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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Bundles of Joy

By Britt P. Curran on Sun, Jan 19, 2020 @ 12:55 PM

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We entrust individual tool-kits made for emergencies to ensure preparedness in times of need or against the elements.

First Aid: rife with bandages, alcohol swabs, and tweezers. Car gear: brimming with vice grips, jumper cables, and a handheld GPS. Survival sets: jam-packed with the likes of granola bars, matches, and a rescue blanket.

But safety needn't be the only motivator for compiling personal provisions. Last decade—which sounds like LIGHT-YEARS ago—spawned a shopping boom of moderately customized subscription boxes. From beauty and pets to accessories and meal prep, these deliveries introduced consumers to new products and new ways to simplify or enhance day-to-day.

Learning kits are no different. Tailoring a go-to bundle for your learner means no fumbling for a sharpened pencil or humming and hawing over a book choice: everything is already prepped in a designated box, basket, or bin!

Herewith, two 10-item educational packs to have on-hand during homework, a holiday weekend, or yes, even a hurricane!




MATH MIX

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CALCULATOR
For checking, not completing, work!
LARGE, FOAM DICE
Your favourite dollar, craft, or game store might carry a variety of oversized dice. To use, have your learner roll two at a time and either add, subtract, or multiply the numbers, depending on skill level. Take turns challenging each other, or both roll two dice at a time and total your set to see who has the highest number!
1-100 FLASH CARDS
Helpful for familiarity and distinguishing high numbers, flash cards are a tried-and-true method for studying and recall. Battle it out by shuffling the card deck and splitting into two even piles. Flip your pile's top card at the same time as your learner: the highest number wins both cards! Count your pile at the end to see who reigns victorious.
BASIC OPERATIONS FLASH CARDS
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division cards foster learner engagement and automaticity. Timed readings also fuel speed and accuracy, and tackling single questions at a time promote focus. For example, if the card reads 4 x 5, the learner concentrates on just this; it isn't jumbled together on a page full of equations, which can be overwhelming.
PENCILS + SMALL SHARPENER
Have at least four writing utensils primed for problem-solving, and a sidekick sharpener for the inevitable broken lead.
GRAPH PAPER
Large, grid paper helps keep numbers aligned and work neat. Grab a stack at your local stationery or office supplies store, or print at no cost from this fuss-free site!
WORKSHEETS
A workbook on par with your learner's grade or skill level helps reinforce fundamental skills (e.g. mental math) and could effectively advance fluency. Digital inventories are often organized by concepts (decimals, order of operations, fractions, etc.) and offer thousands of printable activities. Math-Drills.com even features a holiday section, like Valentine's Day sheets, aimed at incorporating seasonal festivities into numerical practice.
RULER + PROTRACTOR
Make taking measurements and identifying angles easier by supplying the right tools. Opt for a clear ruler so learners can see work or lines underneath!
BUTTONS
Basic operations are strengthened through tactile and visual work. Seek out 50-100 buttons of any colour and size. Place all buttons on a table and ask your learner to isolate a designated amount, like 20 buttons, then regroup into fives. Discuss how four groups of five are created from 20 buttons. Ask them to rework the buttons into groups of four. Discuss how 5 x 4 = 20 AND 4 x 5 = 20. Reconfigure the 20 buttons again, asking your learner to make two groups of 10. Discuss how 2 x 10 = 20another way 20 can be divided. Continue with varying scenarios and operations.
WALL CLOCK
Manipulate the hands on a clock and ask your learner to write down the time displayed. Additionally, set a time and ask them to move the clock ahead by one hour and ten minutes; see if they can correctly change the hands. Continue exercises with different times. Looking to get crafty? Create your own clocks from Instructables for endless practicing!



LITERARY LOT

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NEWS ARTICLES
TIME for Kids offers printable news stories organized by grade and feature a high standard of readability and interest.

NEW + KNOWN BOOKS
Have a few surefire favourites to give your reader a confidence boost. Contrast to the well-worn pages of a beloved book, fresh reads can spark a similar excitement. Find a topic, level, or work by a treasured author to present a new challenge. If helpful, co-read to share the load, and tackle the longer, more daunting pages.
BOOKMARK CRAFT
What's better than a personalized bookmark to complement your kit? Browse Pinterest for a bounty of ideas, or peruse this well-curated DIY collection!
TIMER


