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Celebrating 20-Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

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

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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

halifa learning spellread

"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!
 

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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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ADHD, LD, EF | What does it all mean?

By Brittany Curran on Sat, Nov 24, 2018 @ 03:48 PM

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Initialisms have long existed as a popular form of communication and classification: FBI, TGIF, DNA, ICYMI. In a world prone to shortened speak, condensed phrasing can be both puzzling and ambiguous. 

ADHD, LD, and EF are three unique initialisms that help categorize learning differences. Although they may have overlapping symptoms, these terms are not interchangeable.

So, how do we begin to decipher which one accurately defines an individual's needs? Let’s dissect!


ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, formerly ADD) is a neurobehavioural disorder affecting brain development and activity, which then alters a child's abilities, like sitting still or following instructions.

Most kids show attention challenges throughout childhood. An individual with ADHD, however, feels an even greater struggle to focus, and will likely display symptoms in three categories: inattention (e.g. distractions and concentration), hyperactivity (e.g. fidgeting and boredom), and impulsivity (e.g. interruptions and risky behaviour).

But struggling with areas such as focus, activity, and self-control doesn't equal an ADHD diagnosis. Instead, consider that the concern level should grow as children do. 

According to KidsHealth, "kids learn these skills with help from parents and teachers. But some kids don't get much better at paying attention, settling down, listening, or waiting. When these things continue and begin to cause problems at school, home, and with friends, it may be ADHD."

Theories surrounding the root of ADHD are complicated: genes, environmental toxins (e.g. pesticides), and prenatal substance abuse are likely contributors. It is important to also note what is not at the core: "the popular belief that eating too much sugar causes the condition has not held up in research... and 'poor parenting' is not to blame... but parenting styles and strategies can have an effect on children's self-regulating abilities. Children who are exposed to inconsistent discipline or who suffer from neglect may find it more challenging to rein in their impulses or direct their attention later on" (Psychology Today Canada).

LD
Learning Disabilities (LD)—including Dyslexia and Dysgraphia—stem from how our brains are pre-programmed and is not an indication of intelligence. The brain may struggle with reading, reasoning, or recall, but challenges can be curbed through tools and techniques. Furthermore, many children with LDs often excel in other areas, like music and sports.

At an early age, children may face challenges learning numbers, interacting with others, and be easily distracted. Once in school, common telltale signs include word confusion, reading and spelling mistakes, and a slowness to comprehend new skills. Nearing junior high, children may battle handwriting, fact recall, and avoid reading in front of others.

"Children with learning disabilities must be assured that they are not dumb or lazy. They are intelligent people who have trouble learning because their minds process words or information differently... it important to be honest and optimistic—explain to your child that they struggle with learning, but that they can learn. Focus on your child's talents and strengths" (LD Online).

EF
Executive function (EF) skills are cognitive—or brain-based—skills that affect one's ability to make plans, set goals, regulate emotions, etc.; the prefrontal cortex governs these skills. EFs are neuro-developmental, meaning they develop over time, but not necessarily in a linear fashion.

EFs commonly fall under one of these three skill groups: Working Memory, Cognitive Flexibility, and Inhibitory Control. Skills need to be nurtured prior to entering an academic setting, and children will feel better equipped for school with some control over managing thoughts, actions, and emotions.

EFs are described as delayed, not deficits, and there are likely to be accelerations and regressions; fluctuation is normal.

••• 

However your child’s learning journey unfolds, a support team for treatment—which can include doctors, therapists, parents, coaches, and teachers—will help him or her slow down, develop and hone skills, and gain confidence. Early awareness is key: check in with a clinician (even get a second or third opinion) and keep your child's team in the loop.

Being organized and informed can also make a world of difference in your child's progress.

Here are 5 tips to help manage information:

  1. STAY SORTED
    Create a binder to house relevant medical and educational documents, test results, forms, etc.
  2. HELP LINE
    Entrust and designate a family member, neighbour, or close friend to be a supportive resource for you and your child; it takes a village!
  3. SAVE SAMPLES
    Collect examples of schoolwork that highlight strengths and weaknesses; these tangible academic reminders will help remind you of successes and hitches.
  4. KEEP TRACK
    Maintain a running log of communication and correspondence with professionals.
  5. TAKE NOTES
    Scribe memos of your child's educational, social, and emotional highs and lows; keep a journal or phone note to have your personal observations on hand.


Halifax Learning can help individuals with an ADHD or LD brain. To learn more about how our program works, contact us for a free consultation. 

Book a Free Assessment

 

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Phonological Awareness and EAL

By Eryn Steele on Sat, Nov 24, 2018 @ 11:21 AM

The importance of phonological skills cannot be underestimated in teaching English as an additional language. Phonological awareness is understanding the sounds (phonemes) of the English language and knowing the symbol or letter (grapheme) that represents those sounds.

A person who speaks, French, Spanish, Latin or German based languages are familiar with the English alphabet. There may be some differences with accents over letters, but the recognition of each letter is there with many similar sounds. English is derived from Latin, Greek and Germanic languages.

The alphabet and its related sounds are not as familiar to the student from a language that has an entirely different alphabet. This includes Russian, Persian-Farsi, Japanese or Chinese. The beautiful calligraphy of Chinese and Japanese has no relation to English.  Some of the letters in the Russian alphabet do match English. The Greek alphabet also has some similar letters and sounds.

Phonological or phonemic skills are developed by recognizing the letters and the sounds they make when spoken. The next step is putting it all together in speaking and reading. A native English speaker learning another language may experience the same problem learning the sounds and usage of the same letters in French or German.

Where are you from?

Knowing the student's origin will help in teaching them to recognize sounds. People from countries that don't use the Latin alphabet will have to learn to read again even though they read fluently in Arabic or Korean. They are starting over much as English speaking children learn to read.

Chances are the people learning English as a second or even third language are familiar with some phrases. They may be able to piece together a few English words. However, they may not be able to read that phrase if it is written out. They will learn to manipulate the sounds and written language into sentences as they improve their English skills.

Short sounds

Many ESL teachers begin by teaching the short vowel sounds in alphabetical order. Repetition is most important with drills and practice. Blended computer lab programs that involve reading along with working with individual teachers help students to become familiar with the basic sounds and how they are used to spell words.

They move on to learn the hard consonant sounds and rhymes. They are able to identify t,p,g,n,m,  sounds. They progress to other consonants and understand how the sounds blend together to form words and sentences.  Major emphasis is placed on reading and writing sentences as well as speaking. 

Rhyming, used with young children, works with adults as well to understand sounds. It starts with simple games such as learning how many words can be made from using it as a root word. Students learn to recognize the hard consonant sounds that form words such as pit and fit.

These are basic steps in building phonological skills for English Language Learners. More advanced programs teach the difference between spelling with the ph (as in phonics) and the f (as in fan).  Every effort is made to help students improve their English reading and spelling which has rules that are frequently broken. 

Hearing, speaking and reading English are the result of well-developed phonological skills. Study, practice and immersion in an English-speaking environment will help to build those skills.

Dr. Linda Siegel's research clearly shows the importance of phonological awareness and teaching English as a Second Language.  Her work show the evidence how important this is. 

Linda Siegel

At the Halifax Learning Centre we have used the SpellRead program with ESL learners in Nova Scotia and also abroad in China, and in the United States.  We also did a program with Chinese pilots wanting to perfect their English language pronunication skills.  

For more information on any of our programs please email: information@halifaxlearning.com.

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What does "evidence-based" really mean?

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 @ 11:24 AM

 

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When it comes to evidence-based practices, we sometimes think about doctors - professionals who help patients based on past medical research. No two patients are exactly alike, but doctors know they can rely on the evidence that has been produced over the years to help their patients. Similarly, no two of our students are exactly alike, but we know that we have the right evidence-based program to help them build the skills that they need. That's the power of evidence.

Something is considered "evidence-based practice" if: 

  • there is robust support. 
  • group designed studies and research.
  • a large series of single-case design studies.

Having the privilege to be labeled as "evidence-based" is not a small feat and should carry a lot of weight to an individual or parent that is considering their child's learning needs or their own. Foundational literacy skills should not be left to chance regardless of a child's race, gender, socio-economic status, presence of a learning difference, diagnosis of a neurological disorder and so on.

The list is endless. Intelligent, hard working individuals with huge hearts have worked tirelessly to develop programs that work - particularly in reading. We believe parents today are more and more aware of the impacts that the "Reading Wars" of the 1980s are having on our children today.  

"Reading is the most studied aspect of human learning."
- quote for Emily Handford's documentary, Hard Words: Why aren't our kids being taught to read?

Despite the Marianas Trench of research identifying the 5 core components required for effective reading instruction, our students are still not being taught to read effectively or efficiently. 

halifax learning spellread evidence-based

How did SpellRead become an evidence-based reading intervention program?

