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Celebrating 20 Years of Evidence-Based Education and SpellRead

9 Questions - Evaluating a reading program

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Jan 05, 2023 @ 02:29 PM

Systemic change

Are you looking for literacy support and feeling overwhelmed, confused, or frustrated? Let Halifax Learning help.

You should know exactly what you’re signing up for and we strive to empower our visitors with accurate and practical information. We know there are other programs out there and that you will do your due diligence in making a final decision for you and your family. To make this process easier, we've compiled a list of 9 FAQs that we recommend you ask us and any other service providers you may visit! 

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1. Does your program address the 5 core skills needed to become a skilled reader?

Research has identified five core components to inform effective reading instruction.

  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary Development
  4. Reading Fluency
  5. Reading Comprehension

We're proud to say SpellRead was designed with them in mind. Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more.

2. How do you measure student progress?

SpellRead provides a clear path for your child to master phonological automaticity, to transfer those skills, and to become efficient readers. Our program is explicit, systematic, multi-sensory, evidence-driven, and meets the needs of even the most struggling learner.

SpellRead integrates ongoing assessment and evaluation through carefully designed card packs for timed reading. This ensures students achieve automatic recognition of the letter, sound relationship. Students work toward realistic goals and receive ongoing review and individualized instruction. Did we mention you can play fun games with the packs too!

Each class students participate in reading aloud and independent writing. After each class, our teachers assign a score from our carefully designed rubrics. These scores inform our teachers in their selection of reading material and mini-lessons designed to remediate common errors. 

Finally, Halifax Learning takes pride in communicating student progress with families. We are fortunate to have face time with parents and guardians after each class and we are eager to provide updates and celebrate success!

3. What results can we expect and in what time period? Are they sustainable?

Our goal is to bring skills to the point at, or above grade level.

We administer assessments for all new enrollments, midway and upon completion of the recommended registration in the SpellRead program. Our results are sustainable and the research supports it! 

4. What professionals refer to you?

We have a long list of individuals that refer to us including clinical psychologists, teachers, speech-language pathologists, and community groups but our number one source of referrals comes from our graduates and their families!

5. Who are the teachers?  

Our teachers come from all walks of life and backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: A love of reading and student success! 

All of our teachers do have a post-secondary education, whether they are coming from an education degree, psychology background, early childhood education, etc., etc.  

At Halifax Learning we provide teachers with a robust and in-depth training to become certified SpellRead teachers.

6. How are they trained 
Our teachers participate in a blended-learning teacher training program in the SpellRead methodology. After the successful completion of the initial training, teachers are regularly observed and submit daily reports after each class. Experienced SpellRead teachers provide bi-weekly feedback to ensure students are meeting outcomes and progressing at the expected rate.

7. Has your program been independently reviewed? If so, can we see the research?
Yes, it sure has! SpellRead was most recently named as one of the recommended programs by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and published in the Right to Read Inquiry Report. Click here to review our extensive research library.

8. What will your reading assessment provide?

Our assessment measures the 5 core skills, listed above, required to become a skilled reader. Our clients are provided with a digital copy of the initial, progress, and final assessment reports that clearly compare results and show progress. 

9. Why do you do what you do?

Because reading doesn't just happen. There is a science to it.  We can all do better to ensure our children receive reading instruction that we know works. When you know better, you do better and the science is unequivocally clear. It just so happens that Halifax Learning has been delivering this science-based reading instructional method for over twenty years and guess what? The results are clear! We've changed over 4,000 lives and we're making plans for 400,000 more.

Don't wait. Trust the experts.

Enroll today so your child can enjoy everything that is magical about reading!

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The journey of a Reading Rockstar.

By Halifax Learning on Thu, Oct 20, 2022 @ 02:33 PM

 

Welcome to Halifax Learning.

We are so excited to begin this journey with you and your child. At Halifax Learning, we are leaders in evidence-driven, science of reading program delivery and teacher training.  

Our goal is your child’s literacy success. At the end of their time with us, students are confident, efficient readers! Collectively, we have worked with thousands of children, youth, and adults to achieve this outcome. Ensuring equity in literacy skill acquisition is very important to us and it's our privilege to be working with your child. 

We pride ourselves on delivering a program that is responsive and inclusive, and an in-person or online classroom experience that is collaborative, kind, and confidence-building. 

So how do we start?

Let’s start with an assessment

Our free, in-depth literacy skills assessment helps us understand your child’s needs and allows us to place them in a class with other students their age and skill level. We also use this assessment as a benchmark, as your child will be re-assessed at the halfway point and at the end of the program. 

The battery of tests we use is well-known and highly regarded in the academic world. We encourage you to share these with your child’s teacher at school, and we’re available to meet with additional school professionals to share more information.  

