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Celebrating 20-Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

What is phonics?

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

a_eAlthough reading research has remained consistent for decades, phonics is the source of heated debate in the education world. The phrase "drill and kill" might come to mind. We want to change the conversation.

Does your child play a sport? Do they have a coach? Does your child's coach practice the fundamental skills required to play said sport. Do they break down each skill to its most basic part in order for your child to properly and efficiently perform said skill? Or do they simply hand over the equipment, show them the field of play, watch a few games and expect results?

Reading is a fundamental skill. It allows all other learning to take place and should be taught in a systematic, explicit way. 

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. 

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The word “cool” contains three phonemes and graphemes - /c/ /oo/ /l/.

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"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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Siblings in Stories!

By Brittany Curran on Mon, Apr 09, 2018 @ 12:25 PM

In the spirit of celebrating siblings, here are 7 books that feature the good, the bad, the serious, and the silliest of sibling relationships. This post was inspired by all the sibling students we have had the pleasure of guiding through the SpellRead program on a path to excellent reading skills. 

 

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1. The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osbourne
In this long-running series (with a whopping 53 titles, including Midnight on the Moon and Carnival at Candlelight), Jack and Annie travel through time and to faraway lands on missions for Morgan le Fay. With the help of their Magic Tree House and Master Librarian cards, this brother-sister duo get into plenty of mischief and mayhemand learn to trust their instincts, information, and each other! 

2. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Oh, Ramona! Always getting into sticky situations! Thank goodness for her sister, Beezus, to keep things under control. This delightful book is an instant classic, portraying an older, protective Beezus who is often left in charge of the rabble-rouser Ramona. But what's the secret to pacifying a kooky sibling?! You'll have to read it and see!   

3. The Berenstain Bears series by Stan & Jan Berenstain
There's no cooler twosome than Brother and Sister Bear—nor a wiser set of parents than Papa and Mama! For over 50 years, Stan and Jan Berenstain have presented this fuzzy family and their daily dilemmas. While Brother Bear may be the eldest sibling, Sister Bear lends a sweet innocence to the stories, and both children learn life's lessons with heavy doses of love and laughter! (Some titles include Trouble with Money, No Girls Allowed and Learn about Strangers.)

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
In one of the most beloved stories of the 20th century, high schooler Meg Murry and her brother Charles Wallace travel through time (with Meg's friend Calvin, too!) in order to rescue their father from the planet Camazotz. With the help of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the three children must diligently stay close-knit and confident on their journey—one filled with twists, turns, evildoers and relationships that stand the test of time.

6. Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick
Based on an incredible real-life account, this book is about the Acerra family's 12 baseball-loving sons—in a clan of 16 children total! Set in the 1930s, the brothers generated an entire baseball team (with lads to spare) and this wonderful book about siblings and sports is filled with support and determination!

7. Little Women by Louise May Alcott
Inarguably one of the most timeless and influential novels in history, Little Women is a story about family, friendship, marriage, and true sisterhood. The book observes the world of the March sisters: the eldest, Meg; 15-year-old Jo; 13-year-old Beth; and 12-year-old Amy. Burdened by poverty—but instructed by their Union chaplain father not to dwellthe girls learn about giving to others and falling in love through life-changing adventures and tribulations.

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Creative Writing Tips from Halifax Learning!

By Eryn Steele on Thu, Mar 29, 2018 @ 01:27 PM

 

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Like with any other interest or hobby, it's important to nurture a child's love of writing!

Here are five fun ways to fuel your kid's creative spark, and to foster the process of putting ideas down on paper.

1. Get the Tools!

Encourage the use of printing and cursive by presenting your child with a beautiful, bright notebook and pen; a cool set of writing tools can really amplify the creative process. Monogramming the journal adds a special touch, as would picking up gel pens in his/her favourite colour!

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2. Get a Helpful Guide.

There's no wrong way for your child to write, but it's smart to provide extra guidance and support!  Below are seven awesome books to help cultivate ideas, so be sure to stop in a nearby bookstore or your local library for these handy how-tos.

