preteen is reading at a lower level, find a less daunting option with an age-appropriate subject. If your Grade 2 is already craving the Harry Potter series, pick something to challenge and engage without anticipated barriers. Your local library and bookstores are wonderful ongoing resources for suggesting suitable stories—and see our past post for poetry-related recommendations!

Wondering about your child's reading level? Contact us to book a free, in-depth assessment.

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Finished SpellRead? Taking a Break? This Post is for You!

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, Jun 20, 2019 @ 11:48 AM

To our graduating students, it's been wonderful working with you and we couldn't be more proud of all your hard work and determination. To our students who are taking a break this summer, enjoy your time away and we'll see you in the fall. 

Whether we're saying goodbye or see you later, we hope you take some time to read and write this summer. The more you practice something, the better you can get at it. With that in mind, here are some activities and suggestions for continued reading and writing development.

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Reading Practice

Keep reading! Read something every day in order to continue skills development.

  • Love your Library!

    Did you know that you can check out books from your school library for the summer, even if you haven’t started school yet? What a great chance to get to know a new school!

  • Family Games Night

    Schedule in family games night and stock up on a few board games that promote reading and literacy. We like these games: 

    • Banagrams
    • Memory Games
    • Scattergories

  • Ideas Jar

    Using sentence strips, create a jar of summer activities that can be done on the spot. For example, "play catch in the backyard", "put together a puzzle with Mom", "draw a picture in the kitchen".

  • Be prepared!

    We live in such a beautiful province and many of us take advantage of this warm weather to explore all of the hidden gems Nova Scotia has to offer. If you're on the road, visiting local playgrounds or maxin' and relaxin' in the back yard, be sure pack a few stories! 

Writing Practice

Try to write at least once a day for a 10-30 minute period, in a quiet place free from distractions.  

What do I write about?

Writing can be a fun way to express yourself. Lots of our students find out that they love writing, once they've spent some time with us. If you just can’t think of something to write this summer, here are some ideas:

    • Keep a summer journal. This is an awesome keepsake! Some kids draw a picture and write a few words to go along with it, and some kids write a few paragraphs a day.
    • Send us a postcard. We love mail! We just might send you a postcard in return.
    • Write a letter or card to a friend. Friends and family who live far away would love to hear from you.
    • Enter the Woozles story contest. How amazing would it be to win a prize? The contest closes July 31.
    • Experiment with poetry. Go outside and write a few words about what you see, or try a haiku or acrostic.
    • Write a summary. Describe a book or chapter you just read about and your reaction to it.

How do I work on my sounds?

  • Read through your pack of sounds every day. This should only take a few minutes.
  • Your teacher can give you spelling lists that you can use to build words with your sound cards, then spell.
  • You can also keep any of the game card packs. Play Go Fish, Slam, and Memory to your heart’s content! Here’s a reminder of which games go with which packs:

Go Fish/Memory: 8.4 - 23.4 - 41.4 - 46.4
Slam: 16.4 - 28.4 - 32.4 - 37.4 - 49.4

If you are interested in receiving information on ways to further develop phonemic skills, please get in touch!

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Expert Reading Tips & Activities for Summer Success!

By Melinda Cameron on Fri, Jun 07, 2019 @ 07:36 PM

Avoid the Summer Slide!
 
This is the time of year we’ve all been waiting for - summer! In Nova Scotia, the summer is so short that it should be mandatory to cancel everything and get outside on sunny days.
 
On the other hand, being away from the routine of school can be tricky for kids and families. It can also be a time when kids can fall even further behind their classmates. Parents feel a lot of pressure to help their kids maintain their skills over the summer, while at the same time really wanting to enjoy this precious time together.
 
Luckily, we’ve gathered together the ultimate summer guide for parents in Nova Scotia. Below are the best tips from the experts, along with simple activities that won’t break the bank.
 

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Tried, Tested and True Tips

1.Start a Summer Routine Right Away.

Don’t wait until after the summer starts to put a plan in place, but build a summer routine that involves some of the activities below. Sadly, the summer will be over before you know it, and practice should take place little by little, not all at once at the end of the summer.

2. Read Together & Talk About It.

Kids don’t need to just read a lot of materials in the summer, they need to talk and ask questions about the things they read. Reading comprehension is dramatically improved when language comprehension and word recognition are a part of the reading experience. This means ensuring your child has background knowledge on the topic they are exploring and exposure to new vocabulary. Click here to view Scarborough's Reading Rope, a ground breaking infographic that simplifies the information above and also highlights the importance of phonological awareness, decoding and sight recognition.

