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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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French Immersion | 5 Tips for English Speaking Parents

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

halifax learning spellread french immersion tips for english speaking parents

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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#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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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+

PAT

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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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