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Celebrating 20-Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Megan Brooks

Megan began as a SpellRead instructor for Halifax Learning in 2009, has a BEd from Mount Saint Vincent University in Secondary Education and is a passionate volleyball player, coach and volunteer.

Recent Posts

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!

Free Assessment

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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! 

Ask a Parent



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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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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. 


halifax learning phonemic awareness spellread

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.

Free Guide

 

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