Welcome to Our Blog!

Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

COVID and the Impact on Childhood Learning and Development

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Jun 21, 2022 @ 12:50 PM

Young boy concentrating on his schoolwork sitting at his desk in the classroom with his head in his hands reading his class notes

Has COVID affected your child's education? It likely has. Not only have reading and numeracy levels been compromised, but communication, life experiences, and students' relationships with each other and those in the education system have also been affected.

Although provincial plans have been created, they don't seem to address some of the critical components involving losses experienced by students overall. Although well-intentioned, the detail required to rectify the learning slide that has taken place is missing.

CBC's investigation into these provincial education initiatives, found at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/learning-curve-catch-up-recovery-plans-1.6472721, is telling. Many interviews shared the same message: provinces need to create more comprehensive, specific strategies to assess student learning levels and utilize additional funding set aside for education to have the maximum effect possible. 

In addition, racialized and marginalized populations have taken even more of a toll, and these students need policies in place to get them up to speed with the levels that are consistent with standardized levels.  

So much has been lost for students during the pandemic. As educators, we must embrace the emerging evidence that our children's needs are not being met.  

As literacy coaches, we knew before the pandemic that many children were being disenfranchised by inadequate literacy instruction. We find that teachers are incredible and sincere in what they are teaching. However, their impact is reduced due to the oversight in their B.Ed. courses of the basics of teaching with a focus on the science of reading. This disparity is becoming even more significant given the development lost due to the pandemic. 

Our enrollment coordinators note that many parents have contacted us over the last two years due to concerns about a COVID slide. However, many others realized just how far behind their child's literacy skills were after watching them participate in online learning at home. 

Of course, at Halifax Learning, we consider each child's needs, ensuring they get the best possible care delivered with understanding and patience. However, the parent conversations have taken a turn. Navigating this pandemic has been an experience for everyone. Not only has the anxiety and stress that this has put on our children and educators been dramatic, but it is frustrating for parents trying to juggle their children's social, emotional, and academic needs. In addition, the emerging issue of life affordability, although not new, is also taking a toll.

The goal is for our delivery of the SpellRead program to live in teachers' classrooms. We've made some inroads in training public teachers in Ontario and with the African Canadian Services Branch in the Nova Scotia Department of Education. We have effectively trained teachers to deliver the program to youth in schools. However, this only targets a small number of students, and the issue is widespread and complex.  

If parents are wondering about their child's literacy skills, we offer a free learning assessment for students. In less than one hour, you will learn more about how you or a member of your family processes language and comprehends text. Our assessment provides a clear understanding of strengths and weaknesses and gives us a picture of how the student reads. The evaluation looks at students' phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. The results are discussed with you, and suggestions for steps moving forward are made.   

We also have a bursary program. All families can apply, and an amount is determined based on affordability. 

Ultimately, teachers should have access to structured literacy training in teachers' colleges. We recommend that college educators take heed of the alarming pattern emerging and ensure that teachers are learning the basics of teaching with an evidence-based, science of reading focus in their B.Ed. courses. If you are a teacher looking for more information, please visit our website dedicated to teacher training: www.resultsyoucanread.ca 

We are here to help. Reach out and book your free assessment now: 

Book a Free Assessment

Continue Reading

Backyard Fun That Secretly Teaches

By Eryn Steele on Thu, Jun 16, 2022 @ 07:27 PM

Science is everywhere! You don't need to go to a zoo - you can find all kinds of science-related experiences right in your own backyard. Here is a super simple list of science activities that are both fun and full of learning.

Happy kid exploring nature with magnifying glass

What Can We Find? This is pretty straightforward, but probably not as boring as you'd think. Grass and soil are full of worms, ants, and all kinds of little critters that you wouldn't notice every day. Look under rocks, wood, and leaves. For smaller kids, focus on how individual critters use their bodies to get around (for example, having six legs, wings, or no legs at all). For older kids, bring a book to help them formally identify the creatures they find. You can also expand this activity to identify trees, birds, and other elements in the environment.