We at Halifax Learning love to celebrate the origins of the SpellRead program. SpellRead was created by a parent from Prince Edward Island desperately searching for effective reading instruction for her child. She was inspired to help her son, who is deaf, learn to read in a way that works for people of all abilities. One really important piece of her story, that we sometimes don't emphasize as much as we should, is the fact that Kay is a life-long educator and researcher. In creating SpellRead, Dr. MacPhee used research and evidence.

Once Kay had created SpellRead and had taught it successfully, the program was evaluated in various research projects, like in this study on elementary-aged students, and this larger-scale study. SpellRead continues to be evaluated, like in this recent study with students in Halifax's Youth Advocacy Program, and in a current study being done by the NeuroCognitive Imaging Lab at Dalhousie University. These studies consistently demonstrate that SpellRead offers effective, sustainable results. 

Delivering an evidence-based program is important because sometimes there are strategies that seem like they might work, but actually have no benefit or introduce bad habits and compensatory strategies. Our students tell us all the time that they've been taught to guess an unfamiliar word based on a picture, or to skip over the word and then come back to it later.

These strategies might seem sufficient, but they have not been proven and often get in the way of the actual process of learning to read. Anecdotally we find that this type of instruction becomes ineffective for a high number of students around grade 3. As students begin to progress more heavily into reading content without pictures, these compensatory strategies are no longer an option and student's comprehension, productivity and enthusiasm for reading is impacted in a very negative way. 

It's so important that we understand there is science behind reading education, and that it has actually been studied a lot over the years (which makes sense, considering how vital it is to have strong reading skills). Not all methods of reading instruction are equal. Here are 9 questions to ask when evaluating an reading program. We know what works to teach, and we know how to teach it.

How do know if your child is being taught to read the right way? Download our document, "All Children Reading Well" or Contact us today to book a free assessment. 

Free Assessment

 

 

 

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Child's Play: Five Word Games for Kids

By Brittany Curran on Fri, Nov 09, 2018 @ 01:26 PM

halifax learning games tutor spellread

Revered British writer, Roald Dahl (Boy, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), believed that "life is more fun if you play games." He also scribbed a character who thought "children should never have baths... it's a dangerous habit(The Witches). Certainly one of these things is true.

Word activities can be an exciting and engaging supplemental tool for encouraging your child to read. They can also trigger a volcanic eruption of frustration and anger if a child playing lacks the foundational skills required to participate in family or group fun. If a raging river of molten hot lava tends to overtake your kitchen table, expert intervention might be necessary. Contact us today for a free assessment!

If not, here are five board and card gamesfrom classic choices to contemporary conceptsto help reinforce spelling, strengthen word recognition, and fuel your little one's imagination. They might even forget they're learning... and it's sure to bring out the kid in you, too!

1. SCRABBLE JUNIOR

For 80 years, Scrabble has become one of the most popular games to grace shelves. Hasbro's newer offspring, Scrabble Junior, is suggested for ages 5 and up, and offers a dual board. The first side has permanent, predetermined vocabulary (like CHERRY, DOLPHIN, and SEA) and players match personal tiles to these words. An adult can help keep score with tokens, and when a player runs out of tiles, the individual with the most points wins. The second side is an advanced edition, so kids can build up to building their own words!

2. RORY'S STORY CUBES

Nearly 15 years ago, creativity trainer and coach, Rory Bamfylde, needed an innovative problem solving technique for adults; "as the brain thinks in pictures but communicates in words, having a visual aid... would be advantageous." So he created Story Cubes: a dice game to help nurture different ideas. To play, individuals take turns shaking up and rolling nine cubes, then generate sentences or scenes from what's revealed, ideally linking a story together from all the upturned images; a suggested prompt is "once upon a time." Story Cube versions feature actions, voyages, and specialized characters (like Batman), and are recommended for ages 6 and up. The best part? Winning isn't everything! The goal is to think fast, be creative, and avoid dwelling on perfect ideas; there are no wrong answers!

3. APPLES TO APPLES JUNIOR

Designed for ages 9 and up, this creative combination game encourages kids to talk their way to the top! With a whopping 576-card deck, all players begin by receiving an equal number of Red Apple cards, which feature a person, place, thing, or event (like GYMNASTICS or GETTING A HAIRCUT). Individuals take turns being the judge, who will read aloud a Green Apple card that states a description of a person, place, thing, or event (like CRUNCHY or MAGICAL). Players choose one of their own Red Apple cards they believe best corresponds with the Green Apple card, and tries to convince the judge it fits! Whoever's Red Apple card is chosen wins that round, and the first player to dominate four rounds, wins! The objective (aside from silliness) is to expand vocabulary; become more familiar with nouns, adjectives, and synonyms; and hone quick-thinking skills.

4. WORD ON THE STREET JUNIOR

Looking to develop vocabulary with a focus on teamwork? Intended for a younger demographic, Word on the Street Junior is recommended for ages 8 and up. To play, every player helps line up the 26 alphabet tiles onto the board's center spaces, then divides themselves into two teams. Team 1 begins by picking a category card (like A RED FOOD) and Team 2 flips over the 30-second timer; Team 1 has half a minute to choose the best answer/word (like TOMATO), then works as a unit to move corresponding tiles to their "side of the street." Now, Team 2 picks a new category card and has 30 seconds to choose the best response for moving tiles toward their side, ideally with a word including letters from Team 1's side to be "stolen." The first team to shimmy eight tiles off their side of the board, wins. Triple- or quadruple-letter words (like BUBBLE or REFEREE) move tiles to your team's side quicker! Having a parent or adult present helps to ensure words are spelled correctly and rules understood!

5. BANANAGRAMS

Available in several editionsincluding My First Bananagrams (ages 4 and up) and Classic Bananagrams (ages 7 and up)—this game challenges kids to reconfigure letters with an emphasis on proper spelling. To play the original version, 144 tiles (or THE BUNCH) are placed facedown on a table. Each player takes between 11-21 tiles, depending on how many people are playing. One person says "SPLIT!" and players flip over their own tiles and intersect letters to form a personal horizontal and vertical grid of words. When a player has used his or her last tile, they yell "PEEL!" and all players grab a new one from THE BUNCH. Don't like a letter in your lot? Say "DUMP!" at any time and exchange it for three new tiles. When the amount of letters in THE BUNCH is less than the amount of players, the first person to use all his or her own tiles yells "BANANAS!" and wins. Monkeying around never felt so educational!

Tips and Notes:

  • All links are to official brand sites, so scope out local or Canadian shops for availability and pricing.
  • Check your library's collection as an alternative to buying or a trial run before purchasing!
  • Invest in a holder for smaller hands or those who need extra help clutching cards, like Gamewright's Original Little Hands Playing Card Holder.

SpellRead loves word games, too! Students' card packs, which use pseudo-words to reinforce sounds, include either pairs to play Go Fish and Memory, or are perfect for the program's own beloved activities: Slam and Secret Seven!

Eager to learn more?

Program Walkthrough

 

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Three Reasons Readers Rush

By Brittany Curran on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 @ 01:51 PM

halifax learning spellread

In well-informed educational settings, teachers and students take turns reading aloud from a carefully chosen book while others silently follow along. New vocabulary is introduced and discussed, allowing students to focus on comprehending and engaging with text. The teacher models phrasing, fluency, and maintains a consistent, positive approach to error detection and correction. Pace is also an incredibly important variable.

So, what's the rush?

Consider this comparison: SpellRead's program features speed-read packs with pseudo words and syllables reflecting vowels and consonants of a student's current lesson. For these packs, time and accuracy are critical and one cannot "beat" a pack without both. Ultimately, however, accuracy trumps speed; students won't move on to the next pack with a quick time but several errors.

Reading an article, book, or story follows the same suit: a faster tempo can be positive as long as the reader hasn't sacrificed correctness or comprehension.

Here are three reasons why a student might feel compelled to hurry, and tips to help slow down the process!

halifax learning spellread reading

REASON #1: PRESSURE

The pressure to perform perfectly or read quickly can weigh heavy on a child, whether this personal push comes from a feeling of inadequacy ("the other students are faster"), an external pressure ("I think my Mom/Dad/teacher wants me to be quicker), or a learning challenge (dyslexia, etc.). The fear of failure could be intimidating enough that students charge through pages, skipping words, lines, and concepts, without the ability to properly absorb the text.

TIPS:

  • Remind your child or student that they are supported and encouraged! You want them to feel positive about reading, not dispirited.
  • Mix up content. Alternate longer reading tasks (e.g. chapter books or assigned homework) with fun, shorter text. Browse and download articles from Newsela, which offers a variety of topics and subscription options for a range of reading levels.
  • Play a word board game, like Scrabble Junior, pairing your child or student with someone older or more advanced.

REASON #2: BOREDOM

The Owl Teacher suggests that a text's level or theme could cause haste. "Is your student rushing through the work because he is challenged by it or bored with it? Some students, such as [those] with ADHD, rush because the thoughts move so quickly in their mind that they need to put down their answer before they lose their train of thought." Furthermore, students may zip through text because it feels "too easy" or they find the subject matter uninteresting.