 

If you are keen to skip ahead and have an assessment and consult - please click here! 

 

What to expect when you start a class?

Whether you are working with one of our teachers in person or online, our goal is to make sure your child is coming into a welcoming and encouraging space.                                                                

  • All of our teachers have post-secondary education, but most importantly, they are excellent coaches, mentors, and cheerleaders! They all participate in SpellRead’s teacher training program and there is a support team behind them all the way to make sure your child is progressing. 

  • You will have brief communication with your child’s instructor at the end of each class, either in person or by way of email. The goal of this communication is to make sure you understand the homework assigned and also to give you any highlights of this class - new sounds learned or how active reading and writing connections went. 

  • Because our teachers are heavily supported by Halifax Learning support specialists, if we feel as though we’re encountering a hiccup, a member of our support team will reach out and set up a time to connect. 

  • You will hear from our Admissions Director a few times within their first month of classes to make sure things are going smoothly, but feel free to reach out to her if you have questions.

Want to see inside a classroom? Take a peek with us now:)

 

What does the class flow look like?

  • Our classes are typically 60-90 minutes long. During that time, students spend about 55% of the class on linguistic foundations and 45% of the class on active reading and writing connections.   We work in small groups and group students based on age/grade and skill level.  The goal is that one child is never held back or pushed forward before they are ready. 

  • There are three phases to the SpellRead program: A, B, C. All students start in Phase A; depending on the initial assessment and age of a student, sometimes Phase A can take just a few months to complete, or sometimes it takes the better part of a year. 

  • When we meet to discuss your child’s progress assessment, we will be able to talk more about whether or not they will complete all three phases during their full-year program with us and if not, whether or not they need to.

    Age and grade have a lot to do with it - but don’t worry. Our most important goal is to make sure your child is closing their gap and working towards ensuring literacy skills are at or above grade level. 

 

What are our touchpoints? You can put these on your calendar! 

  • Two-week mark - homework/calendar of events information is sent 
  • Two-month mark - you will receive a note from us with more detail on what you should be expecting to see from your child two months in, how time with us is impacting their self-confidence and school work
  • Five-month mark - your child will have their interim assessment followed by a meeting time with our support team to review the results and programming in general 
  • Eight-month mark - you will receive a note from us with more detail on what you should be expecting to see from your child eight months in, how time with us is impacting their self-confidence and school work
  • Completing the program - most students complete the program in about a year.  At this point you will be contacted about their exit -assessment, a time to review their progress and a time to go over the maintenance package we will be sending home 

 

Communication:

  • Parents have direct contact with our support team at any time.  
  • Consistent communication with the instructor. 
  • Upon request - we can facilitate a meeting with a child’s school and meet with a school team to talk about all programming and ways to provide some wrap-around.

 

Would you like to schedule a 15-minute conversation and just chat? Click here. We would love to talk. 

 

 

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Happy Feat

By Britt P. Curran on Sun, Nov 17, 2019 @ 10:51 PM

photo-1532012197267-da84d127e765-1Starting anything new—school, a sport, saxophone—can feel equally exciting and intimidating. A first day is typically part introductory, part investigative, and our often natural response is to proceed with curiosity and caution.

Before SpellRead students begin, some steps are already complete: an initial assessment, a report of results, chatting with parents or guardians, and setting up a schedule. But it's the ins and outs of sessions and how the program works that best illustrate a learner's potential growth.

Halifax Learning instructors place emphasis on effort, not perfection. We want each individual to try, even if that means spelling words incorrectly, requiring several prompts during reading, or asking questions to recall story details. Errors allow learners to develop, recognize personal strengths, and focus on what needs work.

For more than 20 years, SpellRead teachers have helped students navigate the highly-structured, heavily-researched program. As classes unfold, the snowball effect of understanding, applying, and approaching literacy with greater ease and enthusiasm is common. When learners feels capable in their printing, pace, and practice, confidence comes. Below are just four examples of past and present success in action.

Nearly six years ago, a then seven-year-old boy began the program struggling to recognize the letters and sounds in his own name, but his dedication to trying gave small victories real impact. After nearly a year of attendance, he came across a long word during class and proceeded to analyze without so much as a pause: /str/ + /aw/ + /b/ + /_e_/ + /r/ + /r/ + /___y/. He then looked up and said: "STRAWBERRY." The progress was measurable, but his personal pride? Invaluable. He recognized the word—as a beloved flavour of ice cream, or what one might pick during the summerbut never before knew its "pieces." Now, however, he had the tools to tackle a myriad of foreign or confusing words.

Ava also had an "aha!" moment. Earlier this month, her mother shared inspired comments:

She has been reading "The One and Only Ivan" (by K. A. Applegate) A LOT lately. She said it’s her favourite book. I don’t even have to ask her to read because she takes it everywhere... and reads whenever she has time. She has never been that child to carry a book around and read for pleasure.