3. Make It Fun.

No one likes doing something that they think they’re bad at. Start at an appropriate level, support kids when they need some help and provide immediate incentives and rewards for attempts, progress and commitment. Rewards don't need to be costly and sugary junk. Let your developing reader: 

  • Plan the next family outing. 
  • Choose the music for your next road trip.
  • Stay up a little past bedtime.
  • Have a bestie come for a sleepover!

If this seems like an impossible task ask for help. We offer a free initial assessment and consultation with no obligation to enroll in our programs and with over 20 years of experience you'll be sure to leave with a better understanding of reading development and path towards skilled, confident, reading.

DIY At-home Reading Activities

annie-spratt-548190-unsplash1. Online Resources

Below is a list of online resources we recommend exploring to learn more about the science of reading, advocacy for effective reading instruction, resources, tips and tools you can use at home or when communicating with your child's classroom teacher in the upcoming school year. We encourage you to learn about the state of reading instruction today, the history of the "Reading Wars" and what these advocates have to say about structured literacy programs like SpellRead!

  1. Dr. Erin Schryer | Member of panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research
  2. Nancy Young | Author of the Ladder of Reading
  3. Everyone Reads Nova Scotia | Parent led group of volunteers advocating for Dyslexia in Nova Scotia.
  4. Reading Rockets | Resources for struggling readers.

 

 

2. Halifax Learning's Summer Reading Recommendations

If a child is reading, does it matter what they're reading? The answer is complicated.

 

 

We want to keep things fun while at the same time building knowledge from high-quality texts. There’s time to read fun and easy books, but try to balance them with books that are a bit more challenging or involve something new.

 

 

 

Beginning Readers
Don’t wait for pre-primary to read books with your kids! There’s a cool variety of books for you to share with little kids to get them excited about reading routines.

  • Mo Willems book

    Elementary
    Kids at this age are starting to read independently and may be getting into series. Check out these books from the library or at a bookstore.

Old classics:
  • “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey
  • “Clementine” series by Sara Pennypacker
  • "A to Z Mystery" series by Ron Roy
  • "Cam Jansen Mystery" series by David A. Adler
New series to check out:
  • "WeirDo" series by Ahn Do
  • "Super Happy Party Bears" series by Marcie Colleen
  • "Anna, Banana" series by Anica Mrose Rissi
  • "The Questioneers" series by Andrea Beaty
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3. Take it Outside!

There is lots of learning that can happen outside! Take advantage of sunny days to visit these parks from our friends at Raising Haligonians and while you're there take a peek at our Ask the Expert Blog - How to know when your child needs more help with Reading and Literacy

4. Nova Scotia Resources and Programs

  •  TD Summer Reading Club

    Halifax libraries offer this program every summer. Sign up starting June 15 so your kids can earn points, win prizes, and have fun. Realizing that learning takes place with more than just reading, kids can earn points from things like playing games and telling jokes.

  • Nova Scotia Museums

    See spiders and walk with Gus at the Natural History Museum.

  • Join us for Summer Camp!

    Of course, Halifax Learning are the experts in reading so if you’re looking for a big boost in reading skills, you’ve come to the right place. Enrollment is happening now both for classes and for weekly camps. Click the button below to register for our unique summer camp that balances education and exploration or click here to find out more. 

Register Today - Space is Limited!

SUMMERSLIDE_FB

 

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5 Ways to Maximize Parent-Teacher Conferences

By Megan Brooks on Fri, Mar 29, 2019 @ 10:59 AM

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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. 

Speaking as an educator with 12 years of experience as a reading specialist, the tips below are a collection of my experiences that I have found most useful when communicating with parents. At Halifax Learning I have the privilege of frequent parent-teaching consultations. We also have a systematized assessment procedure that also ensures a discussion at the mid point of a SpellRead student's programing and upon completion of the program. 

Program Walkthrough

… 

 

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

 

halifax learning spellread

 

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 teacher's 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 an 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. 

Teacher's 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.  As SpellRead providers, 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.

 

halifax learning spellread

 

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.

✓ SpellRead is an evidence-based program that offers effective, sustainable results and delivered by exceptional, experienced, experts at Halifax Learning. 

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I Write Because I Read!

By Megan Brooks on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 @ 03:10 PM

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"The fisherman's huts are small but mighty as they conquer the gusty day. The beach will soon be even smoother and more unique than the first time. I will never forget the exceptional visit to the island. But there is still so much more to explore."

Last week at a planning meeting Sarah read our team a piece of writing with no introduction. She simply began. I assumed it was written by our SL-P and published author, Natalie, but I was stunned when she exposed the true author. 