TIPS:

  • For extracurricular reading, choose captivating material tailored to the child's interests. In life, they won't always get to read what they want, but find openings for compromise. If they require a more advanced text, pick a story highlighting a favourite thinglike hockey, Halloween, or hippopotami! Just be mindful of the balance between challenging and tough.
  • If their age-level books feel too strenuous, scale back a bit so they conquer "easier" text, which could improve confidence, sight word automaticity, and reinforce fundamental skills.

REASON #3: "WINNING"

For many readers (adults included!), it's tempting to hurry through text and leap to the final pages, itching to learn how it ends. Speed certainly allows us to finish faster, but at what cost? The Owl Teacher explains that an individual may want "to feel smart... and by being the first one done, that helps accomplish that for him." In the classic fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, pace becomes paramount, and we learn that moving slowly but steadily leads to success.

TIPS: 

  • Lead by example. Take turns reading paragraphs or pages, and maintain a reasonable reading speed so they emulate your pace.
  • Add an action where you both stop reading at unknown or longer (multisyllabic) words to analyze sounds; this causes readers to pause and contemplate.
  • Write these words on a separate piece of colourful stationery, which will become the book's running vocabulary list. At the end of reading time, you can look up meanings together online or in a physical dictionary!

Reading should be a marathon, not a sprint. A child or student will get the most out of literature when they incorporate time, tools, and techniques to truly and fully understand text. Your bookworm should inch along at his or her most productive speed, so trust the turtle: precision and perseverance matter more than urgency.

••

At Halifax Learning, we use the Gray Oral Reading TestFifth Edition (GORT5) measure reading fluency and reading comprehension.

GORT–5 is one of the most widely used measures of oral reading fluency and comprehension in the United States. The GORT–5 has two equivalent forms: Form A and Form B. Each form contains 16 developmentally sequenced reading passages with five comprehension questions each. —Pearson

It doesn't take an expert in reading instruction to predict rushing as a symptom of a struggling reader. It does require expertise to remediate the systemic effects of poor reading instruction. SpellRead is a marathon that trains the most important muscle in our bodiesthe brainto complete and win the marathon!

Program Walkthrough

If you or a family member is struggling to discover the love of reading, book a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment today. In less than 1 hour, you will learn more about how you or a loved one processes language and comprehends text.
Free Assessment

RESOURCES:

Library of Congress Aesop Fables: http://read.gov/aesop/025.html
Newsela: https://newsela.com/
The Owl Teacher: https://theowlteacher.com/
Pearson: https://www.pearsonclinical.ca/en/products/product-master/item-404.html

Topics: reading
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13 Spooky Stories for Halloween

By Megan Brooks on Wed, Oct 17, 2018 @ 02:46 PM

What Would Woozles Recommend for Halloween Reading?

We're thrilled to share our second list of books recommended by our dear friends at Woozles

halifax learning spellread halloween reading books

Ages 0-2

  • Eek! Halloween! | By Sandra Boynton
  • Room on the Broom | By Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler
  • Monster Trucks Board Book | By Anika Denise and Nate Wragg

Ages 3-6

  • The Walking Bathroom | By Shauntay Grant
  • Duck & Goose, Honk! Quack! Boo! | By Todd Hills
  • Five Little Monkeys Trick-or-Treat | By Eileen Christelow

Ages 6-9

  • Ghoulia (Book 1) | By Barbara Cantini
  • The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare | By Shannon and Dean Hale

Ages 8-12

  • Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise | By Kate DiCamillo
  • The Ghost Road | By Chris Cotter
  • Spirit Hunters | By Ellen Oh
  • The Witches | By Roald Dahl

Ages 13+, YA

  • The Hazel Wood: A Novel |By Melissa Albert

Did something speak to your spooky side? 
Click here to purchase copies online or or take a trip and experience one of Halifax's most unique and lovable landmarks!

Happy Halloween!

halifax learning spellread halloween 2018 reading woozles

 

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Fight for Phonics | Article Response

By Megan Brooks on Wed, Oct 03, 2018 @ 02:12 PM

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An article was recently shared by Shelley MacMillan Education on Facebook. I was intrigued by the article for obvious reasons, the phonics and reading instruction theme to name a few. The author highlights the opinion of Mark Seidenber, author of "Language at the Speed of Light" and cognitive neuroscientist.  I recently read Seidenberg's work and found myself impressed with his ability to make me LOL about phonics. "Finding Phonemo"!? C'mon! That's hilarious. I digress ... 

In "Kids Struggle to Read When Schools Leave Phonics Out" author Emily Hanford provides a brief history of the phonics vs. whole language debate. We encourage you to read this article and learn more about that debate. Ultimately, a balanced approach to literacy instruction was accepted, but "in balanced literacy, phonics is treated a bit like salt on a meal: a little here and there, but not too much, because it could be bad for you." 

When it comes to phonics, science says otherwise.

Further on, Hanford states, "For scientists like Seidenberg, the problem with teaching just a little bit of phonics is that according to all the research, phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Surrounding kids with good books is a great idea, but it’s not the same as teaching children to read."

halifax learning spellread

Seidenberg isn't alone in his position on phonics. In the 2014 the Chronicle Herald published an article discussing the state of reading instruction in our classrooms. "What's needed in our elementary school classrooms, Metsala says, is explicit, systematic instruction in both phonological awareness (the ability to recognize sounds within language) and phonics (correlating those sounds with letters of the alphabet)." Dr. Metsala is the Jarislowsky Chair in Learning Disabilities at Mount Saint Vincent University and has studied the results of SpellRead students at Halifax Learning and presented her research both nationally and internationally. 

Back to Handford's article. 

If you've taken the time to read through to the bottom of the article, you might be left feeling as I did, a bit well, bummed. But after some reflection I'm left feeling more optimistic.

If you're local to Halifax then you're lucky and here is why:

  • There are professors in our province that advocate for explicit, systematic instruction in phonics.
  • There are groups like The Cole Harbour Foundation and Bridgeway Academy that provide instruction in evidence-driven reading instruction.  
  • Halifax Learning is committed to increasing awareness, training and providing instruction in the SpellRead program, a phonics rich reading program that has proven, effective and sustainable results. 

If your not local, you're lucky too, and here is why:

  • Halifax Learning provides training in SpellRead - locally, nationally and internationally. 

If you're considering SpellRead for your child, for yourself or for professional development, contact us today for a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment or download our most recent student results to see for yourself!

Recent Results

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9 Questions: Evaluating a Reading Program

By Megan Brooks on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 @ 03:05 PM

camylla-battani-784361-unsplashAre you looking for literacy support and feeling overwhelmed, confused or frustrated? Let Halifax Learning help.

You should know exactly what you’re signing up for and we strive to empower our visitors with accurate and practical information. We know there are other programs out there and that you will do your due diligence in making a final decision for you and your family. To make this process easier, we've compiled a list of 10 FAQs that we recommend you ask us and any other service providers you may visit! 

halifax learning spellread

1. Does your program address the 5 core skills needed to become a skilled reader?

Research has identified five core components to inform effective reading instruction.
  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Reading Fluency
  5. Reading Comprehension
We're proud to say SpellRead was designed with them in mind. Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

2. How do you measure student progress?

SpellRead provides a clear path for your child to master phonological automaticity, to transfer those skills and to become efficient readers. Our program is explicit, systematic, multi-sensory, evidence-driven and meets the needs of even the most struggling learner.

SpellRead integrates on-going assessment and evaluation through carefully designed card packs for timed reading. This ensures students achieve automatic recognition of the letter, sound relationship. Students work toward realistic goals, receive on-going review and individualized instruction. Did we mention you can play fun games with the packs too!

Each class students participate in reading aloud and independent writing. After each class our teachers assign a score from our carefully designed rubrics. These scores inform our teachers in their selection of reading material and mini-lessons designed to remediate common errors. 

Finally, Halifax Learning takes pride in communicating student progress with families. We are fortunate to have face time with parents and guardians after each class and we are eager to provide updates and celebrate success!

3. What results can we expect and in what time period? Are they sustainable?

Our goal is to bring skills to the point at, or above grade level, within one year.

We administer assessments for all new enrollments, midway and upon completion of the recommended registration in the SpellRead program. Our results are sustainable and the research supports it! 

4. What professionals refer to you?

We have a long list of individuals that refer to us including clinical psychologists, teachers, speech language pathologists and community groups but our number one source of referrals come from our graduates and their families!

5. Who are the teachers?  

Our teachers come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: A love of reading and student success! Our teachers have on average 9.5 years of SpellRead teaching experience. 

Halifax Learning is also committed to investing in professional development and lifelong learning. Click here for a list of upcoming conferences and online training.

6. How are they trained 
Our teachers participate in a week long training in the SpellRead methodology. After successful completion of the initial training, teachers are regularly observed and submit daily reports after each class. Experienced SpellRead teachers provide bi-weekly feedback to ensure students are meeting outcomes and progressing at the expected rate.