Ava began SpellRead in Grade 1 and finished the program's first hurdle, Phase A. This year, she returned as a Grade 5 student in Halifax ready to complete Phase B and C. Her mom couldn't be happier:

I definitely feel like things are clicking for Ava [and] I am thrilled!

Two Dartmouth students recently finished 120 hours together with impressive speed-read times, strengthened vowel and consonant recognition, and grade levels above where they started in September, 2018.

One of the duo began frequently overwhelmed with hefty paragraphs and 20-word spelling activities; his reluctance sprang from frustration and confusion. Nearer to his "graduation," he requested longer word lists. He anticipated the writing portion of class. He didn't blink at bigger paragraphs, knowing the instructor could help prompt, correct, or take over if necessary. But he didn't need much of a nudge: with the skills learned—and having just turned eight—he could approach vocabulary words like "between," "sprain," and "twinkly" with precision and minor guidance.

His classmate, another Grade 3 student, completed her registration reading challenging chapter books. From the start, she loved being creative through art and poetry. Her initial homework, however, was a bit challenging to understand; like many students, she often omitted vowels. She has now learned 18 primary and 12 secondary vowel sounds, allowing her writing to be clearer, more legible, and expressive. She's currently share-reading "The Bad Beginning" (the first in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events") with her mom, taking turns tackling pages and already anticipates the second installment.

Stories (and even small moments) of success help reinforce why educators do what they do. They teach to see learners thrive, to boost self-esteem, to achieve an academic feat. And to help highlight the notion so poetically articulated by the historical orator, Frederick Douglass:

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."

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Got ESP?

By Britt P. Curran on Mon, Oct 14, 2019 @ 01:21 PM

While wafts of pumpkin spice-in-everything-nice fill the air, fall also brings a fresh batch of homework. At Halifax Learning, we know firsthand the importance of momentum. Reading requires practice; to take piano but not play a single key between lessons does little for progress. Reinforcement builds mastery and maintenance has purpose.

We also understand that homework can be daunting for both students and parents alike. A three-pronged approach (your other ESP!) can help learners conquer assignments with less tension and more confidence.

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WHAT IS ESP?

ENCOURAGEMENT

At the forefront of our initialism, encouragement fosters an environment of optimism. Although praise is important, it's deeper and different than a simple "you can do it!" If a child isn't feeling capable, being told they are might not successfully motivate. Slight rewording matters, and phrases like "I believe in you" and "I'm here to help" shift the emphasis from expectation to reassurance.

Guide your learner to say, "I would like to finish this task before bed" instead of "I must finish this task within an hour." Alleviating the pressure proffers the likelihood he or she will work harder or longer than intended⁠—or at least feel okay with what has been accomplished.

If your learner craves limits and goals, remember that wording matters here, too. For example, "try writing three sentences in the next 15 minutes" as opposed to "fill a page before supper." The key is realistic objectives followed by self-compassion if the task is not completed.

Similarly, encourage learners to swap phrases like "I should have been able to read by myself" for "I would like to read independently soon." Both sentences stem from the same notion: wanting to achieve. But speaking softer to oneself and othersboth in tone and verbiage—allows room for error and empathy.

A tangible record of success, like a reading chart or graph, can also fuel encouragement. Reading Rockets suggests parents or guardians "create a bingo card or passport where each space can be filled in by reading a mystery book, or a piece of non-fiction. Once the goal has been reached, reward your child with something... it doesn't have to be anything elaborate... just something that lets your child know how proud you are of his or her accomplishment."

SUPPORT

Sandwiched in the middle of ESP is support, which refers to action-oriented involvement and assistance.

Co-reading, even with older learners, can do wonders for literacy stress. Take turns reading pages and offer prompts when needed for that extra nudge. For longer books, chapters could range from 4-15 pages, so "sharing the load" helps. For shorter books, a page may only contain one sentence, but teamwork still allows text to feel less daunting.

To prompt, a sentence could say: "the string of lights made the street look brighter." Your learner might recognize the, of, made and look as sight words. For string, ask them to place their right pointer finger under the word while dragging it along. Help if needed by saying st, then str, then stri, etc. There's a chance they'll say string or something similar, like stripe (correct to string if they do). The goal is to recognize and apply this word on subsequent pages or in future books, and also understand the makeup of string (str + i + ng).

With mature and more challenging books, learners will likely come across several larger or unknown words. For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first chapter alone includes "cloaks," "seized," "persuade," "faltered," and "prodded"! Help pronounce or look up the definition together in a physical or online dictionary.

Jean Gross of Oxford Owl notes that "the important thing is to keep the flow going and keep your child interested and enjoying what they are doing." Furthermore, if confidence wavers, "notice what your child has done well and tell them... [also] react positively when your child is struggling or gets things wrong. You can make clear that mistakes are how we learn."