How Does It Fall? A backyard likely offers some high perches (a deck, for example) where you and your child can investigate how different things fall. Try things like balls, paper, a feather, or leaves. Do they all fall the same way? Which items fall faster? What is gravity?

Shadow Shakers: If it's sunny, encourage your child to experiment with their own shadow. What shapes can they make? Hand animals are always fun. Try incorporating items with interesting shapes and slowly rotate items to see how their shadows change.

Make It Grow: Get your child to observe and record the growth of a plant or animal. This can happen any time of year, especially if you plant something indoors. Depending on where you live, it may be tricky to find an animal to follow, but caterpillars or ducklings are often easy to identify. Growing veggies is also a really educational activity, and yields some delicious rewards!

HotEarth resized 600

Hot/Hotter/Hottest: When the sun is shining bright, different surfaces feel warmer or cooler. Metal slides, for example, are much too hot on a hot summer afternoon. How does the shade of a tree impact the temperature? How does a breeze impact the temperature? Use you hand or an outdoor thermometer to investigate what can impact the heat.

How Does It Slide? Find an array of materials (balls, blocks, toys etc) and see how they all go down the slide. Ask your child to make predictions about items before they slide them. Will the item slide quickly? Will it continue to roll once the slide ends? Why does it roll more effectively than other things? This activity teaches about gravity, momentum, and shapes. This can also be expanded to "How Does It Fly", which is using paper airplanes and other items to test aerodynamics.

Balance Challenge: If your backyard doesn’t have a makeshift balance beam (a plank of wood laid on the grass, for example), head to the nearest park for some balance challenges. Don’t just walk across the beam - make it tricky! Try walking the beam with a book on your head. Try balancing something on the palm of your hand while you walk. Try balancing something (a pencil, for example) on your index finger. How do you stay balanced? What are some tricks to make it easier? How does the speed of movement impact balance?  Try this indoors by balancing on one foot.  Can you balance as long on a cushion as on the floor?  How about with your eyes closed?

PeopleTree resized 600

A Family Tree: Use flowers, rocks, or leaves to represent family members. Explain how, just like trees, families branch out. Starting with grandparents, use the materials to map out who is who in a family, and connect them all with branches to demonstrate how they all intersect.

Tap into your child's curiosity to keep their mind active and have fun while you're at it! Your backyard has a lot to offer! These activities are extremely simple, but familiarize your child with many important ideas. Go online to find more backyard activity ideas, or get creative and come up with your own!

If you have concerns about your child's reading levels why not get a true picture of the situation with a free no-obligation reading assessment.

Book a Free Assessment

 

 

Continue Reading

Recommended Books for your Reading List

By Halifax Learning on Mon, May 16, 2022 @ 09:08 AM

Looking for reading for your children for the Summer?  We have a special download for you at the end of this post!


Halifax Learning hired our first co-op student, Basel!  This was through a program with Saint Mary’s University.

We hired Basel Elkhalifa to help with our social media content creation.  Aside from helping create relevant content that we could use to explain and elevate our program, we also decided to use this co-op opportunity to do something we've been wanting to do for a long time – research and create a children’s booklist to celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Basel did an excellent job of this by breaking the content up into months, and researching children's literature specific to different cultures.  Basel has included books and authors from across the country, with a primary focus on keeping it local to Nova Scotia. 

We are pleased to offer this curated selection of 39 books that will be educational and informative for young and old alike.  The recommended reading includes:

 
    • Black History Month
    • Asian Heritage Month
    • Jewish Heritage Month
    • National Indigenous Month
    • Pride Month
    • Women’s History Month
    • Mi’kmaq History Month
    • Universal Human Rights Month
 

Along with a special mention of a book entitled “Hassan and Aneesa Love Ramadan”.