7. Has your program been independently reviewed? If so, can we see the research?
Does it ever! Click here to review our extensive research library.

Did you know SpellRead was rated #1 by What Works Clearing House for small-group reading instruction!

8. What will your reading assessment provide?

Our assessment measures the 5 core skills, listed above, required to become a skilled reader. Our clients are provided with a digital copy of the initial, progress and final assessment reports that clearly compare results and show progress. 

9. Why do you do what you do?

Because reading doesn't just happen. There is a science to it.  We can all do better to ensure our children receive reading instruction that we know works. When you know better, you do better and the science is unequivocally clear. It just so happens that Halifax Learning has been delivering this science-based reading instructional method for over twenty years and guess what? The results are clear! We've changed over 4,000 lives and we're making plans for 400,000 more.

Don't wait. Trust the experts.

Enroll today so your child can enjoy everything that is magical about reading!

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Reading Recommendations for All Ages | From Woozles Bookstore

By Megan Brooks on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 @ 12:33 PM

We are thrilled to partner with Woozles, a local bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to share a monthly reading list of book recommendations featuring a variety of themes. At Halifax Learning we love to partner with other folks who share our same love of reading and as everyone knows, Woozles LOVES reading.

But reading doesn't just happen. There is a science to it.  We can all do better to ensure our children receive reading instruction that we know works. When you know better, you do better and the science is unequivocally clear. It just so happens that Halifax Learning has been delivering this science-based reading instructional method for over twenty years and guess what? The results are clear! We've changed over 4,000 lives and we're making plans for 400,000 more. Don't wait. Trust the experts. Enroll today so your child can enjoy everything that is magical about bookstores like Woozles!

Did you know Woozles is celebrating its 40th birthday!? Join them on Saturday, October 13th to celebrate!

This month's theme features books that celebrate the opportunities and challenges that a new school year brings. Thank you Woozles for your inspiration and dedication to reading!

halifax learning woozles book recommendations back to school 2018 fall

September conjures up ideas of fall and cooler air, and, of course, back to school. Woozles carries books that help children get excited about their first day of school, help them deal with issues they face at various ages, and show them that school and learning is exciting!

Check out Woozles suggestions below:

Ages 5-7

  • The Secret Life of Squirrels: Back to School by Nancy Rose
    This is the fourth book in Nancy Rose’s squirrel series. Mr. Peanuts and his friend Rosie get the classroom ready for the new students, buying school supplies, setting up the gym and the library, and even drive the school bus! (Hardcover  $23.49)
  • Ready or Not, Woolbur Goes to School! By Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Lee Harper
    Tomorrow is Woolbur’s first day of school. Enjoy Woolbur’s enthusiasm for the new things school brings, in contrast to the concerns of his classmates at the newness of everything. (Hardcover $21.99)

Ages 8-12

  • Mr Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke
    Children certainly enjoy graphic novels, and this one is no exception. This is the story of a grade four class, complete with new and returning students, sleepy students, bossy students, and all of the everyday antics a school day can bring! (Paperback  $12.99)
  • The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan
    This book is a collection of poems written by eighteen students in grade five. The poems are dated throughout the school year, telling of the kids’ school life, and how they speak up together to save their school from demolition. (Paperback  $9.50)

Ages 10-14

  • Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass
    Ally, Jack and Bree, three young teens from across the country, from different family situations and school cliques, meet in a desert campground. They are there to witness a total eclipse of the sun. Here, they are free to be themselves, and form friendships that they otherwise wouldn’t have. (Paperback  $11.99)

Young Adults, Ages 14+

  • Ramona Blue
    by Julie Murphy
    Ramona is in her final year of high school, gay, and the responsible one in her family. She juggles schoolwork and a job to help provide for her Dad and pregnant sister. The return of her childhood friend, Freddie, causes her to rethink the possibilities open to her in life, including unexpected love, scholarships, and university.  (Paperback $12.50)

Issue Oriented Books

  • Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends: Dealing With Bullies and Bossiness and Finding a Better Way
    by American Girl

    American Girl books are very good at communicating with tweens, conveying the subject matter via short and to the point text and great illustrations that highlight the points being made.  (Ages 11+,  Paperback $13.99)

  • Feeling Shy
    by Kay Barnham, illustrated by Mike Gordon

    This book is part of a series entitled “Everyday Feelings”. Through anecdotes, the book illustrates how a young person reaches out to a shy child in the playground, helps a child join in with group games, and tells her sister how she doesn’t need to be shy from the attention of grown-ups. Lessons we can all share in!  (Ages 5-9, Hardcover  $18.99)
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Professional Development: Local Conferences and Online Training in HRM

By Megan Brooks on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 @ 12:57 PM

halifax learning spellread professional development conference local hrm

 

Below is a list of 5 upcoming conferences and online resources for professional development offered in Halifax, Nova Scotia or online. Halifax Learning is pleased to participate in each of these events and proud of our province for investing and promoting awareness that celebrates learning and professional development. 

 

1. Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada

"CADDAC is a national, not-for-profit, organization providing leadership and support in awareness, education and advocacy for ADHD organizations and individuals across Canada."

On October 27-28, CADDAC is hosting the 10th Annual ADHD Conference at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, NS. 

If you are unable to attend the conference CADDAC offers an extensive list of resources and webinars for continued learning and support.

 

2. Canadian Parents for French

"CPF was founded in 1977 by parents who wanted to ensure that children would have the opportunity to become bilingual in the Canadian school system. Originally a small group of concerned parents who met in Ottawa, CPF has evolved into a proactive national network with 10 Branch offices and some 150 Chapters in communities nationwide."

On October 18-21, CPF will be hosting the CPF Network Conference at the Westin in Halifax, NS. 

You can also subscribe to their free magazine here for tips and resources. 

 

3. Atlantic Abilities Conference

"AAC is the premier Atlantic conference featuring international, national and local speakers sharing the latest information on research, products, services and resources available to improve the lives of youth and adults with disabilities and those searching for improved mental and physical wellness. AAC speaking sessions will concentrate on three pillars: Mental and Physical Wellness and Learning Abilities."

On September 27, the AAC will be held at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel.

 

4. Teach Mental Health

"Enhance your mental health literacy in the classroom with Teach Mental Health -- a free, online, self-paced course developed in partnership with UBC."

Register here.

 

5. Train in SpellRead. Train in Science. Train for Results!

Halifax Learning has an extensive resume in training, support and coaching new SpellRead teachers. We currently work closely with teachers at The Cole Harbour Foundation and Bridgeway Academy.

As a result of 20 years of success and expertise, Halifax Learning literally wrote the training manual for SpellRead. If your organization is interested in offering the SpellRead program, contact us for  our training package. 

 SpellRead Training

 

The Best Investment  

"We learned from the psychologist that our daughter was going into grade 8 at a grade 4/5 level for reading comprehension and phonetic learning. We needed to get that addressed and the psychologist suggested Halifax Learning. We had an initial assessment with Halifax Learning and it lined up with what the therapist had told us. We enrolled in the program and could see improvements along the way. 

It was the best investment we could make in our daughter to help her future."

- Parent of a SpellRead Graduate 

Click below to download our 2017-2018 student results or contact us today to book a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment

Recent Results

 
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Confidence, Joy, Creativity: The outcomes that count!

By Megan Brooks on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 @ 07:45 PM

 

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An article titled, “Learning disabilities: Kids and families struggle beyond the academics” was recently shared on MSVU - Learning Disabilities  Facebook page. The headline compelled me to click. This short, but important, article contains an important message. 

The author states:

"Compared with the general education group, parents of children with learning problems reported significantly more quality-of-life problems related to academics, for both the child and the family."


spellread halifax learning disabilities tutor tutoring evidence-based


In my experience at Halifax Learning this is always the case. I have to remind myself that the teary-eyed parent across from me has spent hours pleading with their frustrated child to read a book and finish their homework. They’ve spent hours researching conditions, philosophies, methods and programs that claim to have the quick fix. Their skepticism is warranted and understandable. You see, I’m also a parent and nothing means more to me than my child’s happiness. Not even their academic success. But I'm also a teacher and I know that their academic success and mental health are interconnected. 

As an educator I consider myself lucky to have found the SpellRead program. I am lucky to be consistently reminded of the positive impact this program has, not only on our students, but their family as well. This week we received a testimonial from a parent and a clinical psychologist. Her testimonial speaks to the impact that an evidence-based program can have on a student and their family.

Testimonial FB

“I am a mother of 3 boys and a Clinical Psychologist specializing in psychoeducational assessments and learning difficulties.  I first realized that my youngest son was struggling with learning some of the foundation level reading skills when he was about 4 years old.  He was having a harder time than would be expected learning the alphabet, rhyming, and hearing sounds that were in words. I did a little bit of extra reading work at home with my son during his Primary year, but towards the end of Primary I knew he would benefit from some additional help.  I also realized that it was not a good fit for him to be working one-on-one with me. His frustration level was high and one of us often ended up angry or upset. I enrolled my son in Halifax Learning summer camp at the end of Grade Primary and then arranged for SpellRead instruction twice a week for his entire Grade 1 year.  I chose SpellRead because it is an empirically based program, and the program I was most familiar and comfortable with for my son.