Swap out your oven clock or cell phone for the job: pick up a cheap kitchen timer (and batteries) to designate for speed-reading flash cards, blocking off an independent writing portion, etc.
PHONETIC FLASH CARDS
From vowel sounds to real words, handy flash cardslike those for mathemphasize repetition, practice, and comprehension.
POCKET DICTIONARY
Seek out a second-hand tangible copy and avoid using a laptop or technology for searches, which helps minimize screen time. Thumbing through a dictionary (or thesaurus!) flexes your learner's alphabetization muscle, and creates moments of success when a word is found, read, and understood. Your Dictionary also offers a litany of literary terms with a printable version for kids!
PENS, PENCILS + HIGHLIGHTERS
Writing utensils and accessories are invaluable. Stick with a trusty HB #2 or try these mechanical pencils designed for handwriting. Pen options can include glitter, felt, fine-tip: whatever motivates students to express themselves! If printing a story or article, encourage your learner to highlight words they like, don't know, or want to include in a summary but fear forgetting.
BLANK JOURNAL
Opt for lined notebooks to inspire neatness. Your learner can write down the book's main points; create brainstorms for future poems and projects; summarize the story; etc.
BOOK LIGHT

In case the power does go out! Handy clip-on lights illuminate pages at night, during an outage, or in dim reading environmentslike a tent while camping.
MAD LIBS
A popular literary pastime since 1953, Mad Libs create prime opportunities to supplement learning. Not only are parts of speech discussed (verbs! adjectives!) but the end producta silly story customized by your learneris sure to elicit laughs. These classic printable editions are great for class, home, on-the-go, or in the car!



While they might not provide shelter during a storm—or help home cooks decide which spices complement certain ingredients—these kits can offer unplugged entertainment and practice. The best part? Creating a kit is a bonus activity for you and your youngin at a one-time cost with the rare addition of surplus components.

Here's lookin' at you, kit.

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2020 Vision

By Britt P. Curran on Wed, Jan 01, 2020 @ 04:38 PM

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New Year's resolutions can make even the keenest of change-craving individuals squirm with anxiety. We might take the countdown to midnight as seriously as Cinderella, anticipating a wave of consequences if there isn't enough shift, shuffle, or progress.

But much like fashion's jelly sandals, steely resolutions are a thing of the past; the should and must and have-to dialogues are dated. To approach 2020 with plans, not pressure, allows both you and your learners alike to breathe easier, placing good intentions and realistic goals at the new year's forefront.

With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, here are four ways to make January—and a fresh decade!—sparkle with educational success.



CHECK (OUT), PLEASE!
Libraries rival It's a Wonderful Life for timelessness. While e-readers and downloadable novels are popular present-day preferences, little competes with the task of physically trekking to a library to peruse classics, new releases, or suggested reads. Before visiting, reflect on a recently beloved story and Google "books similar to (title here)." Browse names until one peaks your interest, then search the Halifax Public Library's online catalogue to check availability, put on hold for pick-up, or join a wait-list.
Once at your local branch, ask staff for recommendations. In July 2015, the now five-year-old Halifax Central Library housed more than 80,000 books alone—a statistic substantiating that you and your learners will surely find something fitting!

In an effort to re-welcome youth to their neighborhood site, HPL offers Read Away Your Fines: a program aimed to help individuals ages 5-17 quash outstanding account charges. Accompany your learner and chat with staff about starting. Every 15 minutes of on-location reading = a $2 decrease toward unpaid fees. It's a win-win-win: the library reduces its borrower debt; young persons have more opportunity to check-out items this year; and designated reading time encourages active, intentional literacy.

Similarly, to motivate community members back to public libraries, HPL hosted a "Go Fine-Free" initiative in December, 2019, to waive individuals' outstanding fees. As a limited-time opportunity, the mission hoped to alleviate borrower debt without judgement, question, or expectation. Stay tuned for news, events, and potential comparable offerings!


KEEP IT CHILL
What's cooler than magnetic poetry? From basic building pieces to a slew of novelty versions, your kitchen appliances will become a new canvas for learning, laughing, and wordplay silliness.

The original Magnetic Poetry brand features a vast selection of younger editions, including Story Maker, Kid Artist, and Opposites. Work together to create sentences and ridiculous poems, or leave your child to their own imaginative devices and see what transpires on the fridge! **IMPORTANT: Supervise website browsing, as other themed kits are named and geared for older audiences.

For younger learners, foam letters help foster alphabet familiarity. Woozles and Tattletales, two beloved local children's bookstores, offer varieties like Magnetic Wooden Letters by Melissa and Doug and Magnetic Learning Letters, respectively. Craft and discount stores also feature options, so see what budget, size, and style is most attractive!

GIVE ME A CLUE?
Group word activities nurture togetherness and teamwork, with a bonus focus on fine motor skills.

