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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Melinda Cameron

Melinda's life's work is to teach as many people as possible to read and contributing to the knowledge of best practices in reading instruction. Melinda loves to explore all facets of literacy education as an instructor, assessor, and trainer.

Recent Posts

Report Card Time in a Pandemic

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, Nov 26, 2020 @ 09:08 AM

This is a special time of year for many students and teachers - report card time! This year’s report card time is different from any other, because school has been much different for most kids. Whether students are now studying virtually at home or in school, there are likely gaps in most students’ education. Last school year at least a third of the scheduled in-person class time was missed for most students. For some students, this was a pivotal moment in their education to miss out on; as Dr. Heidi Beverine-Curry points out, kids at this sensitive stage (now in Grade 1) have missed key points in their journey to learning to read. 

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Keeping in mind this missed class time, should teachers and administrators should change their expectations for student progress? According to reading expert
Timothy Shanahan, students’ future employers and educators will not lower their expectations, so we shouldn’t either. 

If your child’s report card is coming home soon, how can you best use your conversation with your child’s teacher? 

  • Keep your expectations in check, because it has been an unusual year. 
  • Get a clear idea of your child’s skills.
  • Understand how to help them get to where they need to be, educationally. 

We should expect our kids to keep learning even when times are hard; one really important way we can do so is to make sure their reading skills are strong. When kids can read well independently, they can learn about anything in the world. Families who invest time now making sure their kids can read independently are giving them a skill that no one can take away, and that will continue to help them learn as they grow.

There absolutely should be a sense of urgency in making sure students are getting the education they need, and it’s more important than ever that kids learn to read the right way. Halifax Learning can help - we can assess your child’s current reading skills quickly and easily online, and our online SpellRead classes are a safe and reliable way for students to strengthen their reading skills.

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Celebrating our Online Cohort's Success

By Melinda Cameron on Wed, Nov 25, 2020 @ 09:06 PM

Halifax Learning went online in March and we have taught most SpellRead classes online since. We already had experience with online teaching, so the transition was fairly easy. SpellRead is very hands on, so students don’t need to feel as though they’re staring at a screen the whole class. Our instructors care and encourage their students, and build relationships with them, and the families of our students know that no matter what may happen, they will have that regular class time each week to progress toward their reading goals.

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Our students’ results are most important to us, and we are excited to share that our most recent cohort of students who are finishing the program online have done an excellent job! The results measure up to any other exiting group of students, even keeping in mind that most students were not in school for much of their time with us, as they normally would be.

Here is a link to download our recent assessment results. At Halifax Learning, we assess student reading skills before enrolment, at the midpoint, and as they exit the program. 

The first section of the assessment,  phonological processing skills, measures the ability to identify, analyze and manipulate the sounds of the English language. We look for these foundational skills to increase by the midpoint assessment. For both of these students, we see these skills at nearly 100% upon their final assessment. 

The next sections, Word Attack and Word Identification, measure an individual's ability to identify unfamiliar and familiar English words. Because students are using their newly acquired phonological processing skills, we also tend to see any increase in these skills by the midpoint assessment. For both students, we do see some great progress in these by the midpoint assessment before the skills really take off on the final assessment. 

The above skills contribute to a student's ability to read a piece of text fluently and to be able to understand what they read. For both students, an amazing amount of progress has been made within one year. The best part about this is that these skills will continue to grow as they read in the years to come. 

Check out the results here.  

If you are interested in seeing you child be a part of next success story enrolment for January is happening now and classes are filling up quickly.  The next steps is a free no obligation assessment, this assessment is truly valuable even if you don't move forward with us.  Sign up for your assessment here.

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How Parents Can Help Kids Learn Online

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, May 14, 2020 @ 06:15 PM

At Halifax Learning, parents have always been a big part of their child's reading success. These days, it's more important than ever. But how can parents provide the best support on their child's reading journey, as they learn to read online with SpellRead?

1. Be present...

Kids usually need older family members around to start the Zoom or video chat meetings and to make sure the microphone and camera are working correctly. There can also be times when it's good to be around to troubleshoot any issues that come up, like if kids accidentally click the wrong part of the screen or if there's a problem with wifi.