  • "Leap Write In!: Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch and Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind" and "Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing" by Karen Benke
     
  • "Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring!" by Cheryl Miller Thurston and Dawn DiPrince 
     
  • "My One Line a Day: A Three-Year Memory Book" by Chronicle Books Staff
     
  • "Basher Basics: Creative Writing" by Mary Budzik and Simon Basher
     
  • "You Can Write a Story! A Story-writing Recipe for Kids" by Lisa Bullard
     
  • "Young Writers Companion: From Reader to Writer" by Sarah Ellis
     
  • "Spilling Ink: A Young Writer`s Handbook" by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter
     

3. I'll Write, Too!

If your child seems keen to write but struggles with starting or maintaining endurance, offer to write when they write! Sitting down together for an hour each week and chatting about topics, characters, and exciting plot twists might give them that little extra boost. So lead by example and work on a story while your child does, too... or co-write one!

Always remember, parent instincts are usually spot on. If you know your child just isn't getting it and their learning needs aren't being met, don't wait, contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment and consultation. Invest today to get a head start on the upcoming school year.

Learn more about how evidence-based programs like SpellRead can change your child's life!

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4. Make an e-Book.

Take tip #5 even farther and create an e-Book for your child's wonderful story! Publishing sites like Scribblitt and StoryJumper provide easy step-by-step instructions to creating an e-book, and offer the option to purchase hardcover copies when it's all done!

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5. Sign up for Writing Connections!

Writing Connections at Halifax Learning focuses on increasingly complex components of the writing process, from drafting and punctuation to paragraph structure, editing and essay writing. As the student progresses lesson by lesson, like SpellRead, each concept inWriting Connections  is fully mastered before the next one is introduced. Contact us today for a free consultation and assessment.

Or contact Eryn at the Halifax Learning for more information about our programs at enrollments@halifaxlearning.com.

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A Super SpellRead Success Story!

By Brittany Curran on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 @ 02:38 PM

 

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Efficient reading and writing skills are about more than just grade. Our mission to unlock the learning potential of our students to allow them to pursue their passion, like Girl Guide badges.  Read below to learn more about Rachel's journey to a full Girl Guide sash with Halifax Learning. 

When Rachel began at SpellRead last July, reading and writing were not among her preferred past times. Like many students who walk through our doors, she struggled to find joy in a world of books or writing by hand.

If this sounds familiar, don't wait, contact us today for a free in-depth literacy skills assessment.  There is no obligation to enroll and within one hour you'll have a better understanding of how your child processes and understands text.  We'll also send you a digital copy of the assessment report!

Recently, however, a certain spark has been lit and Rachel's developed a newfound self-assurance!

Her SpellRead instructors and her mom, Terri-Lynn, have all noticed a change in Rachel's energy and dedication to reading and writingespecially when it comes to earning Girl Guide badges.

"The other day, Rachel gathered the pages to do the write-ups on approximately six badges and took them to EXCEL, an after school program," says Terri-Lynn. "It was such a surprise to see her sitting alone working on her write-ups, and she was so happy to read each one to me."

Rachel's homeroom and resource teachers at school have also noticed a difference!
Rachel reading!"They are seeing changes in her as well and the said that the knowledge she's gaining at SpellRead has proven to be very useful," says Terri-Lynn. "They've noticed an increase in her confidence."

SpellRead isn't just about achieving a growth in assessment scores. The program strives to provide a supportive and encouraging environment for students so that they can blossom personally, too!

Way to go, Rachel! We're all so proud of you!

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The SpellRead Approach

By Halifax Learning on Mon, Mar 05, 2018 @ 11:42 AM

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SpellRead focuses on developing a student's "phonological automaticity", the ability to master sound-letter relationships and automatically process the sounds.  Activities in phonemic, phonetic, and language-based reading and writing form the foundation of SpellRead.  The SpellRead approach ensures that students' reading and writing skills become as developed and automatic as their verbal ability.