Click below to see the list and get started on your Summer reading!:

New call-to-action

For more information on the St. Mary’s University Co-op Education Program, 

Contact the Co-operative Education, Career & Experiential Learning department at  

902-410-4626 or visit their website at  www.smu.ca/coop

 

Continue Reading

Meet our Community Engagement Director:  Shakisha Downey

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Mar 24, 2022 @ 10:01 AM

Staff Images-ROUND_Shakisha Downey

Shakisha Downey's role has evolved at Halifax Learning. Shakisha has been an integral part of our team since 2017 and now takes on the role of Community Engagement Director. Let's get to know Shakisha (she/her).

Graduating from Dalhousie University with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Social Anthropology, she is now studying for her Bachelor of Social Work with the goal of completing her Masters in Social Work. Shakisha's pursuit of education in this field of social work was spurred on by her personal experience as a former child in care. This educational opportunity has been a professional and personal development experience for her.


She came on board with us to work with families on financing and delivering science-based programming in our in-person and online clinics and in Halifax Regional Centre for Education schools and community centres. She was attracted to Halifax Learning because of their understanding of illiteracy as a social justice issue. Growing up, education was her anchor in a life of many uncertainties, something she could always be proud to be a part of. Shakisha strongly believes literacy can change the path taken by anyone in life, especially for those who have been marginalized or denied access to opportunities. For her, literacy and knowledge are power, and she wanted to be a part of empowering younger generations.

As the Community Engagement Director for Halifax Learning, she works on creating, organizing, and maintaining community-based literacy programs, workshops, and opportunities in Halifax Regional Municipality with the overall theme of Affirmative Action and advancing social justice for marginalized individuals and communities.

Shakisha finds her work with Halifax Learning to be rewarding for the opportunity she has to be a part of creating and maintaining transformative learning journeys for children and youth who have experienced trauma and/or marginalization.

Her favourite reading material includes books that tell real-life stories about additions, abuse, and other personal struggles. It all started for her with "Go ask Alice, Anonymous" and a number of books by Ellen Hopkins she read in Junior High.

What does she do for fun? She loves to take long drives along the coast to admire the adored ocean views of Nova Scotia. Some of her favourite places to visit are the Cape Breton Highlands and Scots Bay. She also loves to take her  Lab-Mastiff out for a good long walk and swim. In fact, what she loves about living in Atlantic Canada is the ocean! In her words, "I'm a sucker for saltwater and rocky or sandy beaches".  

As a favourite 'pump up' song, what will you hear her listening to? Well, anything Justin Bieber and her current song of the moment is "Attention" by Omah.  But this could change any minute!

Make sure to reach out to Shakisha for assistance with funding, scholarships, for working with HLC and much more!

HubSpot Video

 

Continue Reading

Right to Read Inquiry Uncovers Inequities, Recommendations

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Mar 03, 2022 @ 05:30 PM

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has released their report from the Right to Read Inquiry. At issue was whether learning-disabled and marginalized students were subject to human rights violations during their instruction in Ontario public schools.

The Commission’s findings were released February 28th 2022.

right to read inquiry

How data was collected

Both numerical and qualitative (narrative, descriptive means of data collection) were collected and analyzed. Several key findings emerged:

Learning outcomes for learning-disabled, Black, Indigenous, low-income, students from racialized groups and other marginalized subsets were concerning to the Commission. For example, Indigenous students were less likely to reach provincial reading benchmarks than their white counterparts. Their five-year graduation rates were lower than their white counterparts.

The demand for early intervention programs (Kindergarten through Grade 2) outstripped the supply, and many students’ needs were continuing to go unmet under the current eligibility guidelines.

The main source of the numerical data was EQAO standardized test scores.

Report uncovers limited access, widespread inequity

The Commission found Ontario public schools failed to provide evidence-based instruction to struggling students. Schools are taking a “wait and see” approach for struggling students instead of creating access to reading support and evidence-based intervention. Students must also have a formal diagnosis and a psycho-educational assessment to be eligible for interventions.

These factors disproportionately affect marginalized and lower-income students who historically lack access to diagnostic and evaluation services.