2. ...but not TOO present.

Classes are designed for kids to do successfully with their class and instructor, so parents don't need to be around to give hints about the answers or do the activities! Any support that's needed will be provided by the instructor.

3. Have materials at the ready.

Each online class goes by quickly, so the better prepared kids are, the more work that gets done. Some families set an alarm for 10 minutes before each class - that way, they can be logged in and ready to go when the class starts. Better yet, set an alarm for 30 minutes before each class, giving kids time to have a quick snack and drink if needed and to use the washroom.

Supplies kids will usually need to have include:

  • Pencils and a notebook or scribbler
  • Sound cards
  • Speed packs

4. Be positive!

Make your home a safe place to make mistakes. Not every answer will be correct the first try - if it was, what are we even doing here? Encourage kids by noticing when they're working hard. 

For more information, please visit our website www.halifaxlearning.com

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Finished SpellRead? Taking a Break? This Post is for You!

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, Jun 20, 2019 @ 11:48 AM

To our graduating students, it's been wonderful working with you and we couldn't be more proud of all your hard work and determination. To our students who are taking a break this summer, enjoy your time away and we'll see you in the fall. 

Whether we're saying goodbye or see you later, we hope you take some time to read and write this summer. The more you practice something, the better you can get at it. With that in mind, here are some activities and suggestions for continued reading and writing development.

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Reading Practice

Keep reading! Read something every day in order to continue skills development.

  • Love your Library!

    Did you know that you can check out books from your school library for the summer, even if you haven’t started school yet? What a great chance to get to know a new school!

  • Family Games Night

    Schedule in family games night and stock up on a few board games that promote reading and literacy. We like these games: 

    • Banagrams
    • Memory Games
    • Scattergories

  • Ideas Jar

    Using sentence strips, create a jar of summer activities that can be done on the spot. For example, "play catch in the backyard", "put together a puzzle with Mom", "draw a picture in the kitchen".

  • Be prepared!

    We live in such a beautiful province and many of us take advantage of this warm weather to explore all of the hidden gems Nova Scotia has to offer. If you're on the road, visiting local playgrounds or maxin' and relaxin' in the back yard, be sure pack a few stories! 

Writing Practice

Try to write at least once a day for a 10-30 minute period, in a quiet place free from distractions.  

What do I write about?

Writing can be a fun way to express yourself. Lots of our students find out that they love writing, once they've spent some time with us. If you just can’t think of something to write this summer, here are some ideas:

    • Keep a summer journal. This is an awesome keepsake! Some kids draw a picture and write a few words to go along with it, and some kids write a few paragraphs a day.
    • Send us a postcard. We love mail! We just might send you a postcard in return.
    • Write a letter or card to a friend. Friends and family who live far away would love to hear from you.
    • Enter the Woozles story contest. How amazing would it be to win a prize? The contest closes July 31.
    • Experiment with poetry. Go outside and write a few words about what you see, or try a haiku or acrostic.
    • Write a summary. Describe a book or chapter you just read about and your reaction to it.

How do I work on my sounds?

  • Read through your pack of sounds every day. This should only take a few minutes.
  • Your teacher can give you spelling lists that you can use to build words with your sound cards, then spell.
  • You can also keep any of the game card packs. Play Go Fish, Slam, and Memory to your heart’s content! Here’s a reminder of which games go with which packs:

Go Fish/Memory: 8.4 - 23.4 - 41.4 - 46.4
Slam: 16.4 - 28.4 - 32.4 - 37.4 - 49.4

If you are interested in receiving information on ways to further develop phonemic skills, please get in touch!

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Expert Reading Tips & Activities for Summer Success!

By Melinda Cameron on Fri, Jun 07, 2019 @ 07:36 PM

Avoid the Summer Slide!
 
This is the time of year we’ve all been waiting for - summer! In Nova Scotia, the summer is so short that it should be mandatory to cancel everything and get outside on sunny days.
 
On the other hand, being away from the routine of school can be tricky for kids and families. It can also be a time when kids can fall even further behind their classmates. Parents feel a lot of pressure to help their kids maintain their skills over the summer, while at the same time really wanting to enjoy this precious time together.
 