Crosswords are a tangible, challenging choice for family time. Kids Puzzles and Games promote free printable crosswords, as well as word scrambles, Sudoku, mazes, and much more.

Depending on the ages of your learner(s), find a topic and length that feels manageable and fun, not impossible. Reviewing the answers afterwards and filling in blanks can also be a helpful way to finish without frustration!

TAKE NOTE
In keeping with a pen-to-paper theme, source out stationery that suits your learner's likes, hobbies, and preferences. Try themed cards (forest animals, anyone?), Post-its, dollar store index cards, or whatever else inspires imagination.

Every weekend—or as often as doable—have your learner draw a name to see who's on his or her to-write list. Extend the recipient list beyond the immediate family! Maybe a cousin, coach, teacher, friend. Place as many names into a Mason jar as your little likes, and lead by creative example: fill your own jar, perhaps including your kids, siblings, boss, neighbour, favourite barista, whomever! Set aside 10-15 minutes together to scribe your own notes.

Seal and decorate with stickers, then hand-deliver (or mail) before the next time you draw! Eliminate the pressure for anyone to produce a flawless memo and write what comes to mind. Maybe a haiku? Recall a fun, shared memory. Tell your reader something new, or jot down a simple "thanks for being you!"



Halifax Learning believes in practices that focus on enjoyment and effort, not perfection. Need more ideas? Two posts from 2018 and 2019 highlight parallel exercises!

Go ahead: Spell "CHEERS" on the freezer door, too.

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Making the Grade

By Britt P. Curran on Sat, Dec 07, 2019 @ 04:29 PM

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December has swiftly approached like a quick-on-its-toes cat, ready to pounce on ribbons, bows, and dangling ornaments. Parents, students, and educators alike share in the end-of-calendar year anticipation as much as those same feisty felines await long, winter naps.

The academic weeks leading up to the holidays boast their own brand of busy. By now, mid-term reports are distributed, PT meetings completed, and, potentially, a new dialogue has emerged regarding your child's areas of concern.

First things first: let's retire the phrase "bad report card"; words implying disappointment are unlikely to inspire change. They also often overshadow the full picture: every child has strengths, but something isn't clicking. Look beyond the letter or number of struggling grades. Which of your child's skills have been well-developed? What's been progressing as hoped or expected? What needs work or improvement?

Take an in-depth look at the data. What could a "C" or "D" really mean? What's considered when tallying percentages? Perhaps he or she has strong organization skills and positive interactions with others, but the actual workassignments, comprehension, correctness—is where they might be fumbling, not failing.

Parent-teacher interviews may be short, but try to make those minutes matter. If you're feeling post-meeting uncertainties, contact your child's teacher or administration with specific questions for additional feedback. Furthermore, HRCE's website suggests the following four prompts to help guide the conversation (during a chat or after):

  • "What do you see as my child's unique strengths/challenges?"
  • "How can I help build on/support my child's learning strengths and challenges at home"?
  • "How is my child's progress evaluated?"
  • "What outcomes has my child met and what are the outcomes my child is working towards?"

Lower or worrisome grades can prompt a dip in self-esteem. Be mindful of changes in your child's mood or behaviour and reach out to the school, a healthcare professional, or trusted resource to help boost confidence and self-worth when a learner feels heavily impacted.

photo-1479091792771-cdb6e8b16ed6The emphasis on grades can obscure other positives and accomplishments. During the upcoming two-week break, consider creating a "ME JAR": a crafty project to highlight strengths, skills, and special qualities. Re-purpose a large Mason or candy jar (or snag a cheap dollar store or second-hand container) and help your child decorate as they please—stickers, paint, washi tape, photos, rhinestones.

Cut strips of colourful paper and scribe encouraging, descriptive words that encapsulate who they are. Steer away from too many physical adjectives, like PRETTY or TALL, and focus on character traits and internal worth: KIND, PATIENT, BRAVE, GENEROUS, ORGANIZED, TIDY, POLITE, CURIOUS... the list goes on and on—literally! Be more specific, too: SUPER AT LAUNDRY,  MAKES A YUMMY SMOOTHIE, HELPS YOUNGER BROTHER, etc.

Every day or once a week, pull out a piece together and read aloud while both offering evidence to hit the point home. (Psst: lead by example and make your own jar; self-love can be inherited, learned, and nourished.)

FUNNY
PARENT/GUARDIAN:
"You are funny because you tell your grandfather jokes."
CHILD:
"I am funny because I do silly impressions."

MULTIPLICATION MASTER
PARENT/GUARDIAN: "You are a multiplication master because you know your eight times tables."
CHILD: "I am a multiplication master because I try to help others in math class."