PATIENCE

Rounding out the approach is patience. Reading comes easier to those who can read. This may sound obvious, but imagine how challenging and discouraging learning a new language can be (even if the child's native tongue, it's still a language).

Gross also stresses that automaticity takes time: "You [may see] them read a word perfectly well one day, then forget it the next. But this is normal when we are learning a new skill. Our performance is always erratic to start with. We have to repeat something again and again before it sticks... tell your child this, and let them know that you know they are trying their best."

Effort, not perfection, is important. When learning barriers exist, it's common for individuals to hit emotional and mental walls. The adage "practice makes perfect" is dated and potentially detrimental. Instead of placing perfection on a pedestal, try "practice makes progress" and ensure learners know that language wizardry is a marathon, not a sprint. They can become stronger, they will gain self-compassion, and it is worth the effort.

As for total word domination? Leave that to Hermione.

 

BONUS: WRITING

jessica-lewis-4VobVY75Nas-unsplash-1If your learner struggles to summarize what's been read or seems defeated by the task, change it up! Give them a journal or lined stationery to start a running "vocab list." No pressure to write down every unknown word⁠—aim for two every five pages.

Alternatively, if they're truly reluctant and haven't been assigned specific compositions, have them jot down a few fun, detailed sentences about a personal topic (sports, school, best friends, holidays, etc.), so they begin associating writing with joy, not just frustration.

When spelling, students often want to copy directly from the book or ask adults how to write the words. There's a delicate balance to this request. If the child is really frustrated, offer the first or second sound as a start. Similarly, try to keep the book closed during writing so there isn't a temptation to peek. For slightly older students, offer to spell 3-5 words on paper or a whiteboard to jumpstart ideas.

REMIND THEM: "What's better than best? You tried the rest!"



Looking for more personalized insight? Contact us to help gauge your learner's skills:

Book an Assessment with SpellRead

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Professional Development: Local Conferences and Online Training in HRM

By Megan Brooks on Sun, Sep 16, 2018 @ 12:57 PM

halifax learning spellread professional development conference local hrm

 

Below is a list of 5 upcoming conferences and online resources for professional development offered in Halifax, Nova Scotia or online. Halifax Learning is pleased to participate in each of these events and proud of our province for investing and promoting awareness that celebrates learning and professional development. 

 

1. Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada

"CADDAC is a national, not-for-profit, organization providing leadership and support in awareness, education and advocacy for ADHD organizations and individuals across Canada."

On October 27-28, CADDAC is hosting the 10th Annual ADHD Conference at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, NS. 

If you are unable to attend the conference CADDAC offers an extensive list of resources and webinars for continued learning and support.

 

2. Canadian Parents for French

"CPF was founded in 1977 by parents who wanted to ensure that children would have the opportunity to become bilingual in the Canadian school system. Originally a small group of concerned parents who met in Ottawa, CPF has evolved into a proactive national network with 10 Branch offices and some 150 Chapters in communities nationwide."

On October 18-21, CPF will be hosting the CPF Network Conference at the Westin in Halifax, NS. 

You can also subscribe to their free magazine here for tips and resources. 

 

3. Atlantic Abilities Conference

"AAC is the premier Atlantic conference featuring international, national and local speakers sharing the latest information on research, products, services and resources available to improve the lives of youth and adults with disabilities and those searching for improved mental and physical wellness. AAC speaking sessions will concentrate on three pillars: Mental and Physical Wellness and Learning Abilities."

On September 27, the AAC will be held at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel.

 

4. Teach Mental Health

"Enhance your mental health literacy in the classroom with Teach Mental Health -- a free, online, self-paced course developed in partnership with UBC."

Register here.

 

5. Train in SpellRead. Train in Science. Train for Results!

Halifax Learning has an extensive resume in training, support and coaching new SpellRead teachers. We currently work closely with teachers at The Cole Harbour Foundation and Bridgeway Academy.

As a result of 20 years of success and expertise, Halifax Learning literally wrote the training manual for SpellRead. If your organization is interested in offering the SpellRead program, contact us for  our training package. 

 SpellRead Training

 

The Best Investment  

"We learned from the psychologist that our daughter was going into grade 8 at a grade 4/5 level for reading comprehension and phonetic learning. We needed to get that addressed and the psychologist suggested Halifax Learning. We had an initial assessment with Halifax Learning and it lined up with what the therapist had told us. We enrolled in the program and could see improvements along the way. 

It was the best investment we could make in our daughter to help her future."

- Parent of a SpellRead Graduate 

Click below to download our 2017-2018 student results or contact us today to book a free, no-obligation literacy skills assessment

Recent Results

 
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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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