Luckily, we’ve gathered together the ultimate summer guide for parents in Nova Scotia. Below are the best tips from the experts, along with simple activities that won’t break the bank.
 

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Tried, Tested and True Tips

1.Start a Summer Routine Right Away.

Don’t wait until after the summer starts to put a plan in place, but build a summer routine that involves some of the activities below. Sadly, the summer will be over before you know it, and practice should take place little by little, not all at once at the end of the summer.

2. Read Together & Talk About It.

Kids don’t need to just read a lot of materials in the summer, they need to talk and ask questions about the things they read. Reading comprehension is dramatically improved when language comprehension and word recognition are a part of the reading experience. This means ensuring your child has background knowledge on the topic they are exploring and exposure to new vocabulary. Click here to view Scarborough's Reading Rope, a ground breaking infographic that simplifies the information above and also highlights the importance of phonological awareness, decoding and sight recognition.

3. Make It Fun.

No one likes doing something that they think they’re bad at. Start at an appropriate level, support kids when they need some help and provide immediate incentives and rewards for attempts, progress and commitment. Rewards don't need to be costly and sugary junk. Let your developing reader: 

  • Plan the next family outing. 
  • Choose the music for your next road trip.
  • Stay up a little past bedtime.
  • Have a bestie come for a sleepover!

If this seems like an impossible task ask for help. We offer a free initial assessment and consultation with no obligation to enroll in our programs and with over 20 years of experience you'll be sure to leave with a better understanding of reading development and path towards skilled, confident, reading.

DIY At-home Reading Activities

annie-spratt-548190-unsplash1. Online Resources

Below is a list of online resources we recommend exploring to learn more about the science of reading, advocacy for effective reading instruction, resources, tips and tools you can use at home or when communicating with your child's classroom teacher in the upcoming school year. We encourage you to learn about the state of reading instruction today, the history of the "Reading Wars" and what these advocates have to say about structured literacy programs like SpellRead!

  1. Dr. Erin Schryer | Member of panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research
  2. Nancy Young | Author of the Ladder of Reading
  3. Everyone Reads Nova Scotia | Parent led group of volunteers advocating for Dyslexia in Nova Scotia.
  4. Reading Rockets | Resources for struggling readers.

 

 

2. Halifax Learning's Summer Reading Recommendations

If a child is reading, does it matter what they're reading? The answer is complicated.

 

 

We want to keep things fun while at the same time building knowledge from high-quality texts. There’s time to read fun and easy books, but try to balance them with books that are a bit more challenging or involve something new.

 

 

 

Beginning Readers
Don’t wait for pre-primary to read books with your kids! There’s a cool variety of books for you to share with little kids to get them excited about reading routines.

  • Mo Willems book

    Elementary
    Kids at this age are starting to read independently and may be getting into series. Check out these books from the library or at a bookstore.

Old classics:
  • “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey
  • “Clementine” series by Sara Pennypacker
  • "A to Z Mystery" series by Ron Roy
  • "Cam Jansen Mystery" series by David A. Adler
New series to check out:
  • "WeirDo" series by Ahn Do
  • "Super Happy Party Bears" series by Marcie Colleen
  • "Anna, Banana" series by Anica Mrose Rissi
  • "The Questioneers" series by Andrea Beaty
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3. Take it Outside!

There is lots of learning that can happen outside! Take advantage of sunny days to visit these parks from our friends at Raising Haligonians and while you're there take a peek at our Ask the Expert Blog - How to know when your child needs more help with Reading and Literacy

4. Nova Scotia Resources and Programs

  •  TD Summer Reading Club

    Halifax libraries offer this program every summer. Sign up starting June 15 so your kids can earn points, win prizes, and have fun. Realizing that learning takes place with more than just reading, kids can earn points from things like playing games and telling jokes.

  • Nova Scotia Museums

    See spiders and walk with Gus at the Natural History Museum.

  • Join us for Summer Camp!

    Of course, Halifax Learning are the experts in reading so if you’re looking for a big boost in reading skills, you’ve come to the right place. Enrollment is happening now both for classes and for weekly camps. Click the button below to register for our unique summer camp that balances education and exploration or click here to find out more. 

Register Today - Space is Limited!

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