Why do you think SpellRead is effective? We asked our teachers!

By Halifax Learning on Sun, Apr 15, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

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We asked our instructors to share their experience teaching the SpellRead program. They have developed relationships with their students that have created bonds that will last a lifetime. We are proud of what we offer and even more proud of our team of passionate and dedicated teachers. Read more about Brittany's story!

 

How did you become a part of Halifax Learning?

When I was 21 years old I had previously worked for several years delivering another literacy program similar to SpellRead, and I was looking for a summer job. I emailed a few service providers and Halifax Learning got back to me with the possibility of a job.

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Describe a student that you are proud of.

Last year I worked with a student in grade 6 who I had worked with at my previous job, a similar reading program. He was a struggling reader in French Immersion and I knew that, while he had been making some progress with me in the other program, the resources I had were simply not going to be enough for someone who needed a more intensive intervention, especially in spelling and writing.

To my surprise, when I left my position to join the Halifax Learning team, this student followed me and enrolled in SpellRead. We were roughly a quarter of the way through the program and I saw him take off. He completed SpellRead, as well as Writing Connections, and within a year he had everything he needed for Junior High.

I imagine if he had stayed in the other program, he likely would have been there for years, combatting confusion and frustration. This is what I saw over my years there with other significantly struggling students. This sort of situation really proves to me that no matter how wonderful, knowledgeable, or dedicated a teacher may be, it's really the program that makes the difference.

He was the same kid, he had the same instructor, but it was the method that changed, and that's what made the difference.

How would you describe SpellRead to someone that is unfamiliar with the program?

Students are "re-taught" reading strategies, starting from the very beginning of phonological awareness to spelling and into essay writing. They are able to tackle any unknown word, because they are explicitly taught to implement the rules automatically. There is no opportunity for confusion or frustration because we "over-teach" concepts until they are firmly established to the point of independent implementation.

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Why do you think SpellRead is effective?

We aren't complacent. We don't look at our student results and say "Good enough." We are constantly doing research and finding ways to make our program even more effective for every student, no matter what age, learning difference or challenge they are facing.

Many teaching techniques are based in decades-old philosophies or methods or data, but at Halifax Learning we are able to say that not only does SpellRead work, but here is exactly why based on up to date research.

If a student struggles, our attitude is never that the student should simply "try harder", but rather we actively find ways to troubleshoot the issue and find another path to success.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience as a SpellRead teacher?

It's been an extremely rewarding experience. I think SpellRead should be available in all schools and offered to every struggling student.

Literacy skills are  a fundamental human right!

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Siblings in Stories!

By Brittany Curran on Mon, Apr 09, 2018 @ 12:25 PM

In the spirit of celebrating siblings, here are 7 books that feature the good, the bad, the serious, and the silliest of sibling relationships. This post was inspired by all the sibling students we have had the pleasure of guiding through the SpellRead program on a path to excellent reading skills. 

 

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1. The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osbourne
In this long-running series (with a whopping 53 titles, including Midnight on the Moon and Carnival at Candlelight), Jack and Annie travel through time and to faraway lands on missions for Morgan le Fay. With the help of their Magic Tree House and Master Librarian cards, this brother-sister duo get into plenty of mischief and mayhemand learn to trust their instincts, information, and each other! 

2. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Oh, Ramona! Always getting into sticky situations! Thank goodness for her sister, Beezus, to keep things under control. This delightful book is an instant classic, portraying an older, protective Beezus who is often left in charge of the rabble-rouser Ramona. But what's the secret to pacifying a kooky sibling?! You'll have to read it and see!   

3. The Berenstain Bears series by Stan & Jan Berenstain
There's no cooler twosome than Brother and Sister Bear—nor a wiser set of parents than Papa and Mama! For over 50 years, Stan and Jan Berenstain have presented this fuzzy family and their daily dilemmas. While Brother Bear may be the eldest sibling, Sister Bear lends a sweet innocence to the stories, and both children learn life's lessons with heavy doses of love and laughter! (Some titles include Trouble with Money, No Girls Allowed and Learn about Strangers.)

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
In one of the most beloved stories of the 20th century, high schooler Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace travel through time (with Meg's friend Calvin, too!) in order to rescue their father from the planet Camazotz. With the help of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the three children must diligently stay close-knit and confident on their journey—one filled with twists, turns, evildoers and relationships that stand the test of time.

6. Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick
Based on an incredible real-life account, this book is about the Acerra family's 12 baseball-loving sons—in a clan of 16 children total! Set in the 1930s, the brothers generated an entire baseball team (with lads to spare) and this wonderful book about siblings and sports is filled with support and determination!