Meet Anna! She's 11 years old and, like most kids, doesn't jump for joy when handed a five paragraph essay assignment from her classroom teacher. In fact, she wrote it in just 20 minutes after procrastinating for days. You can read the rest of Anna's inspired piece of writing below. Anna is a SpellRead graduate, has attended summer camps and will be joining us this summer as a Junior Camp Leader! We're proud to have Anna on our team this year and we look forward to supporting her as she supports our campers! 

Find out more about Camp!

We don't mean to brag, but this kid can write and we know why!

Anna has had the privilege of being immersed in evidence-based instructional methods that develop solid, sustainable literacy skills since day one. Right now, a child participating in a program such as SpellRead is privileged and often a reaction to years of struggle and anguish by their parents.

We think that needs to change so more of our youth can produce inspiring, impassioned pieces of writing such as Anna's essay below. 

Anna is like most kids. She loves spending time with her friends, being active and occasionally complains about school work. But Anna has the fundamental skills she needs to push through the torment of being an pre-teen and can get it done.

Some might say that writing is the last skill, or even the hardest skill to develop amongst these four skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Regardless of the complexity of the skill, we know that evidence-based instructional methods provide students with the tools they need and the best opportunity to produce captivating and thought-provoking pieces of writing. 

halifax learning spellread writing author

I write, because I read.

Michael Chabon, author, credits his writing skills to his love of reading. We know all students can learn to read and one of the many reasons we need them to do so efficiently and effectively is to provide the world with the gift of writers like Anna and Michael Chabon! 

Click here to listen to Michael Chabon describe his love of reading and writing in this CBC podcast, "Michael Chabon on reading, writing and Captain Picard."

There are five core components to inform effective reading instruction and we're proud to say SpellRead was designed with them in mind.

What are the 5 core components in developing reading?

  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Reading Fluency
  5. Reading Comprehension

 Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

Anna's Essay

Me and my dad had just unbooked from the outstanding campsite. We were heading to a new place to stay for two nights, it was a motel that looked like fisherman's huts jammed together. Once we got to the motel my eyes wouldn’t close. It was about mid day and the sun was shining bright in the sky. There was so much to look at but the smell was superior. It was like someone had just sprinkled sea salt everywhere for supper! However, the first things that caught my eye were the marvelous looking motels and their colors!

As I bound towards the motel, I thought that what was located in front of me was an enchanted rainbow. I anticipated that I was going to be rich! Underneath my feet was some of the most delicate grass I’ve ever felt and the motel looked honestly like a cartoon right out of the T.V. The other houses around the motel resembled nothing else except some flat dull colors.

As my eyes drifted to another spectacular view, I saw one of the most delightful beaches I’ve ever seen, particularly from all the dunes covering the beach. As I descended down the rickety ladder, I pivoted around and found myself gazing into these miniscule openings in between these monstrously giant boulders. In my opinion, they were more like little somber grotos.

The water was the last thing that my eyes saw as I swung around to look at all of its glory. It was like hopping into a whimsical fairytale world! The overlapping waves invited me for an exciting race to the shore. Although the water was bubbling at the shoreline the rest of the water was quite clear. As I looked down, I saw myself as if looking into a mirror. My sight would keep going down past the water to where the seaglass was getting jammed in between two pieces of coral. I then saw the seaglass escape the coral’s grasp, to be found very soon.

The fisherman's huts are small but mighty as they conquer the gusty day. The beach will soon be even smoother and more unique than the first time. I will never forget the exceptional visit to the island. But there is still so much more to explore.


halifax learning spellread

 

Is your child struggling to develop the 4 skills?

Reading, writing, speaking and listening are interconnected and starts with effective instruction. Halifax Learning is recommended by parents, psychologists, teachers, speech-language pathologists and more, but our number one source of referrals come from parents themselves. Why not as a parent that has experienced first hand, the change SpellRead has made in their child's life!
 
Ask a Parent
 

Ready to start?

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation, assessment and consultation.
 
In less than 1 hour you will learn more about how you, or a member of your family, process language and comprehend text. 

Our assessment is not a product of the SpellRead program, but an independent standardized assessment that provides benchmarks for the foundational skills identified in research required for efficient reading. 
You will also receive a digital copy of the report within two business days with no obligation to enroll in our programs. This information can help access school support as well. 
 
Our SpellRead students are assessed three times over the course of a full registration to ensure progress and success!
 

Book a Free Assessment

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What is LOVE?