Increasing access, removing barriers

Recommendations from the Commission to remedy this portion of the findings included the implementation of evidence-based, systemic, phonics, and word-reading programs for students who needed them. The Commission also recommended removing inappropriate barriers, such as required psycho-educational assessments, which were costly when privately obtained, and out of reach to limited-income families.

Additionally, the lack of province-wide consistency means uneven access for students, especially those most in need of reading intervention programs. School boards used 16 different programs, only five of which were evidence-based. The board-developed programs were not rigorously evaluated or vetted before implementation.

Additionally, the Commission proposed developing standardized, evidence-based eligibility criteria for students.

The Commission also recommended making evidence-based reading interventions widely available at each grade level.

SpellRead earns high marks for a science-based approach

However, once the evidence-based program, SpellRead, received high praise for its science-backed, age-appropriate, and comprehensive approach to reading instruction. Aimed at students with or without a diagnosis, studies in Newfoundland, Novia Scotia and the U.S. have demonstrated the program’s positive effect on students’ decoding skills, word reading, fluency, and comprehension.

SpellRead has been regarded as the Gold Standard of evidence-based reading programs, and its implementation throughout Canada would benefit struggling students and even the learning playing field.

The implementation of SpellRead fall in line with the Commission’s recommendation to implement standardized, evidence-based reading programs for struggling readers.

To do this, the Commission also recommended the Ministry of Education allocate additional funding to hire and train additional teachers to facilitate the recommended reading programs. Doing so would eliminate the current “wait and see” approach and would increase access for students who would otherwise struggle without intervention.

Furthermore, the Commission encouraged increased accountability and transparent communication at the school board level. Parents and students should be able to receive clear, timely communication regarding the availability of reading intervention programs.

Although the report uncovered inequities within Ontario’s public school system for students from marginalized groups, it did identify concrete solutions to closing the achievement gap that currently exists.

The ability to read fluently is a right all students should have access to, regardless of their socioeconomic standing or group identity. By implementing science-based, standardized reading intervention programs and removing access barriers, more students will be able to succeed not only at reading but life outside of school.

 

Topics: Right to Read
Continue Reading

What You Need to Know About Ontario's Right to Read Inquiry

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Feb 25, 2022 @ 09:53 AM

Reading is an essential skill that will serve students well in school and later on in life. For students with reading-related learning disabilities, reading poses additional challenges that impact the rest of their school performance.

IMG_0034

In October of 2019, the Ontario Human Rights Human Rights Commission (OHRC) began an inquiry to determine whether or not learning-challenged students were facing human rights violations in the course of their education in public schools since learning to read is a fundamental right for all students.

Are Ontario schools adequately meeting the needs of at-risk readers?

In essence, the Commission is working to determine if Ontario public schools are meeting the reading instructional needs of learning-disabled students.

The findings, due to be released February 2022, could also benefit low-income, First Nations, English language learners, new arrivals, and other marginalized student groups, as well as students at risk of developing learning disabilities.

The commission’s inquiry is focused on accounts from educators, students, and parents across Ontario. Additionally, the commission is reviewing teacher training, school reading curricula, and consulting with experts. They are also reviewing school board policies and procedures as they relate to students with reading-related learning disabilities.

The OHRC is interested in hearing about the concerns and challenges faced by students in Ontario’s public school system.

The OHRC is focusing on the following benchmarks in their inquiry:

  • Universal design for learning
  • Reading intervention programs
  • Mandatory early screenings
  • Effective accommodations
  • Psycho-educational assessments (if needed)

COVID19's impact on student learning outcomes

The commission also learned of the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on learning-challenged students. School closures and distance learning posed extra challenges, and created a negative impact on student learning, compounding the students’ ongoing difficulties.

Both the OHRC and disability rights groups raised concerns in the following areas:

  • Technology
  • Professional services
  • Personal contact
  • Specialized programming
  • Screening
  • Instruction
  • Summer learning programs
  • Shared legal responsibility
  • Identification, Placement, and Review Committees (IPRCs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and the duty to accommodate

As of October 2021, the commission began the process of finalizing the Right to Read Inquiry report. The report will contain detailed recommendations and findings for school boards, government, education faculties, curriculum/instruction, reading interventions, learning accommodations, professional assessments, early screenings, and systemic issues faced by learning-challenged students.