7. Little Women by Louise May Alcott
Inarguably one of the most timeless and influential novels in history, Little Women is a story about family, friendship, marriage, and true sisterhood. The book observes the world of the March sisters: the eldest, Meg; 15-year-old Jo; 13-year-old Beth; and 12-year-old Amy. Burdened by poverty—but instructed by their Union chaplain father not to dwellthe girls learn about giving to others and falling in love through life-changing adventures and tribulations.

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#RaiseAReader

By Eryn Steele on Sun, Apr 08, 2018 @ 11:06 PM

 

 
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Are you a parent trying to #raiseareader?
 
Do you feel anxious, frustrated and confused trying to navigate which academic approach best suits the needs for your child's learning difference? We are bombarded with hashtags, captions, memes, free flowing commentary and rapidly changing ideas, making it difficult to filter through the noise when it comes to education. 


As a parent, monitoring your child’s health is second nature and at the first signs of an illness you don't hesitate to contact a medical professional you know and trust. If your household has been anything like mine lately, trips to the family doctor, walk-in clinics and the emergency room feel like a regular occurrence. Referencing Doctor Google is on repeat and following all the expert recommendations for a speedy recovering is non-negotiable. Fluids. Rest. Repeat.  
We are all alert to the signs and symptoms of a medical issue and prepared to take action. Immediately.

But can the same be said for reading skills? Do parents have the tools, resources and confidence to advocate for their child's learning needs? And do parents know who to trust and what the science says about teaching reading? 

Our experience at Halifax Learning, our unfortunate answer to that question is no. Far too often we meet with parents that are desperately searching for the right support for their child. While these conversations are often difficult, we consider ourselves to have the best job in the world.  We're here to end your search and start the journey towards skilled, confident, learning. 

Things to consider when raising a reader: 

→ Reading skills begin to develop from birth. 

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 Reading and writing are inventions that have evolved over thousands of years. We’re not born with the innate knowledge that the English language is made up of 44 sounds, text is read from left to right or that the words on a page can evoke an emotional reaction, political change, creative inspiration and much more.  

Reading starts at home from day one. Nurturing a positive, committed relationship to literacy begins from birth. In Nova Scotia, new parents are fortunate to receive a bag of carefully selected books from a Read to Me  representative.

 

When you demonstrate an interest in your child’s reading, they are far more likely to experience positive results. According to How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life, written by educator and young-adult novelist Paul Kropp, there are three time periods during childhood when reading may slump

  • Transitioning into kindergarten
  • Grade 4
  • High School 

Although reading at home often and early is important, it is not enough. Many children need explicit, intensive, and comprehensive evidence-based reading remediation programs that integrate the five essential elements of reading instruction.  

1. Phonemic Awareness
2. Phonics
3. Fluency
4. Vocabulary
5. Comprehension

→ It's not just about reading!

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While the ability to read is important for its own sake, it provides the foundation for all other learning, particularly during school years. Consider how much difficulty a struggling reader will have with both textbooks, computer-based lessons and capturing creative ideas and critical thinking into the written word. With proper reading instruction and frequent exposure to reading, writing skills will also develop, supported by a robust vocabulary and familiarity with a variety writing styles.  

 



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Academic success is only a small piece of the pie! 

SuccessKidAcademic success is only one category that will be positively impacted by solid reading skills.

Efficient and effortless reading contributes to psychological traits such confidence, concentration and self-discipline. Reading opens a window to the world, it’s a way to expose children to learn about new cultures, ideas and philosophies. Reading offers a platform for critical thinking, interpretation and is the ultimate agent of change. 

 

 

 →  School memories are enduring. 

Excited schoolgirl at the library reading a bookThe importance of learning to read continues to play a part in your child’s success during adulthood. According to the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, less than 20 percent of those with the lowest literacy skills are employed. Only 5 to 10 percent of these people enroll in programs designed to improve their literacy for job training.

Helping your child develop a strong reading ability early will help him or her avoid this difficult situation. 

Halifax Learning is committed to helping all students develop positive and successful memories during their academic journey and beyond.

 

Some additional help may be needed to get them through these hurdles. The importance of learning to read can’t be overstated. Our flag-ship program, SpellRead can help you take a proactive approach to fully developing your child’s skills. Contact us to schedule his or her free reading assessment

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Creative Writing Tips from Halifax Learning!

By Eryn Steele on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 @ 01:27 PM

 

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Like with any other interest or hobby, it's important to nurture a child's love of writing!

Here are five fun ways to fuel your kid's creative spark, and to foster the process of putting ideas down on paper.

1. Get the Tools!

Encourage the use of printing and cursive by presenting your child with a beautiful, bright notebook and pen; a cool set of writing tools can really amplify the creative process. Monogramming the journal adds a special touch, as would picking up gel pens in his/her favourite colour!

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2. Get a Helpful Guide.

There's no wrong way for your child to write, but it's smart to provide extra guidance and support!  Below are seven awesome books to help cultivate ideas, so be sure to stop in a nearby bookstore or your local library for these handy how-tos.