By Shakisha Downey on Tue, Jan 08, 2019 @ 01:37 PM

LOVE Nova Scotia is a charitable, non-profit organization that promotes self-expression through innovative arts-based techniques to support youth who have been subject to violence live beyond the effects of that experience. LOVE's mission is to transform this experience into meaningful, peace-making work. Through its need-specific programs, LOVE provides  youth with the skills and support needed to foster positive, healthy decision-making, and assist them to become independent leaders within their community. 

In 2017-2018, LOVE programs in Nova Scotia saw
236 enrollments.
- Leave Out Violence N.S. 2017-2018 Annual Report

LOVE's programs are available in Halifax, Sipekne'katik and Memertou First Nations, giving youth access to on-call Registered Social Workers and Youth Workers on a 24/7 basis. 


From LOVE Youth:

“This year at LOVE I learned to value friendship.”
- age 14, John Martin Junior Student
“I learned to respect women.”
– age 15, John Martin Junior High Student



Want to get involved?

For the 5th consecutive year, Halifax Learning has had the pleasure of supporting LOVE The Book Club's Annual Fundraiser. This year, we had the chance to participate in an event featuring New York Times Bestseller, Shari Lapena, as she discussed the creation of her latest thriller An Unwanted Guest with celebrity interviewer and Halifax's own, Anne Emery, award-winning author of the esteemed Collins-Burke series of thrillers.

For more information about Leave Out Violence Nova Scotia, and to learn how to participate in next year's Book Club Fundraiser, please contact Ann Sutherland, asutherland@sutherlandwatt.ca, and Pearl Michael, Board Member, LOVE NS, pearlamatheson@gmail.com.

Any contributions will help maintain their running of high-quality, youth-driven programs, as well as provide necessities such as meals and transportation to youth. 

 

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Stepping into Tough Conversations | 24th Annual Africentric Conference

By Shakisha Downey on Wed, Dec 12, 2018 @ 01:42 PM

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What are educators and community leaders saying about black students in the public education system in 2018?

This year Halifax Learning was pleased to attend the 24th Annual Africentric Conference held in honor of the No.4 Construction Battalion and the 100th Anniversary of WWI at Cole Harbour High School.

In upholding their theme of the inequality of oppression, this year the conference narrowed in on culturally relevant pedagogical approaches to supporting Black Nova Scotian students in the public education system.


About the Speakers

Dr. Marlene Ruck Simmonds | BA (UCCB); BCS, B.Ed., MA, M.Ed. (MSVU) EdD Candidate
Dr. Marlene Ruck Simmonds is an education professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, as well as the Director of the African Canadian Services Division in Nova Scotia. She is known for her expertise in counseling, assessment and the development of literacy programs that foster culturally proficient practice.

“There is so much work to be done…”.

Dr. Simmonds proclaims that children and youth are counting on us to create and reinforce positive and supportive pathways towards success, and those same children are running out of time for us to continue jumping through phases of conversation about change and initiative.

“They are too much at risk, and too valuable for us not to get it right, right now.”

Dean Simmonds | Halifax Regional Police Department, Inspector 
Former resident of North Preston, the oldest and largest black community in Canada, Inspector Dean Simmonds started his career in law enforcement in 1997. Working his way up within the Police force, Inspector Simmonds has maintained a major leadership role in developing and implementing a variety of workshops and training programs geared towards improving diversity, workplace equity, human rights and leadership skills. In particular, Inspector Simmonds has served as a member of the Halifax Regional Police Department’s Strategic Planning Team, HRP/RCMP Integrated Cultural Diversity Committee, and Race Relation Advisory Committee for the past eight years.

Ms. Karen Dumay | Teacher
Ms. Dumay is a Languages and Resource teacher at Graham Creighton Junior High School in Cherrybrook, Nova Scotia. Ms. Dumay spoke about the messages we teach Black students about what they are capable of. In doing so, she puts emphasis on the lack of representation of famous Black Canadians with learning disabilities in the media to encourage success and resilience.

Ms. Doreen Mallett | Department of Education 
Mr. Mallet is a member of the African Canadian Services Division within the Public Schools Branch of the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

Dr. Beverly-Jean Daniel | Professor
Dr. Daniel is a member of the Diversity Management Consultant & Assistant Professor at Humber College and Ryerson University. Dr. Daniel is the founder and developer of The Bridge, a student engagement and retention program that aims to increase the rates of engagement, retention and graduation amongst African, Black, and/or Caribbean students at Humber College in Ontario.

What are we working with now?