The final report is expected to be released in February 2022.

Reading is a fundamental skill that needs to be accessible to all students, regardless of their learning status or achievement level. The Right to Read Inquiry will determine if the needs of Ontario’s learning-challenged students are being met, and whether or not these and other at-risk students are experiencing human rights violations in the course of their education.

We are grateful to the many professionals who generously gave their time and guidance throughout the public inquiry, including Dr. Siegle from UBC and Dr. Jamie Metsala from MSVU, a well-known name in our local community and a Literacy Researcher & Advocate for Effective Early Reading Instruction & Reading Interventions.

The results of the inquiry could help to shape educational public policy in the years to come, and to remedy inequalities present in Ontario public schools. We also anticipate that the policy may have an impact on other areas of Canada and we hope to see its influence here in Nova Scotia.  

Learn more and follow report details here

Continue Reading

Literacy from a Culturally Reflective Lens

By Shakisha Downey on Wed, Feb 23, 2022 @ 12:08 PM

Here at Halifax Learning, we are committed to encouraging policymakers to embrace strength-based, evidence-based approaches to education, as we understand illiteracy as a major social justice issue. All children deserve to be taught fundamental skills with instruction that is proven to be effective and based on research, and we take our role in children’s learning very seriously. In 2022 we look forward to continuing this mandate, and building coalitions with Black and Indigenous communities to help enable our most vulnerable children and youth to achieve their full potential and advance social justice through action.

image-3

Negative impact of colonial stereotypes on BIPOC communities and learners

Colonial stereotypes of the Black and Indigenous peoples of Canada have historically portrayed our cultures and ways of life as negative and undesirable, maintaining dominant social discourse about marginalized communities as dangerous, violent, and plagued with issues of drugs, guns, deficit, and sexualized violence. These narratives have had profound long-term effects on the academic outcomes and experiences of Black and Indigenous students, their families, and communities. They have created and maintained mounding barriers to students’ functioning to their full potential in academic success, maintaining positive relationships, as well as job and career attainment. Ultimately, these narratives have shaped the perceptions Black and Indigenous students have of themselves. Because Black and Indigenous students feel alienated in their learning environment, whether they can fully understand this alienation or not, they are more likely to act out in schools and in their communities as a way to compensate for their frustrations that are seemingly misunderstood.

Social justice movements leads to shifts in public awareness and engagement

The last few years’ emphases on racial social justice issues including, but not limited to the BLM Movement and TRC Calls To Action, has brought about major shifts in public awareness and political engagement. These demonstrations and initiatives have pushed us as Canadian educators to do more to promote the importance of the practical as well as political nature of success, achievement and the development of knowledge. The school-to-prison pipeline for BIPOC students whose academic needs are not being met in public schools further prompts an immediate response from the community and advocates to take action on these trends. Research shows that positive academic outcomes for minority students have the potential to decrease the likelihood of having behavioural and social issues at school, within their relationships, communities, in job/career attainment, or with the criminal justice system, and other authoritative figures. As educators, we must continue to push for the government and the public school system to intervene for the right of all children to develop and learn to their full potential, especially for minority students who continue to be systemically held down.

image-2

Culturally responsive pedagogy is key to success for minority students

Many scholars support that literacy intervention programs that deliberately focus on the affirmation of positive identities for minority students through the enrichment of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) can enhance academic performance. The implementation of culturally responsive education is associated with positive societal outcomes including higher productivity, social integration, economic growth, and stronger communities (Shankar et al, 2020). Research examines how the figured world of literacy intervention classrooms can shape a student’s identity and position them in certain ways based on their perceived abilities (Frankel, 2016). Minority students with LDs face even more challenges in developing positive identities as competent learners in their learning environment (Louick, 2017). Drawing on socio-cultural understandings of identity, when positioned by teachers and society as inferior, especially in terms of their academic abilities, even students who are confident learners experience conflict with their own perceptions of themselves. In other words, findings drawn from the experiences of students indicated the necessity for educators to reflect on structural barriers to their students’ positive self-image and the influence their assumptions, teaching methods, and contents have on these experiences.It is important for us as educators to understand learning styles and identities from student perspectives, and create learning environments that students can make meaningful connections with to feel like autonomous and powerful leaders in their lives, education, and achievements.

