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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

2020 Vision

By Britt P. Curran on Wed, Jan 01, 2020 @ 04:38 PM

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New Year's resolutions can make even the keenest of change-craving individuals squirm with anxiety. We might take the countdown to midnight as seriously as Cinderella, anticipating a wave of consequences if there isn't enough shift, shuffle, or progress.

But much like fashion's jelly sandals, steely resolutions are a thing of the past; the should and must and have-to dialogues are dated. To approach 2020 with plans, not pressure, allows both you and your learners alike to breathe easier, placing good intentions and realistic goals at the new year's forefront.

With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, here are four ways to make January—and a fresh decade!—sparkle with educational success.



CHECK (OUT), PLEASE!
Libraries rival It's a Wonderful Life for timelessness. While e-readers and downloadable novels are popular present-day preferences, little competes with the task of physically trekking to a library to peruse classics, new releases, or suggested reads. Before visiting, reflect on a recently beloved story and Google "books similar to (title here)." Browse names until one peaks your interest, then search the Halifax Public Library's online catalogue to check availability, put on hold for pick-up, or join a wait-list.
Once at your local branch, ask staff for recommendations. In July 2015, the now five-year-old Halifax Central Library housed more than 80,000 books alone—a statistic substantiating that you and your learners will surely find something fitting!

In an effort to re-welcome youth to their neighborhood site, HPL offers Read Away Your Fines: a program aimed to help individuals ages 5-17 quash outstanding account charges. Accompany your learner and chat with staff about starting. Every 15 minutes of on-location reading = a $2 decrease toward unpaid fees. It's a win-win-win: the library reduces its borrower debt; young persons have more opportunity to check-out items this year; and designated reading time encourages active, intentional literacy.

Similarly, to motivate community members back to public libraries, HPL hosted a "Go Fine-Free" initiative in December, 2019, to waive individuals' outstanding fees. As a limited-time opportunity, the mission hoped to alleviate borrower debt without judgement, question, or expectation. Stay tuned for news, events, and potential comparable offerings!


KEEP IT CHILL
What's cooler than magnetic poetry? From basic building pieces to a slew of novelty versions, your kitchen appliances will become a new canvas for learning, laughing, and wordplay silliness.

The original Magnetic Poetry brand features a vast selection of younger editions, including Story Maker, Kid Artist, and Opposites. Work together to create sentences and ridiculous poems, or leave your child to their own imaginative devices and see what transpires on the fridge! **IMPORTANT: Supervise website browsing, as other themed kits are named and geared for older audiences.

For younger learners, foam letters help foster alphabet familiarity. Woozles and Tattletales, two beloved local children's bookstores, offer varieties like Magnetic Wooden Letters by Melissa and Doug and Magnetic Learning Letters, respectively. Craft and discount stores also feature options, so see what budget, size, and style is most attractive!

GIVE ME A CLUE?
Group word activities nurture togetherness and teamwork, with a bonus focus on fine motor skills.

Crosswords are a tangible, challenging choice for family time. Kids Puzzles and Games promote free printable crosswords, as well as word scrambles, Sudoku, mazes, and much more.

Depending on the ages of your learner(s), find a topic and length that feels manageable and fun, not impossible. Reviewing the answers afterwards and filling in blanks can also be a helpful way to finish without frustration!

TAKE NOTE
In keeping with a pen-to-paper theme, source out stationery that suits your learner's likes, hobbies, and preferences. Try themed cards (forest animals, anyone?), Post-its, dollar store index cards, or whatever else inspires imagination.

Every weekend—or as often as doable—have your learner draw a name to see who's on his or her to-write list. Extend the recipient list beyond the immediate family! Maybe a cousin, coach, teacher, friend. Place as many names into a Mason jar as your little likes, and lead by creative example: fill your own jar, perhaps including your kids, siblings, boss, neighbour, favourite barista, whomever! Set aside 10-15 minutes together to scribe your own notes.

Seal and decorate with stickers, then hand-deliver (or mail) before the next time you draw! Eliminate the pressure for anyone to produce a flawless memo and write what comes to mind. Maybe a haiku? Recall a fun, shared memory. Tell your reader something new, or jot down a simple "thanks for being you!"



Halifax Learning believes in practices that focus on enjoyment and effort, not perfection. Need more ideas? Two posts from 2018 and 2019 highlight parallel exercises!

Go ahead: Spell "CHEERS" on the freezer door, too.

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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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10 Tips to Develop Reading and Writing Skills this Summer!

By Halifax Learning on Sun, Apr 29, 2018 @ 09:00 AM

 

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Many of the staff at Halifax Learning are parents too. Which is why we've written this blog.
Below are tips to help parents develop reading skills and writing skills over the summer. Better yet, register for SpellRead or Writing Connections to ensure your child has the proper foundation for academic success!

1. Start planning now!

Classic teacher. Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more. 

Most of us have already booked our camp sites, hotel rooms for wedding season and concert tickets, but how thoughtful have you been about how you'll ensure your child maintains (and hopefully improves upon) their literacy skills. This is not an easy task and without proper planning and inspiration you'll likely run into conflict, whining and ultimatums. Summer is a chance to relax, have fun and have make memories. We think that means more opportunity to incorporate reading and writing into your plans!