Many speakers at the conference hold the opinion that Individualized Program Plans (IPP’s) in the public school system, as they relate to Black Nova Scotian students, are:

  • sold to parents “like a used car”.
  • a sneaky way to marginalize - some parents not knowing their children were put on IPP
  • attaching incredible labels to the students that they are never able to shake. These labels hinder their academic, social, and professional development for the rest of their lives, because this modified education program targets them, making IPP, or “special ed.” their identities.

One speaker suggests:

“Putting black children in this program is the simple way for the teacher to get around the fact that they do not have the criteria to support these students in the classroom, in social education”.

 

 

What do our black students need more of?

  1. Motivation → During the conference Dr. Simmonds states that motivation needs to come from somewhere internal, to be driven by something that forces you to act even when no one is looking. This is meant as a push for those in education to step beyond their comfort zones to achieve real results, because it is in the difficult conversations that lead to open doors.

  2. Mentorship → Inspector Simmonds speaks to the exceptional push from within to do more, to make a real change in race relations in the city,  especially because of the community he is from. He credits the “tough” and “uncomfortable” conversations he had in his youth with his mentor Mr. Kenneth M. Fells for this. Remembering these critical moments in his youth, Inspector Simmonds feels they gave him the opportunity to truly realize his own potential, and gave him the power to be great. Mr. Fells’ took the time to appreciate Simmonds’ situations in order to understand his needs, Mr. Fells taught Simmonds something he will hold onto forever. That mentoring in such a way is essential to making a real differences in the outcomes of children's social and academic success in life, especially for Black children and youth.

  3. Courage → Mentors need to step out of their comfort zones to have the difficult conversation about cultural diversity, in order to make a real difference in the lives of youth, and student results.


How can we change the system?

Ms. Dumay speaks on the messages we teach Black students. about what they are capable of. She puts emphasis on the lack of representation of famous Black Canadians with learning disabilities in the media to encourage success and resilience.

In terms of making real changes to their experience, Ms. Dumay encourages:

Change Teaching Patterns
She sheds light on the importance of aspects of IPP which could make it effective that are often overlooked. One of these aspects includes ensuring IPP students are still engaging with the other students in their class and social setting, rather than isolated with their EPA “in the back of the classroom”, for instance. Ms. Damay believes breaking the stigmas associated with student on IPP will improve the overall effectiveness of the programs.

Create Culturally Relevant Classrooms

  • Relatable lesson plans.
  • Welcoming environment.
  • A relationship built on, without the assumption of, mutual respect.
  • Always considering ones unconscious bias.

Furthermore, Ms. Doreen suggests, curriculum alignment by incorporating a variety of cultural representations in the lessons and classroom materials, especially books, available to students!

 

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” - Maya Angelou

halifax learning spellread

Where do teachers go for support?

Identifying culturally relevant resources can sometimes be tricky if you do not know where to look. Luckily, Ms. Doreen provides a search engine for the Department of Education’s resource list on  the Nova Scotia School Book Bureau website.

Halifax Learning is pleased to offer training and professional development to educators. Do you know students who struggle to read? Do you wish you could do more for your students? You can with the evidence-based programs. 

If you are an educator with resources to share send us a note and we'll spread the word! Email media@halifaxlearning.com


What happens to these student once they leave high school?

Dr. Daniel emphasizes the importance of teaching black students self worth.

“The lack of understanding throughout society of the cultural pains and successes we encounter as a people should not minimize black students’ visions of themselves.”

She encourage students about the importance of breaking through the lens of failure that “blackness” is framed in and tasks educators to create environments for students to thrive. Dr. Daniel believes  such environments enables a sense of empowerment and appreciation for oneself.

So what can we do as Educators, and especially Black Educators?

Accept the responsibility of:

  • To be a motivating force! 
  • To be a mentor and accept the task of replicating one’s own success onto the younger, vulnerable generation before us. 
  • To be a courageous by stepping into tough conversations and making real change. 

Where does Halifax Learning fit in? 

The science is clear. All children can read well. 

“I first started at Halifax Learning, as an office administrator,” says Shakisha. “But we are now shifting my role to take on more outreach, to create more partnerships with communities who may not have access to such literacy programs and see what we can do together to encourage everyone, of all ages and backgrounds to get serious about their journey to literacy. I can relate personally to these kids on a lot of levels. Now we have an opportunity to build positive programs to support these youth in academic success.”

From Recent Grad's Career Journey Comes Full Circle. Read the full article here

We are very proud of our clinic student results and our growing list of community outreach work. Breaking down the barriers and challenges families have to access our programs is key to making sure no one gets left behind.  

If you have a student that you feel would benefit by SpellRead’s evidence-driven programming, please contact us

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