Effective learning environments as extension of students' communities

Effective learning environments should be an extension of students’ communities, and learning institutions must work with and for communities to achieve transformative learning that is culturally relevant. Structural changes at the institutional level through the creation of transformative learning environments where students are enabled to be heard, supported and empowered to be successful are a must. Sharing this belief, Halifax Learning has maintained initiatives for Black and Indigenous student excellence as it explores the most effective and meaningful ways of integrating Indigenous and Black perspectives in curricula, and improving cultural diversity within our team. Whether exploring education from the perspective of educators or students, research on this topic affirms the importance of student agency in the classroom and how prior experiences with learning identities shape students’ overall learning in ways that have the potential to impede or facilitate their ability to position themselves in their learning and other social environments. In addition, research shows that micro-level classroom variations such as CRP and financial support schemes alone can not provide a functional and effective agenda of reversing achievement trends among minority students. It is the necessary inclusion of critically and culturally responsive teaching frameworks that increase growth in awareness, acknowledgement and motivation for action towards social justice in education that make the true difference for minority students.

Resources on this topic

  • Frankel, K. K. (2016). The Intersection of Reading and Identity in High School Literacy Intervention Classes. Research in The Teaching of English, 51 (1), 37-59. http://ezproxy.library.dal.ca/login? url=https://www-proquest-com.ezproxy.library.dal.ca/scholarly-journals/intersection-reading identity-high-school/docview/1840889488/se-2?accountid=10406
  • Louick, R. A. (2017). The Relationship Between Motivation, Self-Perception, And Literacy Among Adolescents With Learning Disabilities. In Boston College Lynch School of Education, Department of Teacher Education, Special Education, and Curriculum & Instruction. (pp. 1-36).
  • Shankar, J., Ip E., Khalema N.E., (2020) Addressing academic aspirations, challenges, and barriers of Indigenous and immigrant students in a postsecondary education setting, Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 29(5), 396-420, DOI:10.1080/15313204.2017.140967
Continue Reading

Are Learning-challenged Children More Likely To Be Bullied?

By Halifax Learning on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 @ 06:39 PM

Students who are perceived as “different” by their peers are more prone to bullying. Bullying can include physical aggression, name-calling, exclusionary behaviours, and cyber-bullying through social media or text messages. 

Which children are vulnerable to bullying? Kids with physical disabilities, social difficulties, socioeconomic gaps between them and classmates, and kids with learning differences are among the students who are frequently targeted. 

Children who with conditions such as ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning differences are especially vulnerable, as are those on the Autism spectrum. 

The impact of bullying

Bullying has far-reaching consequences, ranging from physical pain, anxiety, school avoidance, depression, and poorer learning outcomes. The bullied child may act out or withdraw, straining already fragile peer relationships, and setting the stage for more bullying. 

According to data presented in Public Safety Canada, long-term effects of bullying include depression, loss of self-esteem, aggression, and in some cases, suicide. 

Children with learning differences are especially vulnerable. In an increasingly competitive academic environment, children who fall behind academically could end up being the target of bullies. 

While academic competitions and honor rolls may be good for high-achieving students, a learning-disabled student may struggle emotionally with their results and grade reports. No child wants to feel “different” or left out. 

Identifying the root of the problem

For students with suspected learning differences, a psycho-educational learning assessment is an excellent first step. The assessment will help identify the root cause of a student’s learning and behavioural challenges. 