2. The Golden Rule - Read every day!

This is a no brainer. We probably all do a great job integrating reading into our evening bedtime routine, but is this really quality time or just us parents trying to survive the chaos in hopes of getting some much needed shut eye!? A structured reading time is best, but what does that mean, because if it means reading at the same time each day, I'm out. I had to learn very quickly the difference between structure, schedule and routine. We think that a structured reading time means selecting reading material and presenting in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Keep reading!

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3. Be Prepared!
Wherever you go, whether it’s the beach, park, or a long car-ride, pack a few books and writing resources.

Below is a list that pairs books with local excursions or at home activities. Associating books with adventure will have a profound impact on your child's approach to reading as an agent of discovery. 

  • Atlantic ABC, by Angela Doak
    • Go anywhere! We recommend taking a camera or a sketchpad and creating your own version of an Atlantic ABC book. 
  • A is for Adventure, by Jan Lapierre - Anywhere!
    • This book is an excellent resource for families looking for inspired stay-cation ideas. 
  • Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds
    • Nova Scotia Art Gallery, Clay Cafe or at Home. Ish is a great lesson in 
  • The Harbour Seal, by Dorette Groenendyk
    • Where else? The Halifax Waterfront!
  • Be Who You Are, by Todd Parr
    • Stay home, create a self-portrait.  Who are you? 
4. Read Aloud!

Parents are a child's first teacher. Your approach to reading and writing will set the tone, but that tone doesn't need to be rigid perfection to the text. Modeling good reading fluency is important, but don't be afraid to deviate from the script.

This is a key to survival in our house. Being flexible, creative and engaging during reading sessions is a valuable skill that will ensure your child associates reading with positive, happy times! When my daughter asks why a goat is wearing a monocle or what is that tall pointing building in the picture, this is a teachable moment! Engaging in your child's questions is affirming their interests and curiosity.

Find creative ways to build in shared-reading time with your child, not just independent, silent reading.  If your child acts out and becomes defiant, this is likely a sign of a struggle.  We offer a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment that will answer all of your questions about how your child processes text. Our SpellRead students take part in share-reading every class and read aloud with our expertly trained staff. 

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"Children who struggle when reading texts aloud do not become good readers if left to read silently; their disfluency merely becomes inaudible." Language at the Speed of Sight, by Mark Seidenberg

5. Practice What You Preach

Remember what I said about being a role-model? Monkey see, monkey do. Set a good example and show your children your love of books. But, time is precious and who wants to waste it on a lousy book. Here's my list of planned summer reading.  Here are a few potential titles: 

  • The Boat People, by Sharon Bala
  • Seven Fallen Feathersby Tanya Talaga
  • The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur

What's on your summer reading list? Send your recommendations in the comments!

6. Choose ‘Fun’ Reading

Allow your children to choose reading material other than books. If you've been following our blogs, we talked about this in Reading Opportunities are Everywhere! Do you know Where to Find them?

Magazines, graphic novels, and reading the sports’ scores are all great opportunities for reading. We use Newsela, a free resource, for engaging content articles for all ages!

7. Let Reading Enhance Your Travels

Find a book set in the location you will be visiting. Your children can learn about the town’s history and local interest before seeing it for themselves. Going on a road trip? Make a game of reading road signs and place names on route to your destination. Teach your child to read a map; allow them to be navigator as you find your destination. There is no better teaching strategy than allowing the student to become the teacher. 

8. Read books connected to your summer activities

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There's a theme here. Make reading meaningful and thoughtful and you'll have substantially more success.

How many of you read Anne of Green Gables as a child and were then mesmerized to visit Anne's home in Prince Edward Island?! The experience of visiting that place that had previously only lived in your imagination?! What a profound experience for a developing reader. 

9. Make the most of rainy days

  • Watch a movie inspired by one of your favourite books and compare the two. The options are endless! 
  • Visit a museum on a topic of interest from a non-fiction reading selection. Bring home pamphlets and information sheets or visit the museum gift shop for their reading recommendations. 
  • Use a favorite book to inspire an afternoon of arts and crafts. 
  • Plan a trip and start researching the area, culture, accommodations and excursions you'd like to plan.   

10. Write About it!

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Inspire your child to write by letting them be in control. Or at least let them think they are! Here are some tips to guide your child toward writing that is meaningful and more importantly, inspired. Because let's be real, Mom and Dad want to enjoy their summer vacay too. #amirite

  • Let them pick a journal and customize it! Recently we went to the dollar store and purchased plain black scrapbooks with hard covers, then we went nuts in the sticker aisle and voila, custom journals that they are proud of and excited to fill with new ideas!
  • Let them set the expectations and create a tracking system that they can maintain. What is the goal? What do they want to produce by the end of the summer?
  • Let them pick the writing topics. You can do this by having your child brainstorm and dictate a list of topics. Write them on popsicle sticks or strips of paper and fill an empty box or jar for random selection. 

11. Bonus Tip Alert! Skip the summer slide with Summer Camp at Halifax Learning!

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If all of this sounds appealing to you, but you're thinking to yourself ... umm, I have a day job, multiple children and an endless to-do list. We get it. So do we, which is why we want to offer the best summer camp options for developing readers and their busy, well informed and thoughtful parents. 

Our Summer Camp is a unique experience of education and exploration. At Halifax Learning we practice what we preach and will be using all of these tips this summer to inspire our campers to read and write and have fun doing it!

Visit our Summer Camp page for our 2018 itinerary and meet our Camp Director, Emily. 

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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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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+

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