The potential adrenaline from finishing strong isn't a myth. While the school year is into its fourth month, there's still a substantial amount of time to make meaningful changes. Use long weekends and snow cancellations to incorporate learning. Co-read a story, offer a creative writing exercise, enjoy an educational board game, or try a math worksheet—like these customizable ones from Web Math Minute.

Little rewards for hard work go far, too, and they needn't be extravagant or even monetary. Stickers, a bookmark, cozy socks, five extra minutes on YouTube, colouring a printed page, Go Fish!, or a free or low-cost community event. Perhaps even start a fridge chart where children build towards a bigger goal, like a movie date, hosting a sleepover, or a snowy outdoor scavenger hunt.

The holidays come but once a year, but the gift of feeling strong and supported—academically, emotionally, mentally? That will guide your learner better than the best red-nosed reindeer.

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Happy Feat

By Britt P. Curran on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 @ 10:51 PM

photo-1532012197267-da84d127e765-1Starting anything new—school, a sport, saxophone—can feel equally exciting and intimidating. A first day is typically part introductory, part investigative, and our often natural response is to proceed with curiosity and caution.

Before SpellRead students begin, some steps are already complete: an initial assessment, a report of results, chatting with parents or guardians, and setting up a schedule. But it's the ins and outs of sessions and how the program works that best illustrate a learner's potential growth.

Halifax Learning instructors place emphasis on effort, not perfection. We want each individual to try, even if that means spelling words incorrectly, requiring several prompts during reading, or asking questions to recall story details. Errors allow learners to develop, recognize personal strengths, and focus on what needs work.

For more than 20 years, SpellRead teachers have helped students navigate the highly-structured, heavily-researched program. As classes unfold, the snowball effect of understanding, applying, and approaching literacy with greater ease and enthusiasm is common. When learners feels capable in their printing, pace, and practice, confidence comes. Below are just four examples of past and present success in action.

Nearly six years ago, a then seven-year-old boy began the program struggling to recognize the letters and sounds in his own name, but his dedication to trying gave small victories real impact. After nearly a year of attendance, he came across a long word during class and proceeded to analyze without so much as a pause: /str/ + /aw/ + /b/ + /_e_/ + /r/ + /r/ + /___y/. He then looked up and said: "STRAWBERRY." The progress was measurable, but his personal pride? Invaluable. He recognized the word—as a beloved flavour of ice cream, or what one might pick during the summerbut never before knew its "pieces." Now, however, he had the tools to tackle a myriad of foreign or confusing words.

Ava also had an "aha!" moment. Earlier this month, her mother shared inspired comments:

She has been reading "The One and Only Ivan" (by K. A. Applegate) A LOT lately. She said it’s her favourite book. I don’t even have to ask her to read because she takes it everywhere... and reads whenever she has time. She has never been that child to carry a book around and read for pleasure.

Ava began SpellRead in Grade 1 and finished the program's first hurdle, Phase A. This year, she returned as a Grade 5 student in Halifax ready to complete Phase B and C. Her mom couldn't be happier:

I definitely feel like things are clicking for Ava [and] I am thrilled!

Two Dartmouth students recently finished 120 hours together with impressive speed-read times, strengthened vowel and consonant recognition, and grade levels above where they started in September, 2018.

One of the duo began frequently overwhelmed with hefty paragraphs and 20-word spelling activities; his reluctance sprang from frustration and confusion. Nearer to his "graduation," he requested longer word lists. He anticipated the writing portion of class. He didn't blink at bigger paragraphs, knowing the instructor could help prompt, correct, or take over if necessary. But he didn't need much of a nudge: with the skills learned—and having just turned eight—he could approach vocabulary words like "between," "sprain," and "twinkly" with precision and minor guidance.

His classmate, another Grade 3 student, completed her registration reading challenging chapter books. From the start, she loved being creative through art and poetry. Her initial homework, however, was a bit challenging to understand; like many students, she often omitted vowels. She has now learned 18 primary and 12 secondary vowel sounds, allowing her writing to be clearer, more legible, and expressive. She's currently share-reading "The Bad Beginning" (the first in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events") with her mom, taking turns tackling pages and already anticipates the second installment.

Stories (and even small moments) of success help reinforce why educators do what they do. They teach to see learners thrive, to boost self-esteem, to achieve an academic feat. And to help highlight the notion so poetically articulated by the historical orator, Frederick Douglass:

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."

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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 an Assessment with SpellRead

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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.

halifax learning summer spellread reading support

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.
 

halifax learning spellread reading help tutoring structured literaacy

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!

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