Next, a customized learning plan is created, giving the student specialized assistance in addressing areas of concern and providing a level academic playing field. A customized learning plan will also help the student address social challenges that can come in tandem with learning differences. 

Over time, a shy or school-averse student may gain confidence as they learn to master subjects and concepts that were previously difficult for them. This newfound confidence and sense of “I can do it!” will carry over to peer relationships and making them less of a target of bullies. 

Students with learning differences are often quite intelligent, and a well-structured learning program will help the student harness their innate intelligence while gaining mastery over previously difficult subjects. 

Students learn to work with their learning differences, not against them. 

Next steps

Programs such as Halifax Learning’s online learning, school readiness, and SpellRead activities can help a struggling reader through a customized program suited to their needs and makes an excellent supplement to their school-based learning program. 

Students who struggle with speech patterns and issues can benefit from our speech programs. They will gain confidence and be more likely to interact with peers, making them feel less “different” over time. 

Children with learning differences often end up the target of bullies. By addressing their unique needs and strengths, learning-challenged students can experience greater confidence and self-esteem as they master topics previously difficult for them. 

Contact us today to find out how our programs can help your student reach their full potential--inside and outside of school. 

Continue Reading

Waiting for a Psycho-educational Assessment?

By Halifax Learning on Wed, Nov 24, 2021 @ 06:47 PM

Students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, social or emotional difficulties, or any other learning challenge can significantly benefit from having a psychoeducational assessment performed. They offer valuable direction for a child's future development and needed support. In fact, an assessment can be an excellent investment even when you don't suspect a learning disability, as it can evaluate a child's difficulty comprehending assignments or completing work accurately or on time.

HFX-Learning---Brand-Graphics-2--ONLINE

Unfortunately, the wait time for a psychoeducational assessment inside the Canadian school system can be long, sometimes two years or more. Sadly wait times have increased due to Covid-19 school closures.  Assessments are also available through private sources but often cost thousands of dollars, which makes them a nonviable option for many.

The good news is that Halifax Learning’s free reading assessment, while not a replacement for a full psychoeducational assessment, can expertly and accurately highlight where students need support now. That makes it a good option while you wait for a more comprehensive evaluation. 

What Is a Psychoeducational Assessment?

For students who need to access additional or customized learning support, a psychoeducational assessment is a must. It identifies learning challenges in students of all ages, from young children to adults, and provides a deeper understanding of their educational abilities. It also helps diagnose the root cause of a student’s academic or behavioural challenges, signs of which can include:

  • Low report card grades
  • Difficulty focusing during class
  • Disruptive behaviour in the classroom
  • Feeling anxious or overwhelmed during tests
  • Not performing at full potential academically

The assessment process involves interviews, document reviews, formal testing, and completion of rating scales and questionnaires. The resulting report provides recommendations for special services and resources in both the home and school environments. 

Sometimes parents are worried an assessment will find something is “wrong” with their child. But people with reading and other learning challenges are often quite intelligent. They just don’t process learning the same way other students do. Identifying a child’s unique style and determining their cognitive strengths and weaknesses is an important first step in getting them the necessary support to improve their academic performance; it can even increase their enjoyment of school! 

How Halifax Learning assesses a student’s needs

Halifax Learning’s free, one-hour online and in-person assessments measure a student’s phonological and phonetic skills, reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and writing and spelling skills. They provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of a student’s strengths and weaknesses and give us a picture of the way the student is reading. 

Halifax Learning believes  all children can learn to read and read well. Our fully integrated approach uses language-based reading and writing activities to help students, particularly those who struggle with reading, improve their reading skills. 

To learn more about our story and how we can help support your child’s learning needs, reach out to us or book an in-person or online reading assessment today.