My son's instructor, Brittany, was the perfect fit for him. Although there have been some trying times, Brittany worked with me to figure out ways to best approach lessons with him.  Brittany has been patient, professional, positive, and encouraging. She knows the SpellRead program inside out and her experience and dedication are impressive. Brittany managed to get my son to grade level (if not slightly beyond) during the school year. Although he is now at grade level, we have decided to continue to work through the SpellRead program.   Now he is accustomed to SpellRead being part of his schedule and I don't want to lose the momentum we've made. I am very grateful for SpellRead and what it has done for our family.”

Click here to read more testimonials. 

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On our website you’ll see that our goal is to bring literacy skills to a point at or above grade level, within one year, but this article and testimonial is also a reminder that improving the academic skills of our students is simply a by-product of our ultimate goal.

We’re very proud to share our student results, but it’s the unmeasurable outcomes that mean the most to us. Witnessing our students discover a new found confidence to take on new reading material, to voluntarily take part in classroom discussions, to write about their opinions and ideas, and put an an end to the homework struggle and rediscover the joy in reading a bedtime story … this is what motivates us.

Developing relationships with our students and their families is important and we're pleased to have a long list of individuals that are happy to share their experience with you! If you're considering one of our programs for you or your child fill out the form below to be connected with a parent of a SpellRead graduate! 

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5 Summer Reading Recommendations for the Young Poet in Your Life

By Megan Brooks on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 @ 06:57 PM

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Using poetry to encourage young readers to practice and build confidence has been tested by parents and teachers since the cow jumped over the moon. 

Anna, Halifax Learning's poet laureate, is a six-year-old SpellRead student at our Halifax location. Anna's vibrant wardrobe matches her sparkling disposition and her playful prose.  Anna is inspired by poetry of all kinds and she's excited to share her work and recommendations with you. 

Anna began SpellRead last year and has truly flourished as a confident young reader. She has a particular fondness for anything with rhythm and rhyme and we're confident she'll someday share in Annette Bening's passion for Shakespeare ... and sounds and symbols of course!

We couldn't agree with this video more and Anna's  enthusiasm and determination to conquer phonological skills, understand the phonetic code and  comprehending new vocabulary to compose not only summaries, but cheeky rhymes about her beloved pets, is proof SpellRead works!


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This summer Anna recommends adding these tuneful titles to your reading list and playlist!

  1. Coat of Many Colors - Dolly Parton
  2. Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan
  3. Happy - Pharrell Williams
  4. What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
  5. One Love - Bob Marley

Share your favorite poems in the comments!

AllChildrenReadingWell (1)Are you concerned that your child is missing out on the joy and creativity that poetry brings? The source of interruptions in developing reading skills range from chronic ear infections, family illness to reading based learning disabilities and beyond. At Halifax Learning we're proud to offer an evidence-driven program that is proven effective to meet the most struggling readers needs. Regardless of your circumstances, SpellRead will fill the instructional deficits and provide the foundational skills needed for efficient reading. Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more about effective reading instruction. 

 

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French Immersion | 5 Tips for English Speaking Parents

By Eryn Steele on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 @ 03:36 PM

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This is a question we are so often asked when a child in a french immersion program is struggling to develop efficient reading skills. Like most difficult questions there is no standard response and requires a lot of proactive inquiry and research on the part of a parent. Our mission is to support students and families achieve their goals, so if your goal is to succeed in French Immersion, keep reading!

Here is the good news, children have a natural capacity to acquire new languages and there are many strategies parents can use to support their child without giving up on French Immersion all together. 
 
Here are 5 tips to keep your child on the path to bilingualism.

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1. Be enthusiastic and positive!

Even though we said it, this goes without saying and we're here to remind you that you're doing a great job!

Your encouragement is critically important to your child's success and how you react to challenge is more important than your prior knowledge in a subject area. We know it may seem daunting when you struggle to interpret your child's homework assignment, but if they see you model confidence, enthusiasm and joy in the learning process you're teaching them the most important skill of all, resiliency!

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2. Put your first-language first.

English speaking families are are often concerned that spending time practicing English will confuse their child's work in French, but research shows the opposite to be true. Having a strong foundation in English is key to grasping additional languages. The sooner a child can feel confident in their first language, the sooner their brain can make space for a second.

If your child has a strong foundation in the English phonetic code, they are more likely to succeed in a French Immersion classroom. Read our blog, "What is Phonics?" to learn more about this code and why it's critical to reading success.

Did you know there are 37 speech sounds in French versus 44 in English. 10 French consonant sounds are directly transferable from French to English and vice versa and 4 consonants require some slight variation. Watch this short video from Fluent Forever - Learn Any Language to learn more about the French phonetic alphabet.


3. Compare and contrast vocabulary.

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Make vocabulary development a deliberate activity at home. Position your child as the teacher simply by asking them questions you know they can answer. Confidence is key! There is no more effective teaching strategy then having the student be the teacher. You don't have to be an expert in French (or calculus, or physics, or ancient history ...) to help your child succeed.

Quick tips for at home:

  • Label objects in your home with sticky notes in English and French. Compare commonly used English and French words like "banana" versus "banane".
  • Play the French and English version of classic board games like Scrabble, Taboo and Pictionary.
  • Choose books that are slightly below your child's reading level. 

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4. Make reading fun!
Another universally effective teaching strategy! Children learn best when they are having fun and feel confident. It's important to differentiate learning to read and reading for pleasure.

Children spend hours at school developing their reading and writing skills and teachers do a fantastic job creating a safe, conducive learning environment where it's okay to make mistakes. To little people, school is their full-time job, their profession, their career. Reading at home should feel like  vacation!

If you're concerned with your child's progress, take mental notes during story time and record them as soon as possible. Reach out to your child's teachers in private for confirmation, support and recommendations. Be proactive and have your child's skills assessed by a professional.

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5. Use tech support!
You know there's always an app for that. If you have an iPhone, download iSpeech, a text to speech app, or spend as few as 5 minutes a day practicing your French using Duolingo.

Is there an app out there that you love? Share it with us in the comments!

 

At Halifax Learning we want to support children and their families achieve their goals and help students not only stay in French Immersion, but flourish. If you think your child's foundation in English is unstable, contact us for a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment or speak to a parent that was also considering taking their child out of French Immersion, but found success with SpellRead!

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What is phonics?

By Halifax Learning on Wed, May 30, 2018 @ 12:20 PM

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Although reading research has remained consistent for decades, phonics is the source of heated debate in the world of determining effective teaching methods for reading instruction. We want to change the conversation and ask, why wouldn't you teach phonics?

This blog post is the second in a series of blogs about the five core components for effective reading instruction. Revisit the blog or Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well", to learn more.

Phonics is the second essential skill in developing effective, efficient reading skills and is an extension of solid phonological awareness. In our previous blog we discuss the two terms and how they can often be used interchangeably. Read more of that post here.

What is phonics and why is it important to be taught?

Phonics is a method of teaching developing readers the correlation between phonemes and graphemes. Developing readers learn to match a unit of sound (phoneme) to a letter or letters that make the sound (grapheme). Readers use phonics to decode unfamiliar language, thus, a solid foundation in phonics allows developing readers to acquire new vocabulary independently. Without a solid foundations in phonics, many children are left to rely on compensatory strategies such as memorization, guessing, and inference. 

halifax learning reading program reading support phonics phoneme grapheme decoding
The word “cool” contains three phonemes and graphemes - /c/ /oo/ /l/.

halifax learning phonics punctuation spellread

"Writing systems require treating spoken words as consisting of parts, which can then be represented by a limited set of graphical elements. We take it as obvious that speech consists of units such as words, syllables, and phonemes, but these units are phonological abstractions that had to be discovered. Writing and the phonological way of thinking co-evolved over a long period of time."

- From Language at the Speed of Sight by Mark Seidenberg

We recommend evaluating your child's skills at home by having them spell a list of pseudo (or nonsense) words. This strategy is effective because it eliminates the possibility of success as a result of memorization. The ability to spell pseudo words indicates that your child can recall the symbols for the sounds they hear. Below is a recommended list of pseudo words.

  1. shoom (shewm)
  2. heesh (heash, heshe)
  3. moyf (moif)
  4. skade (skaid)
  5. fash
  6. bof (bawf, bawff, bauf)
  7. tobe (toab)
  8. chub
  9. crite
  10. marth
  11. dib
  12. sep (cep)
  13. chesp
  14. thook
  15. smerd (smurd, smird)

If this is a daunting task, perhaps some intervention is required. Luckily there is a proven, gold-standard reading remediation program available! We're here to fill the instructional deficit for your family and make reading easy.

halifax learning spellread phonics

SpellRead, the gold standard in evidence-based reading remediation programs, puts phonics instruction at the core of its outcomes.