Students and educators see progress from the first lessons.  All lessons are clearly defined in the instruction manuals and taught in a carefully sequenced and explicit manner.  Each skills is thoroughly practiced in a fast-paced format so that students stay engaged in learning.

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SpellRead ensures students can automatically and efficiently decode all 44 sounds of the English language.  One way to ensure mastery of skills is through explicit, systematic, repetitive instruction that is equally effective and engaging.  SpellRead adheres to best practices in pedagogy by ensuring consistent, minimal language, positive reinforcement, fast-paced, multi-sensory program delivery.

What are the stats on SpellRead?

In one year our students:

  • learn how to effectively and efficiently decode new language using the 44 sounds of the English language.
  • are exposed to hundreds of new vocabulary terms without even touching a book.
  • take part in 25+ hours of Active Reading.
  • take part in 10+ hours of Writing Connections.
  • gain the confidence to approach new language with the tools identified by experts in reading research.
  • gain the skills to tackle school work and thrive!

 

Watch SpellRead in the classroom!

View our Student Results here.

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Celebrating Family Literacy Day 2014

By Eryn Steele on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 @ 09:20 PM

Today, January the 27th is Family Literacy Day in Canada, a day we have been celebrating for 16 years.  Our young readers have made some significant gains with the aid of our passionate and dedicated teachers - both in the public system in Nova Scotia and privately at our Halifax Learning Centres in Halifax and around the province. The question still remains though - 

Are we prepared to teach our young people how to read? It's hard to say .... 

A simple Google search of "Are teachers in Nova Scotia prepared to teach reading?" does not generate a yes or no hit and that's because teaching someone to read is not that simple.  Parents, experts, teachers, tutors and policy makers all have the same goal in mind when it comes to ensuring student success, but regardless of our intent, many students continue to struggle in developing strong literacy skills. So often we hear how important reading is, to develop the love of reading, but maybe more attention needs to be paid on how to be an effective teacher of reading?  Well, there are experts out there ready to tell us how, but are we listening?

 Family Literacy Day 2014

What are some of the best practices in teaching reading? 

* Understanding the difference between letters vs. phonemes.

*Teaching phonemic awareness.  This is an early stage of learning to read that relies on a child's ability to manipulate sounds through auditory processing, for example, rhyiming.

*Teaching phonics.  This is the symbolic stage of learning to read that connects sounds to their letter combinations.  Understanding letters vs. phonemes is critical at this stage in teaching a child to read. The English alphabet contains 26 letters, but 44 sounds, therefore understanding letter combinations is critical.  

*Decoding by using nonsense words shows understanding of phonemic and phonological awareness. 

*Spelling is a diagnostic tool that shows a child's mastery of phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding. 

*Summarizing can be done when a child is reading fluently and effortlessly.

*Predicting and making connections to their own prior knowledge can be done when a child is fully engaged in a text. 

 

SpellRead is rooted in scientific research and these very principles and therefore our instructors are diligently trained specifically to teach reading.  Families in Nova Scotia are at an advantage that other Canadians simply do not have access to and that is the SpellRead program.    

Reading Rockets features several podcasts from experts in the field of reading who discuss the importance of knowing how to teach it.  After viewing several of these podcasts, one will take away that it is easy for many of us to take for granted the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics, but (so artistically captured by the National Reading Campaign) Readers Save the World and I am assuming we are talking about those who are reading well and reading effortlessly. 

In addition to best practices, teaching reading must be done through a systematic, organized and outcomes based model that exposes the learner to multiple opportunities for repetition and success. Our goal Halifax Learning is to help every student that we can.  One of our colleagues at Ooka Island, (an online reading skills adventure program) often states that their (Ooka Island) goal is to help eradicate illiteracy.  We don't want to take someone else's mission – but that is our goal too and should be the goal of every Canadian as we celebrated Family Literacy Day, 2014.

Submitted by,

Megan Brooks

Site Director of our Tantallon location 

 

 

 

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