Continue Reading

Helpful tips for Parent Teacher Meetings

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Nov 12, 2021 @ 07:15 AM

Parent-teacher conferences are put in place for communication, accountability, to celebrate success, and to overcome challenges. They are an opportunity for teachers to relay insight about a child's interactions with their peers, their approach and attitude towards challenging material, and their reactions to new emotions and ideas.  Everyone should take advantage of this time, albeit limited, to increase opportunities for the success of the student. 

parent-teacher-conference1

Halifax Learning has educators with years of experience as public school teachers and also clinicians working as reading specialists. The tips below are a collection of experiences we’ve found most useful when communicating with parents. At Halifax Learning we have the privilege of frequent parent-teacher consultations.  We also have a systematized assessment procedure that also ensures a discussion at the mid point of a SpellRead student's programming and upon completion of the program. 

Here are 5 ways to maximize your parent-teacher conference.

1. Don't Wait!

Don't wait for Parent-Teacher Conferences to open lines of communication. Remember, you are a team and communication is critical. We all know our public school teachers are overwhelmed with demands, but offering support, relevant information and ensuring you're supporting your child's needs at home will only reduce the demands on our classroom teachers.

You can help support your child's classroom teacher by asking for advice on ways you can support your child at home. Ask for recommendations for:

  • an online course, reading material or an upcoming conference that puts a spotlight on your child's learning challenges. 
  • an incentive program that can be carried out both at home and in the classroom. 
  • additional practice, activities and/or apps.
  • professional services and support in your community. 

2. Ask for Honesty

Give your child's teacher permission to be honest. Let them know you are prepared for the good, the bad and the ugly in order to move forward. In order for your child to thrive, the adults overseeing their education need to work together, even if it hurts. 

Teachers want to tell all parents that their child is exceeding expectations and your child's teacher is likely agonizing over focusing on the positive. As hard as it is to receive difficult news, it's also hard to share it, but when we sugar coat reality, we are providing a disservice to our students.  At Halifax Learning, ss providers of a structured literacy program, too often we are asked why no one spoke up sooner. When parents ask for honesty and open communication, parents and teachers can more quickly develop solutions for the child's learning needs.

3. Share Information

The golden rule for teaching success is "get to know your students" and no one knows your child better than you do. Relationships are paramount and parents can help fast track this process by sharing as much information as possible. Share with your child's teacher:

  • the challenges and successes that have defined your child.
  • what motivates your child.
  • what causes your child anxiety.
  • what programs and services they have received up to this point.
  • the strengths and challenges you face as a parent in reinforcing the goals set out by your child's teacher.

4. Include the Student

Your child is the subject of your meeting and one of your best sources of information.  Students should have an opportunity to assess and provide feedback about their teacher, classmates, and learning environment. Yes, a child's perspective can be skewed, but regardless, what they perceive to be true impacts their learning outcomes.

How they feel matters and can help inform their educational journey. Have multiple, meaningful and intentional conversations with your child about their experiences at school and record their comments in a journal at a later time. Ask your child specific questions and allow them to express their feelings completely. After several conversations about school, reflect on your notes and look for patterns that resulted in success or presented barriers for your child's learning. Take this information to your child's teacher with the intention of finding a resolution, not to point fingers. 

5. Advocate, Advocate, Advocate

Advocating for your child doesn't mean being a bully and making unreasonable demands. Asking informed questions with the expectation of an informed response is well within your rights. When it comes to your child's reading, you should ask: 

  • When were you last able to read with my child one on one? 
  • What are they reading in comparison to their peers? 
  • What do you notice about my child's reading? Are they using compensatory strategies such as memorization, context or pictures to guess or are they using the sound-letter relationship of the alphabet code to attack unknown words?
  • Are you teaching the five core components of essential reading skills? How? 

… 

If your child is struggling to read, remember:

✓ Reading skills do not develop in a short time.

✓ 95% of the developing readers benefit from explicit, systematic instruction to decipher the alphabetic code.

✓ Developing readers need multiple, repetitive opportunities to master skills.

✓ Reading programs must incorporate all five of the core components to ensure skilled, confident, reading.

✓ Halifax Learning uses evidence-based programming that offers effective, sustainable results, delivered by exceptional, experienced, experts. 

Book a Free Assessment

Continue Reading