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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

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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French Immersion | 5 Tips for English Speaking Parents

By Eryn Steele on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 @ 03:36 PM

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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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#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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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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Reading Opportunities Are Everywhere! Do you know where to find them?

By Halifax Learning on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 @ 11:40 PM

 

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I’ve always been drawn to words.  When I was a child, I would read everything in sight.  At least, that’s how it feels when I look back.  I would read a random and eclectic assortment of objects inside and outside my home.  If it had words, I was interested.

I’ve tried to remember as many of the odd and unexpected places I used to find words to demonstrate how important reading is and how easy it is to practice almost anywhere.

Here are some classics you might remember from your childhood and a few that might surprise you. 

Cereal Boxes

It goes without saying that the companies making children’s cereal plaster the box with entertaining content.  This includes word searches, trivia, puzzles, and other activities on almost every side.

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But many cereal boxes, including the ones most kids won’t eat, also have a lot of reading material.  “Family size”, “daily value of” and “source of 7 essential nutrients” can all be found on most boxes.  The same goes for the ingredient lists and the nutritional info. 

Take the opportunity to talk to your child about the ingredients or explain why the various nutrients are important.  It will help them retain more of the new words they’re exposed to.

Recipes

Similarly, I used to read recipes a lot.  My mother had a few tried and true cookbooks and I would often invade her kitchen and begin scrolling down that night’s recipe.

As I grew I began helping her prepare meals, and she knew I’d have no problem with the steps.  Pretty clever now that I think about it…

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Recruit your child to help you prepare meals once a week.  Not only will they be exposed to a brand new vocabulary, they’ll also learn about healthy diets and meal preparation.  This will be invaluable for their health and your peace of mind as they grow.

Instructions

I’m a man and I’m not embarrassed to admit it - I read the instructions.  I have for as long as I remember*.  Often it was a board game or a puzzle.  I would read every rule and make sure they were clear before we started.  Pretty insufferable, eh? 

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But like cereal boxes, board games and puzzles are a rich source of language.  The instructions may be a little dull, but reading them rather than hearing them creates a direct connection between the written word and it’s meaning.  This improves comprehension.  The descriptions and random information on the box is also ripe to be read. 

Printed Material

I don’t mean the books that I read – I mean all of the books, magazines and newspapers my parents had in our home.  Sometimes it was actually hard to avoid printed words. 

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There’s wisdom in that.  Words were around me all the time so I began reading them.  Book spines, newspaper headlines, magazine covers.  I even read the tabloid fodder in the checkout line at the grocery store.  All that yellow lettering really grabbed my attention as a kid.

Lots of studies have shown that homes with many books produce more literate kids.  Increased access and exposure to reading material has a real and substantial impact on future reading skills.

Song Lyrics**

I expect most people can recall the lyrics to a few songs from their childhood.  I can even remember bits and pieces of the dinosaur cassette my parents played for me in the car when I was a toddler.  The words I memorized nearly 30 years ago, and the accompanying melody, are still clear in my mind.

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Adding music to words makes them stickier.  If you aren’t tired of your child’s favourite songs yet, help them learn the lyrics properly.  Maybe put on a lip sync showcase or write down the lyrics and change them to goofier ones.  Karaoke is tons of fun - you'll be reading lyrics the whole time and you’ll improve your child’s word recognition while you're at it.

The Great Outdoors

This category is an outrageous one to distill into a few short paragraphs, so here’s a list of ten things you can read outside:

Street names, billboards, movie posters, traffic signs, the posters on buses (inside and out), the names of businesses, memorial plaques in parks, writing on the sides of cars, educational info at landmarks, and the map you need to get everywhere. 

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Next time you’re out with your kids, ask them to read everything in sight.  Play I Spy but search for words.  If your kids have short names, try and find them on license plates.  There are almost infinite possibilities.

Odds ‘n’ Ends

This is literally anything else you might have lying around your home. 

Old Christmas cards stored in a drawer?  Perfect for seeing different writing and communication styles.  Going on a trip?  Passports and itineraries have lots of information.  Been to a concert?  Ticket stubs are quick and easy.  Too busy running errands to read to your kids?  Have them read aloud to you between stops.  Better yet, take a page out of my mom’s book and recruit your child to help with your to-do list.

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Reading opportunities truly are all around us. For more reading opportunities, here is a list of books that feature siblings!  We'd love to hear your thoughts or any other readable, everyday objects you can think of.  
Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.


*I want to mention that storytelling offers a number of language skills.  The teller creates a narrative and then captivates their audience with their tone, emotion and creativity.  It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s a fun creative outlet that has no real downside. 
**It might have something to do with my deep-seated urge to understand everything around me.  I still struggle to filter the huge influx of information I’ve had access to over the last decade into consumable chunks.  There are way too many tabs open in my web browser.

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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+

PAT

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