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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!

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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

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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

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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."


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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

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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What is phonics?

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

halifax learning spellread phonics

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. 


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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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.

halifax learning spellread morphology reading program reading support tutor tutoring read write spell education evidence-based literacy

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.

halifax learning morphology reading program reading support literacy tutor tutoring read write spell education evidence-based

 

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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