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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Britt P. Curran

Britt joined the Halifax Learning team in 2013. With a degree in English and journalism, and a certificate in pastry, she prides herself on being creative, compassionate, and keen. Britt is impressed by learners every day as they gain confidence and overcome academic hurdles, and believes—like her literary hero, Miss Honey ("Matilda")—that "there is little point in teaching anything backwards. The whole object of life... is to go forwards." Her hobbies include thrifting, snail mail, community theatre, puzzles, baking, and working on "Poppy Lou and Who?" (a children’s series inspired by her four nieces). She also has a black cat named Wednesday, who is her classroom's unofficial mascot.

Recent Posts

Three Reasons Readers Rush

By Britt P. Curran on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 @ 01:51 PM

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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.

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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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Siblings in Stories!

By Britt P. 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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A Super SpellRead Success Story!

By Britt P. 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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A New Library!

By Britt P. 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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Topics: local
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