SpellRead is divided into three Phases. In Phase A, students are introduced to the most simple phonemes and graphemes in the English language and practice those skills at the single syllable level. SpellRead assesses progress through our evidence-driven speed reading tool that ensures automaticity. In Phases B and C, the skills become more complex and expand from one syllable to multisyllabic, real-word vocabulary. The 10 core activities introduced in Phase A are consistent through the entire program, ensuring that students continue to practice their auditory, visual and practical application of these skills.    

In addition to phonics, developing readers also need effective instruction in phonological awareness, vocabulary development, reading fluency and comprehension.

Download our SpellRead Program Walkthrough to learn more about how SpellRead uses effective teaching methods to develop all 5 of the essential reading skills for new, developing and struggling readers.

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What is Phonological Awareness?

By Megan Brooks on Fri, May 25, 2018 @ 06:41 PM

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Learning to read is a complex and sometimes difficult process. Although, we don't think it has to be. For some children, it seems to happen naturally but for others, reading development can be a frustrating and restrictive experience. Parents often feel they have failed their child and children often accept that reading is "too hard" or they "hate reading".

At Halifax Learning we know neither of these statements is true.

The good news is, research has identified five core components to inform effective reading instruction and we're proud to say SpellRead was designed with them in mind. This blog post is the first of a series of blogs about the five core components. Revisit the blog or Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

What are the 5 core components in developing reading?

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

Let's start at #1. So, what is phonological awareness?

This is the most important skill in learning to read and should be starting to develop prior to the age of 4. Phonological awareness provides the foundation for all other skill development and includes three subset skills:

Awareness, manipulation, and detection of: 

  1. Syllables
  2. Onsets and Rimes
  3. Phonemes

Children with strong phonological awareness can easily manipulate the smallest units of the English language and this skill is a strong indication of later reading ability.  The terms phonological awareness, phonemic awareness and phonics are often used interchangeably. Although they are intimately related, having strong phonemic awareness is only a part of the overarching skill of phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness requires the ability to identify, blend, break apart, and substitute all 44 phonemes in the English language. 

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Some examples of tasks to develop phonological awareness include manipulating words and syllables by identifying onsets, rimes, and rhymes.

For example:
Ask a student to synthesize the initial consonant, consonant-blend or digraph of a word (onset) with the remaining vowel and phonemes in the syllable. 

/b/ /at/ = "bath"
/sm/ /art/ = "smart"

Watch this short video from the Institute of Education Sciences for a demonstration. 


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In addition to developing phonological awareness, developing readers also need explicit, systematic instruction in phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and comprehension. Download our free guide to effective reading instruction and start the path to skilled, confident, reading.

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What is Morphology?

By Kendall Kolne on Thu, May 10, 2018 @ 04:46 PM

In February 2018 we were fortunate to meet Kendall Kolne, a PhD student in the school of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University. Her research interests include language and literacy development, specifically the factors which contribute to literacy deficits in children. We asked Kendal to write a guest blog and answer a few questions about morphology.

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This blog discusses:

  1. What is morphology?
  2. What is morphology important?
  3. What is the role of morphology in literacy development?
  4. How can you use morphology to help your children?
  5. What’s the bottom line?

Ask us how SpellRead includes morphology and all 5 of the essential skills in reading development. Downloading our free guide to "All Children Reading Well"

As a researcher who studies the role of morphology in reading development, I begin nearly every discussion of my work by addressing the question: what is morphology? This term is widely unknown to those outside of the field of linguistics, and many people hear it for the first time as I describe my work. Even though the term morphology may be unfamiliar, the concept of it is quite simple, and many people have a general understanding of what morphology is without knowing it.  

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In a general sense, morphology refers to “the study of forms of things”. In the context of language, it is the study of the forms of words. Think of the process of forming words as building with blocks. Words are made up of blocks put together in a systematic way.

In linguistics, these blocks are called morphemes, which are the smallest units of language that carry meaning. For example, consider the word cats, which is made of 2 morphemes:

  1. the root word cat, a noun referring to a fluffy, four-legged creature.
  2. the plural suffix -s, indicating more than one of these fluffy, four-legged creatures.

Thus, “morphology” describes what most people know as root words, stems, and suffixes, and how these parts combine to make words.

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There are only a few key things you need to know to have a good understanding of what morphology is:

  1. There are two types of morphemes:

    • Free morphemes can stand on their own, and do not require other morphemes, more commonly known as root words (e.g., cat, horse, run).
    • Bound morphemes must be attached to free morphemes for meaning, more commonly known as prefixes and suffixes (e.g., -ing in running, re- in redo).

  2. Bound morphemes are identified by their purpose in a word.

    • Inflectional morphemes add grammatical information to a word, for example the plural suffix -s in cats, or the past tense suffix -ed, in walked.
    • Derivational morphemes change the core meaning of a word and are used to form new words. For example, the suffix -er, as in teacher, changes a word from the verb to teach, to a noun describing the person who does the teaching.

  3. Words can be simple or complex.

    • Simple words contain only one, free morpheme that can’t be split into smaller parts (e.g., horse, run).
    • Complex words contain two or more morphemes (e.g., running, root word: run, and suffix: -ing).

  4. A piece of a word must have meaning to be a morpheme.

    • Many words may look like they have more than one morpheme, but the individual parts have no meaning.
      For example, consider father, which appears to contain a root word and suffix, but in fact fath is not a word, and -er is not a suffix in this word.

Why is morphology important?

As the building blocks of language, morphology allows us to construct words, add grammatical information to our words, and invent new words. Morphology helps us to tell the difference between someone who walked, and someone who is walking. It gives us the power to generate and understand new words.

Just think about the last time you Googled something or took a selfie. It is likely that you were never you taught what these words mean, but your ability to process morphology, and recognize parts of words helped you to use and understand these words accurately.  


Morphology’s Role in Literacy Development

Morphology is also a useful tool when it comes to reading and writing. The ability to break a word down into small parts can help with:

  • Word reading
    • Think about the difference in pronunciation of the ea in reach vs. react. In one case, there is only one morpheme and the ea is one sound, but in the second case the word divides into two morphemes, with a boundary between the ea.
  • Reading comprehension
    • Knowing the meaning of word parts can help to interpret the meaning of longer, more complex words (determining the meaning of nongovernmental is made easier by thinking of the meaning of each of its parts).
  • Spelling
    • It is easier to spell longer, complex words when you break the word up into smaller, meaningful parts (e.g., nongovernmental becomes less challenging to spell by dividing it into its individual parts non-govern-ment-al).

In fact, research has shown that teaching children about morphology, and orienting them to the building blocks of words helps them to better read words, comprehend text, and spell. Additionally, teaching morphology to children improves their vocabulary and gives them better knowledge and awareness of morphology1.

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How can you use this knowledge of morphology to help your children?

Teaching of reading and writing should include a discussion of morphology. Currently, researchers like myself are studying the best ways to teach morphology, and how exactly to incorporate it into literacy education. In the meantime, here are a few suggestions for how to get your kids talking about morphology:

  • Encourage them to break words into morphemes
    “Can you find the smaller word in artist?”

  • Practice using prefixes or suffixes to make words.
    “What do you call a person who drink milk?” - A milk drinker.

  • Talk about words that have the same ending.
    “What do the words careful, helpful, and painful have in common?”
    “What is the difference between helpful and unhelpful?”

When should you start talking about morphology?

The question of when to include morphology into literacy education is a subject of debate in the research. However, research seems to suggest teaching morphology early in development leads to reading3 and spelling improvements4. If you do start to talk about morphology with your children, keep in mind that they may struggle if they have not yet developed a strong understanding of morphology. Research shows that kids can start spontaneously using morphology as young as 2-years old5, but they may not start gaining proficiency until between grades 3 and 56. You can certainly encourage your child to use morphology before they are proficient, but do not get frustrated if they have difficulty.

Finally, recognize that there is a period of development, generally around the ages of 3 and 4, where children who have started to gain some morphology skill will overgeneralize, and use it when is not appropriate (e.g., saying goed instead of went or teeths instead of teeth). Contrary to common belief, this does not mean that your child’s language is regressing, rather it is a sign that they are starting to learn morphology but are still figuring out the rules and exceptions.

What’s bottom line?

Morphology is an important component of language development, and a helpful tool for learning to read and spell. Practice it with your kids early and often. 

If you'd like to learn more about reading development, download our free guide "All Children Reading Well" to learn more about the 5 essential skills in reading development.