  • "Leap Write In!: Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch and Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind" and "Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing" by Karen Benke
     
  • "Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring!" by Cheryl Miller Thurston and Dawn DiPrince 
     
  • "My One Line a Day: A Three-Year Memory Book" by Chronicle Books Staff
     
  • "Basher Basics: Creative Writing" by Mary Budzik and Simon Basher
     
  • "You Can Write a Story! A Story-writing Recipe for Kids" by Lisa Bullard
     
  • "Young Writers Companion: From Reader to Writer" by Sarah Ellis
     
  • "Spilling Ink: A Young Writer`s Handbook" by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter
     

3. I'll Write, Too!

If your child seems keen to write but struggles with starting or maintaining endurance, offer to write when they write! Sitting down together for an hour each week and chatting about topics, characters, and exciting plot twists might give them that little extra boost. So lead by example and work on a story while your child does, too... or co-write one!

Always remember, parent instincts are usually spot on. If you know your child just isn't getting it and their learning needs aren't being met, don't wait, contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment and consultation. Invest today to get a head start on the upcoming school year.

Learn more about how evidence-based programs like SpellRead can change your child's life!

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4. Make an e-Book.

Take tip #5 even farther and create an e-Book for your child's wonderful story! Publishing sites like Scribblitt and StoryJumper provide easy step-by-step instructions to creating an e-book, and offer the option to purchase hardcover copies when it's all done!

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5. Sign up for Writing Connections!

Writing Connections at Halifax Learning focuses on increasingly complex components of the writing process, from drafting and punctuation to paragraph structure, editing and essay writing. As the student progresses lesson by lesson, like SpellRead, each concept inWriting Connections  is fully mastered before the next one is introduced. Contact us today for a free consultation and assessment.

Or contact Eryn at the Halifax Learning for more information about our programs at enrollments@halifaxlearning.com.

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A Super SpellRead Success Story!

By Brittany Curran on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 @ 02:38 PM

 

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Efficient reading and writing skills are about more than just grade. Our mission to unlock the learning potential of our students to allow them to pursue their passion, like Girl Guide badges.  Read below to learn more about Rachel's journey to a full Girl Guide sash with Halifax Learning. 

When Rachel began at SpellRead last July, reading and writing were not among her preferred past times. Like many students who walk through our doors, she struggled to find joy in a world of books or writing by hand.

If this sounds familiar, don't wait, contact us today for a free in-depth literacy skills assessment.  There is no obligation to enroll and within one hour you'll have a better understanding of how your child processes and understands text.  We'll also send you a digital copy of the assessment report!

Recently, however, a certain spark has been lit and Rachel's developed a newfound self-assurance!

Her SpellRead instructors and her mom, Terri-Lynn, have all noticed a change in Rachel's energy and dedication to reading and writingespecially when it comes to earning Girl Guide badges.

"The other day, Rachel gathered the pages to do the write-ups on approximately six badges and took them to EXCEL, an after school program," says Terri-Lynn. "It was such a surprise to see her sitting alone working on her write-ups, and she was so happy to read each one to me."

Rachel's homeroom and resource teachers at school have also noticed a difference!
Rachel reading!"They are seeing changes in her as well and the said that the knowledge she's gaining at SpellRead has proven to be very useful," says Terri-Lynn. "They've noticed an increase in her confidence."

SpellRead isn't just about achieving a growth in assessment scores. The program strives to provide a supportive and encouraging environment for students so that they can blossom personally, too!

Way to go, Rachel! We're all so proud of you!

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The SpellRead Approach

By Halifax Learning on Mon, Mar 05, 2018 @ 11:42 AM

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SpellRead focuses on developing a student's "phonological automaticity", the ability to master sound-letter relationships and automatically process the sounds.  Activities in phonemic, phonetic, and language-based reading and writing form the foundation of SpellRead.  The SpellRead approach ensures that students' reading and writing skills become as developed and automatic as their verbal ability.

Students and educators see progress from the first lessons.  All lessons are clearly defined in the instruction manuals and taught in a carefully sequenced and explicit manner.  Each skills is thoroughly practiced in a fast-paced format so that students stay engaged in learning.

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SpellRead ensures students can automatically and efficiently decode all 44 sounds of the English language.  One way to ensure mastery of skills is through explicit, systematic, repetitive instruction that is equally effective and engaging.  SpellRead adheres to best practices in pedagogy by ensuring consistent, minimal language, positive reinforcement, fast-paced, multi-sensory program delivery.

What are the stats on SpellRead?

In one year our students:

  • learn how to effectively and efficiently decode new language using the 44 sounds of the English language.
  • are exposed to hundreds of new vocabulary terms without even touching a book.
  • take part in 25+ hours of Active Reading.
  • take part in 10+ hours of Writing Connections.
  • gain the confidence to approach new language with the tools identified by experts in reading research.
  • gain the skills to tackle school work and thrive!

