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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

Jot, Jot, Jot: Keeping Pen-to-Paper Practice Alive

By Britt P. Curran on Mon, Aug 12, 2019 @ 10:08 AM

 

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"Dear Diary" entries may feel antiquatedand cursive writing has been gradually phased out of Canadian curricula since 2013—but penmanship and legibility are still valuable skills. Incorporating use through inspired means could help your learner track thoughts and emotions; decrease anxiety and build confidence; brainstorm story lines and develop narratives; and even improve fine motor skills.

As August reaches its halfway mark, encourage your budding Aesop or Atwood to embrace handwriting before another academic year begins. Herewith, four ideas aimed at igniting creative fires! (S'mores optional.)


PROMPT JOURNAL
BREAKDOWN
Often organized like an agenda with a calendar or undated pages, prompt journals allow individuals to use suggestions, lists, and questions to spark thoughts: "describe a ladybug in detail"; "what's your favourite food and why?"; or "pretend you're allowed back in time for 24 hourswhere would you go?" Various formats exist for younger kids and teens, and many include sections for doodling or stickers. Vet a book first to ensure the subject matter and style suit the recipient!
BENEFITS
The focus is enjoyment and expression, not pressure or perfection. Prompts give a nudge when blank loose leaf can be intimidating, and any amount of time spent writing is the right amount! Who knows? A tiny, two-line suggestion could lead to a big, literary idea!
LOGS WE LOVE
✏️ Big Life Journals by Alexandra Eidens
✏️ One Question a Day for Kids by Aimee Chase
✏️ Go! My Adventure Journal by Wee Society


SPECIAL NOTEBOOK
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In theory, a scrap of paper should suffice! But a tailored-to-you journal feels better geared for greatness. Remember: personalized doesn't have to mean pricey. Dollar stores and online marketplaces offer a variety meeting many budgets, plus thrift stores and yard sales can uncover gently or never-used notebooks!
BENEFITS
Having a journal is empowering and encouraging. Whether it's long, poetic compositions or little observations, learners have a comforting outlet that's just their own⁠; a sacred space to express, create, vent, and reflect.
TIPS WE LOVE
✏️Special pens enhance their experience.
✏️Tailor the journal to your child's interests (e.g. sports, hobbies, TV show) or needs (lined pages for neatness; binding on the right side if left-handed; etc.).
✏️Resist the economical urge to buy for siblings in bulk; find a separate style for each child to emphasize individuality.


SENDING SUBMISSIONS
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Usually paired with a minimal "reading fee" (or none at all!), writing contests are typically categorized by age level, submission length, and/or style (poetry, short fiction, etc.) While creative writing is often beloved as a practice without constraints, boundaries can help kids take on challenges with limits or understand future academic expectations, like essays.
BENEFITS
For some, writing is a private, personal past-time. For others, a little competition can spark courage and confidence! If your learner is feeling inspired to compete, help facilitate and be his or her biggest cheerleader!
RESOURCES WE LOVE
✏️ A Guide to Writing Prizes for Young Canadians (CBC)
✏️ Where Young Authors Can Submit (Karen Krossing)
✏️ The Writing Corner (Teens Now Talk Magazine)


FAN MAIL
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Revive the joy of letter-writing by helping your child send their favourite athlete, actor, advocate, or artist a "hello!" When seeking contact information, use certified, legitimate websites (official URLs and company pages). If leery about providing a home address, opt to have replies redirected to your workplace, or ask your neighbourhood post office about holding mail for pickup.
BENEFITS
In an insta-reply world, the value of carving out time to scribe a note, physically send it in the mail, and (hopefully!) wait for a response promotes effort, patience, and can curb expectations. With fan letters, your child might not get one back. But that's OK—the joy is in sending, not receiving. If you'd prefer to foster a rapport, a pen pal service could work better!
IDEAS WE LOVE
✏️ Toronto Blue Jays
✏️ Pixar Animation Studios
✏️ Parliament Hill/The Prime Minister of Canada


Hoping to improve your learner's practical, grammatical skills? Our Writing Connections program can help! Contact a location director for more information and to book a free literacy skills assessment.

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Why do you think SpellRead is effective? We asked our teachers!

By Halifax Learning on Sun, Apr 15, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

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We asked our instructors to share their experience teaching the SpellRead program. They have developed relationships with their students that have created bonds that will last a lifetime. We are proud of what we offer and even more proud of our team of passionate and dedicated teachers. Read more about Brittany's story!

 

How did you become a part of Halifax Learning?

When I was 21 years old I had previously worked for several years delivering another literacy program similar to SpellRead, and I was looking for a summer job. I emailed a few service providers and Halifax Learning got back to me with the possibility of a job.

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Describe a student that you are proud of.

Last year I worked with a student in grade 6 who I had worked with at my previous job, a similar reading program. He was a struggling reader in French Immersion and I knew that, while he had been making some progress with me in the other program, the resources I had were simply not going to be enough for someone who needed a more intensive intervention, especially in spelling and writing.

To my surprise, when I left my position to join the Halifax Learning team, this student followed me and enrolled in SpellRead. We were roughly a quarter of the way through the program and I saw him take off. He completed SpellRead, as well as Writing Connections, and within a year he had everything he needed for Junior High.

I imagine if he had stayed in the other program, he likely would have been there for years, combatting confusion and frustration. This is what I saw over my years there with other significantly struggling students. This sort of situation really proves to me that no matter how wonderful, knowledgeable, or dedicated a teacher may be, it's really the program that makes the difference.

He was the same kid, he had the same instructor, but it was the method that changed, and that's what made the difference.

How would you describe SpellRead to someone that is unfamiliar with the program?

Students are "re-taught" reading strategies, starting from the very beginning of phonological awareness to spelling and into essay writing. They are able to tackle any unknown word, because they are explicitly taught to implement the rules automatically. There is no opportunity for confusion or frustration because we "over-teach" concepts until they are firmly established to the point of independent implementation.

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Why do you think SpellRead is effective?

We aren't complacent. We don't look at our student results and say "Good enough." We are constantly doing research and finding ways to make our program even more effective for every student, no matter what age, learning difference or challenge they are facing.

Many teaching techniques are based in decades-old philosophies or methods or data, but at Halifax Learning we are able to say that not only does SpellRead work, but here is exactly why based on up to date research.

If a student struggles, our attitude is never that the student should simply "try harder", but rather we actively find ways to troubleshoot the issue and find another path to success.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience as a SpellRead teacher?

It's been an extremely rewarding experience. I think SpellRead should be available in all schools and offered to every struggling student.

Literacy skills are  a fundamental human right!

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