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For more information on morphology:

If you’d like to know more about morphology or the current research being done, feel free to contact me at: kendall.kolne@mail.mcgill.ca

You can read about my research here: The Role of Morphology in Spelling 
and here: Improving Children's Spelling Ability with a Morphology-based Intervention

Also, check out the morphology research being done in Halifax by Hélène Deacon here: Language and Literacy Lab

Finally, for more information on morphology, its role in literacy development, and ideas for teaching strategies, check out these resources:


References

  1. Bowers, P. N., Kirby, J. R., & Deacon, S. H. (2010). The effects of morphological instruction on literacy skills: A systematic review of the literature. Review of educational research80(2), 144-179.
  2. Wagner, R. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological bulletin101(2), 192.
  3. Carlisle, J. F., & Stone, C. (2005). Exploring the role of morphemes in word reading. Reading research quarterly40(4), 428-449.
  4. Deacon, S. H., & Bryant, P. (2005). What young children do and do not know about the spelling of inflections and derivations. Developmental Science8(6), 583-594.
  5. Clark, E. V. (1995). The lexicon in acquisition (Vol. 65): Cambridge University Press.
  6. Mahony, D., Singson, M., & Mann, V. (2000). Reading ability and sensitivity to morphological relations. Reading and writing, 12(3), 191-218
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Social Skills, Can they be taught?

By Halifax Learning on Thu, May 03, 2018 @ 04:11 PM

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On Thursday, April 19th we had the privilege to sit down with Angela Rudderham, Director of Bridgeway Academy and creator of Bridgeway's Social Skills program. Using evidence-driven outcomes, Angela has been studying, developing and improving her Social Skills program for the past 12 years.

Why are social skills so important?

"Social deficits are often viewed as insensitive and willful behavior."

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So what are social skills, how do people learn them and can they be taught?

I think most people would answer yes to the final question, but Angela Rudderham has taken this question to the next level. Effective social skills are a learned behavior and predictor of future success and personal fulfillment. Can the efficacy of a social skills program be measured?

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Angela has invested in research and development of Bridgeway's Social Skills Program for 12 years. Each year she studies student progress and refuses to accept a ceiling and demands growth and development of herself, her staff and her program. She does this by being on the front lines of program delivery.

Bridgeway's Social Skills Program is divided into 8 Units:

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Awareness of Others
  3. Perspective Taking
  4. Self Regulation
  5. Problem Solving
  6. Relationships
  7. Communication
  8. Life Skills

And follows 7 Steps:

  1. Connect
  2. Investigate
  3. Identify
  4. Plan
  5. Teach
  6. Practice
  7. Transfer
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What did we learn?

When discussing highly structured, measurable programs based on evidence, there are a lot of parallel themes. Here were my top three take aways.

1. Rewards and consequences do not teach the expected behavior. It lowers motivation, creates anxiety and stress and negatively impacts relationships.

2. Mistakes are teachable moments.

3. The social behaviors of our children don't always line up with our expectations as parents, this doesn't always mean our children are lacking

Thank you Angela and Bridgeway Academy for your knowledge, inclusive, and effective education.

Visit their website for more information on Bridgeway's Course Overview. Notice SpellRead on that list? We're proud to partner with Bridgeway and provide on-going training and support to their SpellRead teachers. Halifax Learning has developed an extensive training model based on 20 years of experience, research and development, that can be replicated in a variety of delivery models. If you work with youth in need of literacy intervention, Halifax Learning can support your staff to reach an infinite number of struggling readers.

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10 Tips to Develop Reading and Writing Skills this Summer!

By Halifax Learning on Sun, Apr 29, 2018 @ 09:00 AM

 

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Many of the staff at Halifax Learning are parents too. Which is why we've written this blog.
Below are tips to help parents develop reading skills and writing skills over the summer. Better yet, register for SpellRead or Writing Connections to ensure your child has the proper foundation for academic success!

1. Start planning now!

Classic teacher. Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. 

Most of us have already booked our camp sites, hotel rooms for wedding season and concert tickets, but how thoughtful have you been about how you'll ensure your child maintains (and hopefully improves upon) their literacy skills. This is not an easy task and without proper planning and inspiration you'll likely run into conflict, whining and ultimatums. Summer is a chance to relax, have fun and have make memories. We think that means more opportunity to incorporate reading and writing into your plans!

2. The Golden Rule - Read every day!

This is a no brainer. We probably all do a great job integrating reading into our evening bedtime routine, but is this really quality time or just us parents trying to survive the chaos in hopes of getting some much needed shut eye!? A structured reading time is best, but what does that mean, because if it means reading at the same time each day, I'm out. I had to learn very quickly the difference between structure, schedule and routine. We think that a structured reading time means selecting reading material and presenting in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Keep reading!

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3. Be Prepared!
Wherever you go, whether it’s the beach, park, or a long car-ride, pack a few books and writing resources.

Below is a list that pairs books with local excursions or at home activities. Associating books with adventure will have a profound impact on your child's approach to reading as an agent of discovery. 

  • Atlantic ABC, by Angela Doak
    • Go anywhere! We recommend taking a camera or a sketchpad and creating your own version of an Atlantic ABC book. 
  • A is for Adventure, by Jan Lapierre - Anywhere!
    • This book is an excellent resource for families looking for inspired stay-cation ideas. 
  • Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds
    • Nova Scotia Art Gallery, Clay Cafe or at Home. Ish is a great lesson in 
  • The Harbour Seal, by Dorette Groenendyk
    • Where else? The Halifax Waterfront!
  • Be Who You Are, by Todd Parr
    • Stay home, create a self-portrait.  Who are you? 
4. Read Aloud!

Parents are a child's first teacher. Your approach to reading and writing will set the tone, but that tone doesn't need to be rigid perfection to the text. Modeling good reading fluency is important, but don't be afraid to deviate from the script.

This is a key to survival in our house. Being flexible, creative and engaging during reading sessions is a valuable skill that will ensure your child associates reading with positive, happy times! When my daughter asks why a goat is wearing a monocle or what is that tall pointing building in the picture, this is a teachable moment! Engaging in your child's questions is affirming their interests and curiosity.

Find creative ways to build in shared-reading time with your child, not just independent, silent reading.  If your child acts out and becomes defiant, this is likely a sign of a struggle.  We offer a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment that will answer all of your questions about how your child processes text. Our SpellRead students take part in share-reading every class and read aloud with our expertly trained staff. 

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"Children who struggle when reading texts aloud do not become good readers if left to read silently; their disfluency merely becomes inaudible." Language at the Speed of Sight, by Mark Seidenberg

5. Practice What You Preach

Remember what I said about being a role-model? Monkey see, monkey do. Set a good example and show your children your love of books. But, time is precious and who wants to waste it on a lousy book. Here's my list of planned summer reading.  Here are a few potential titles: 

  • The Boat People, by Sharon Bala
  • Seven Fallen Feathersby Tanya Talaga
  • The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur

What's on your summer reading list? Send your recommendations in the comments!

6. Choose ‘Fun’ Reading

Allow your children to choose reading material other than books. If you've been following our blogs, we talked about this in Reading Opportunities are Everywhere! Do you know Where to Find them?

Magazines, graphic novels, and reading the sports’ scores are all great opportunities for reading. We use Newsela, a free resource, for engaging content articles for all ages!

7. Let Reading Enhance Your Travels

Find a book set in the location you will be visiting. Your children can learn about the town’s history and local interest before seeing it for themselves. Going on a road trip? Make a game of reading road signs and place names on route to your destination. Teach your child to read a map; allow them to be navigator as you find your destination. There is no better teaching strategy than allowing the student to become the teacher. 

8. Read books connected to your summer activities

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There's a theme here. Make reading meaningful and thoughtful and you'll have substantially more success.

How many of you read Anne of Green Gables as a child and were then mesmerized to visit Anne's home in Prince Edward Island?! The experience of visiting that place that had previously only lived in your imagination?! What a profound experience for a developing reader. 

9. Make the most of rainy days

  • Watch a movie inspired by one of your favourite books and compare the two. The options are endless! 
  • Visit a museum on a topic of interest from a non-fiction reading selection. Bring home pamphlets and information sheets or visit the museum gift shop for their reading recommendations. 
  • Use a favorite book to inspire an afternoon of arts and crafts. 
  • Plan a trip and start researching the area, culture, accommodations and excursions you'd like to plan.   

10. Write About it!

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Inspire your child to write by letting them be in control. Or at least let them think they are! Here are some tips to guide your child toward writing that is meaningful and more importantly, inspired. Because let's be real, Mom and Dad want to enjoy their summer vacay too. #amirite

  • Let them pick a journal and customize it! Recently we went to the dollar store and purchased plain black scrapbooks with hard covers, then we went nuts in the sticker aisle and voila, custom journals that they are proud of and excited to fill with new ideas!
  • Let them set the expectations and create a tracking system that they can maintain. What is the goal? What do they want to produce by the end of the summer?
  • Let them pick the writing topics. You can do this by having your child brainstorm and dictate a list of topics. Write them on popsicle sticks or strips of paper and fill an empty box or jar for random selection. 

11. Bonus Tip Alert! Skip the summer slide with Summer Camp at Halifax Learning!

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If all of this sounds appealing to you, but you're thinking to yourself ... umm, I have a day job, multiple children and an endless to-do list. We get it. So do we, which is why we want to offer the best summer camp options for developing readers and their busy, well informed and thoughtful parents. 