 

Watch SpellRead in the classroom!

View our Fall Student Results here.

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Reading Opportunities Are Everywhere! Do you know where to find them?

By Halifax Learning on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 @ 11:40 PM

 

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I’ve always been drawn to words.  When I was a child, I would read everything in sight.  At least, that’s how it feels when I look back.  I would read a random and eclectic assortment of objects inside and outside my home.  If it had words, I was interested.

I’ve tried to remember as many of the odd and unexpected places I used to find words to demonstrate how important reading is and how easy it is to practice almost anywhere.

Here are some classics you might remember from your childhood and a few that might surprise you. 

Cereal Boxes

It goes without saying that the companies making children’s cereal plaster the box with entertaining content.  This includes word searches, trivia, puzzles, and other activities on almost every side.

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But many cereal boxes, including the ones most kids won’t eat, also have a lot of reading material.  “Family size”, “daily value of” and “source of 7 essential nutrients” can all be found on most boxes.  The same goes for the ingredient lists and the nutritional info. 

Take the opportunity to talk to your child about the ingredients or explain why the various nutrients are important.  It will help them retain more of the new words they’re exposed to.

Recipes

Similarly, I used to read recipes a lot.  My mother had a few tried and true cookbooks and I would often invade her kitchen and begin scrolling down that night’s recipe.

As I grew I began helping her prepare meals, and she knew I’d have no problem with the steps.  Pretty clever now that I think about it…

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Recruit your child to help you prepare meals once a week.  Not only will they be exposed to a brand new vocabulary, they’ll also learn about healthy diets and meal preparation.  This will be invaluable for their health and your peace of mind as they grow.

Instructions

I’m a man and I’m not embarrassed to admit it - I read the instructions.  I have for as long as I remember*.  Often it was a board game or a puzzle.  I would read every rule and make sure they were clear before we started.  Pretty insufferable, eh? 

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But like cereal boxes, board games and puzzles are a rich source of language.  The instructions may be a little dull, but reading them rather than hearing them creates a direct connection between the written word and it’s meaning.  This improves comprehension.  The descriptions and random information on the box is also ripe to be read. 

Printed Material

I don’t mean the books that I read – I mean all of the books, magazines and newspapers my parents had in our home.  Sometimes it was actually hard to avoid printed words. 

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There’s wisdom in that.  Words were around me all the time so I began reading them.  Book spines, newspaper headlines, magazine covers.  I even read the tabloid fodder in the checkout line at the grocery store.  All that yellow lettering really grabbed my attention as a kid.

Lots of studies have shown that homes with many books produce more literate kids.  Increased access and exposure to reading material has a real and substantial impact on future reading skills.

Song Lyrics**

I expect most people can recall the lyrics to a few songs from their childhood.  I can even remember bits and pieces of the dinosaur cassette my parents played for me in the car when I was a toddler.  The words I memorized nearly 30 years ago, and the accompanying melody, are still clear in my mind.

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Adding music to words makes them stickier.  If you aren’t tired of your child’s favourite songs yet, help them learn the lyrics properly.  Maybe put on a lip sync showcase or write down the lyrics and change them to goofier ones.  Karaoke is tons of fun - you'll be reading lyrics the whole time and you’ll improve your child’s word recognition while you're at it.

The Great Outdoors

This category is an outrageous one to distill into a few short paragraphs, so here’s a list of ten things you can read outside:

Street names, billboards, movie posters, traffic signs, the posters on buses (inside and out), the names of businesses, memorial plaques in parks, writing on the sides of cars, educational info at landmarks, and the map you need to get everywhere. 

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Next time you’re out with your kids, ask them to read everything in sight.  Play I Spy but search for words.  If your kids have short names, try and find them on license plates.  There are almost infinite possibilities.

Odds ‘n’ Ends

This is literally anything else you might have lying around your home. 

Old Christmas cards stored in a drawer?  Perfect for seeing different writing and communication styles.  Going on a trip?  Passports and itineraries have lots of information.  Been to a concert?  Ticket stubs are quick and easy.  Too busy running errands to read to your kids?  Have them read aloud to you between stops.  Better yet, take a page out of my mom’s book and recruit your child to help with your to-do list.

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Reading opportunities truly are all around us. For more reading opportunities, here is a list of books that feature siblings!  We'd love to hear your thoughts or any other readable, everyday objects you can think of.  
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*I want to mention that storytelling offers a number of language skills.  The teller creates a narrative and then captivates their audience with their tone, emotion and creativity.  It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s a fun creative outlet that has no real downside. 
**It might have something to do with my deep-seated urge to understand everything around me.  I still struggle to filter the huge influx of information I’ve had access to over the last decade into consumable chunks.  There are way too many tabs open in my web browser.

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