Our Summer Camp is a unique experience of education and exploration. At Halifax Learning we practice what we preach and will be using all of these tips this summer to inspire our campers to read and write and have fun doing it!

Visit our Summer Camp page for our 2018 itinerary and meet our Camp Director, Emily. 

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It's World Book Day! Here are 5 Books We Love

By Halifax Learning on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 @ 04:27 PM

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April 23 is World Book Day, but every day is Book Day at Halifax Learning in our SpellRead classes.

Below are 10 books we love and a favorite quote from each. These books are fun, imaginative stories that are sure to spark up a conversation and a new sense of curiosity in a developing reader. Be sure to engage in their questions and find ways to make their imaginations come to life. Create a piece of art inspired by the story, visit a location similar to the setting  or speak to their inner YouTube star and record a reenactment. The possibilities are endless and so are the rewards!

Fostering a love of reading is the first step in developing strong, confident, readers. But, as our friend, author and reading researcher, Mark Seidenberg says, "You can read until the cows come home" and your child may still struggle with learning how to read. Explicit, systematic, evidence-based reading intervention programs are available and SpellRead tops the list! 

Enjoy!

  1. You Can ReadBy Helaine Becker & Mark Hoffman

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  2. The Word CollectorBy Peter Reynolds
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  3. Be Who You AreBy Todd Parr
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  4. Fancy Goat, Jeremy Holmes and Justin Gregg
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  5. Rosie Revere Engineerby Andrea Beaty
    Halifax Learning SpellRead Reading Program Reading Support tutor tutoring

To learn more about World Book Day visit https://www.worldbookday.com/.

 

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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.  

 



→ 
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.

 Book a Free Assessment

                               

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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 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.  
Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.


*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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A New Library!

By Brittany Curran on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 @ 03:24 PM

 

The Halifax Central Library is set to open this year and the buzzboth locally and internationallyis off the charts. Or, shall we say, off the shelves?

Official construction for the HCL started in 2012 but progress is picking up quickly! The architects behind this project are Fowler Bauld & Mitchell, and schmidt hammer lassen. Both firms have blended concepts to create an innovative and sustainable five-story complex with panoramic views of Citadel Hill, Dartmouth and the water. The building is also cloaked in glass—a feature to “bring the outdoors, in." 

The new library will be "A Place for Everyone" to "learn new ideas, share knowledge, network with others, grow and explore." The space also provides a top-of-the-line information hub, which will combine new technology with trusted, traditional library techniques.

Eager to know what's planned for each level? Here's the breakdown:

  • The 1st floor is the building's main entrance for "Customer Services" and "Holds/Pickups." Also on this level is bestsellers, newspapers, magazines, and the highly-anticipated Paul O'Regan Hall for performances and programs!

  • Right up the sculptural staircase is the 2nd level, a space designed for children, teens and families. A Media Room and Book Tree are among this floor's extremely modern and cool aspects.

  • The 3rd floor is devoted to adult learning and certainly pays homage to our province's heritage! A First Nations Circle and a section on languages stand out as this level's top features.

  • The 4th floor is a jam-packed spot! Aside from the main reference library as well as adult non-fiction, this level features a nod to our country's war history with a memorial and books of remembrance.

  • Finally, the 5th floor! Deemed as "Halifax's Living Room," this level features a café, rooftop terrace, and a vast fiction collection! 

With amenities such as WiFi, an atrium creating natural light, and the coziest of reading corners, the Halifax Central Library is sure to be a communal, comfortable, inspiring and educational place for locals and tourists alike.

Halifax is known for being a historic metropolis. Here’s hoping the HCL makes its mark on the county's literary culture—and creates a new kind of beautiful history for our coastal city!

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St. Patrick's Day Recommended Reading!

By Eryn Steele on Mon, Mar 03, 2014 @ 09:21 PM

 

With St. Patrick's Day less than a week away (Monday, March 17), it's time to consider some holiday-themed reads! Here are seven fantastic books to get you and your family feeling green.


1. The Luckiest St. Patrick's Day Ever! by Teddy Slater and Ethan Long
A short and sweet story about a leprechaun family and their traditions. This charming rhyming book includes lots o' music, dancing and fun!
AGES: 2-5


2. The Night Before St. Patrick's Day by Natasha Wing and Amy Wummer
Main characters Tom and Maureen try to catch a leprechaun in this seasonal favourite! Natasha Wing expertly mirrors Clement Moore's rhythm from A Nightmare Before Christmas and this whimsical tale describes one family's search for that illusive pot of gold!
AGES: 3-6


3.Leprechaun in Late Winter by Mary Pope Osbourne and Sal Murdocca
As #43 in the "Magic Tree House" series, this chapter-book chronicles Jack and Annie as they traveled back to old Ireland! With the help of a special whistle, their mission is to try and inspire the very uninspired Augusta! Follow along with the brother-sister duo as they explore history and encounter mayhem.
AGES: 7-10


4. The Last Snake in Ireland: A Story about St. Patrick by Sheila MacGill-Callahan and Will Hillenbrand
Ever wonder how Patrick would scare away all the "menancing" snakes of yore?! This unique tale explores his conquest (along with his dog, Finbar!) to make Ireland snake-free with the work of a magic bell!
AGES: 6-8


5. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Curious George by H. A. Rey
This beloved monkey is on another wild adventure come St. Patrick's day! Read on as George basks in all the day's festitivies... but can he stay out of trouble? Check out what he and his four-leaf clover get up to in this adorable read!
AGES: 3-6


6. The Luckiest Leprechaun: A Tail-Wagging Tale of Friendship by Justine Korman Fontes and Denise Brunkus
Love the "Grumpy Bunny" series? Then you'll adore the the same author's story of holiday fun and newfound camaraderie! See how the main character, MacKenzie O'Shamrock, meets a dog named Lucky and develops an unexpected friendship!
AGES: 4+


7. The Names Upon the Harp: Irish Myths and Legends by Marie Heaney and P.J. Lynch
This collection of storieswritten by some of Ireland's finest writers—envelops the wonder of myths and legends. The anthology is a beautiful representation of Irish folklore and a cool read for the whole family to enjoy!
AGES: 8+

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Celebrating Family Literacy Day 2014

By Eryn Steele on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 @ 09:20 PM

Today, January the 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada, a day we have been celebrating for 16 years.  Our young readers have made some significant gains with the aid of our passionate and dedicated teachers - both in the public system in Nova Scotia and privately at our Halifax Learning Centres in Halifax and around the province. The question still remains though - 

Are we prepared to teach our young people how to read? It's hard to say .... 

A simple Google search of "Are teachers in Nova Scotia prepared to teach reading?" does not generate a yes or no hit and that's because teaching someone to read is not that simple.  Parents, experts, teachers, tutors and policy makers all have the same goal in mind when it comes to ensuring student success, but regardless of our intent, many students continue to struggle in developing strong literacy skills. So often we hear how important reading is, to develop the love of reading, but maybe more attention needs to be paid on how to be an effective teacher of reading?  Well, there are experts out there ready to tell us how, but are we listening?

 Family Literacy Day 2014

What are some of the best practices in teaching reading? 

* Understanding the difference between letters vs. phonemes.

*Teaching phonemic awareness.  This is an early stage of learning to read that relies on a child's ability to manipulate sounds through auditory processing, for example, rhyiming.

*Teaching phonics.  This is the symbolic stage of learning to read that connects sounds to their letter combinations.  Understanding letters vs. phonemes is critical at this stage in teaching a child to read. The English alphabet contains 26 letters, but 44 sounds, therefore understanding letter combinations is critical.  

*Decoding by using nonsense words shows understanding of phonemic and phonological awareness. 

*Spelling is a diagnostic tool that shows a child's mastery of phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding. 

*Summarizing can be done when a child is reading fluently and effortlessly.

*Predicting and making connections to their own prior knowledge can be done when a child is fully engaged in a text. 

 

SpellRead is rooted in scientific research and these very principles and therefore our instructors are diligently trained specifically to teach reading.  Families in Nova Scotia are at an advantage that other Canadians simply do not have access to and that is the SpellRead program.    

Reading Rockets features several podcasts from experts in the field of reading who discuss the importance of knowing how to teach it.  After viewing several of these podcasts, one will take away that it is easy for many of us to take for granted the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics, but (so artistically captured by the National Reading Campaign) Readers Save the World and I am assuming we are talking about those who are reading well and reading effortlessly. 

In addition to best practices, teaching reading must be done through a systematic, organized and outcomes based model that exposes the learner to multiple opportunities for repetition and success. Our goal Halifax Learning is to help every student that we can.  One of our colleagues at Ooka Island, (an online reading skills adventure program) often states that their (Ooka Island) goal is to help eradicate illiteracy.  We don't want to take someone else's mission – but that is our goal too and should be the goal of every Canadian as we celebrated Family Literacy Day, 2014.

Submitted by,

Megan Brooks

Site Director of our Tantallon location 

 

 

 

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