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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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
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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. 

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Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story

By Halifax Learning on Fri, Oct 08, 2021 @ 12:42 PM

Every child that comes through our doors is unique and bright. We love getting to know their personalities and strengths, and we also love helping them work through their struggles with reading and building strong, confident readers.

In celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month, we want to share the story of one of our students. It’s a story of struggle and success, recognizing the signs of a struggling reader and knowing there is help available.

If you wonder if your child is developing age-appropriate phonological skills, we offer a complimentary Speech and Language screening. We can help you determine if your child is meeting communication milestones by gaining and using skills as expected for their age. Click to learn more and sign up.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story, as told by his mother, Kirsten.

 

Our child is a bright, loving and caring boy. What we didn't expect were the other traits he was blessed with, such as and not limited to; difficulty with; reading, performing tasks in a specific order, the order of the days of the week, expressing himself, anxiety and temper tantrums at home, but not in the classroom. We thought that this was normal child behaviours for the age, and as individuals, we each possess our unique personalities and such, so this will pass, and we will move on, no big deal, right? It wasn't until we discovered our child wasn't at the same level in reading and writing as his peers in a classroom setting that there may be something else at play here. How could he know a word on one page of a book but not recognize the same word on the next page, or mixing up the order of events or tasks, and why can he spell a word out loud but struggles to spell it correctly when written. I admit, I also struggled with learning to read, spelling, reading out loud, and several other things. Even with my struggles and experiences, I still failed to recognize the signs until hearing about the struggles he had in the classroom environment compared to his peers.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story (brothers)

We started down the path of discovery with the help of the school. He was in grade 2 at this time, and the teacher sat with me to show me examples of writing from other students compared to our child's writing skills. She showed me samples of the books others were reading compared to the ones he was reading; they differed more than I realized. Without that comparison, I was unaware until that moment what position my son was actually in. How did we not know about this sooner as he was about to start grade 3 next year? We had a lot of unanswered questions at this point. 

The first step was to engage a speech and language pathologist as part of a program offered through the school over the summer break. He passed with flying colours in all areas and was on par or exceeded his peers in some areas. Given this, we were puzzled. It was recommended that we try tutoring, which we did, and it wasn't working. It was then recommended that we obtain a full education assessment by a trained psychologist. This was something we could do through the school; however, there was a large demand for this service, and the wait was over five years long.

We had recently moved back home to Nova Scotia at the time, both my husband and myself were laid off by our former employers out west in the downturn, and we took this opportunity to move back home. We were in the process of finding a family home while temporarily renting. Our son was missing his friends; the family pet passed away, I had a baby to care for, I started a new job, my husband wasn't working, among many other challenges knocking on our front door. All of those things aside, we decided that for the best interest of our oldest child, we needed to go privately for an assessment and figure out the finances, so we did just that. We engaged our family doctor and found a reputable resource to perform the assessment. The assessment process was long and painful for all involved. Having said that, every bit of the pain was worth the effort. We underwent several interviews as a family, lots of paperwork and surveys were completed and submitted by the school, our doctor and myself. Our son underwent many hours of testing and interviews, taking lots of breaks to get through it all before we finally had a diagnosis. It was very thorough, which gave me confidence we had an accurate result. It was discovered that our son has all of the following, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, anxiety and poor working memory, quite the cocktail of a mix. Even though we applied for disability on our taxes, we did not qualify since it was determined by the government that they felt our son wasn't affected by these challenges 100% of the time, so any financial support was all up to us. We didn't let this get us down. Once we had the diagnosis and recommendations from our psychologist, the real work began.

Dealing with Dyslexia – Kieran’s Story

After a few tears, laughs, realizations, self-reflection and a few more tears, mainly due to the fears of the unknown ahead of me for our family and our son, I quickly got to work, and I started researching like crazy. I ordered reading material. I reached out to other parents, friends and family that had children with similar diagnoses, friends that were officially diagnosed and living every day with these same challenges to bounce ideas off of, building up a support system and learning about what resources were available to us. During the research process, SpellRead was mentioned more than once by the resources in that support system. I admit I didn't love the cost as we had many obligations at this time in our life, and COVID-19 was just about to hit us, adding further uncertainty to all of this. We had been taking part in the Reading Recovery program offered at the school, but that wasn't enough when COVID-19 hit us as we lost the in-person interaction. We decided, in the end, to engage SpellRead and see where this would take us all as a family and give SpellRead a chance. We owed this to our son to provide him with the best possible chance to grow and build up his skills. We were skeptical in the beginning but stuck with it since it came so highly recommended by others within our personal support system. It took a couple of tries to get him into the right online class. Keep in mind that we were all just sent home from schools and offices as COVID-19 hit us, so emotions and uncertainty were very high at this time for us all. This added many new stresses into the mix that we didn’t have to contend with before like, working from home and homeschooling. For our family, this was a very challenging and stressful time as with just about every other family and business working together to figure things out.

The staff at SpellRead were very patient and willing to work with us through the process during this difficult time to ensure our son was in the right class for his specific individual needs. The first six months were a struggle for our son in the program, and in general, as life threw some interesting challenges our way as a whole family. We stuck with the program and believed in their teachings. We were skeptical at times; we stuck with it anyway and trusted the program. We completed the homework and practiced when we could. The flashcards worked great for us in the car on road trips or long drives when we needed to get out of the house and have a change of scene or to check on the progress of our home build, which had significant delays due to COVID-19 and presented us with a whole other set of challenges associated with that.

We also enrolled in the summer program to keep our son fresh in his reading and writing skills over the summer. We are finally moved into our new home just in time for our son to attend a new school and go into grade 4, along with his little brother starting pre-primary. He is currently in the next phase of the program, where the program's focus is on real words and decoding of real words. Since having our son in the program, he has gained so much more confidence with reading, writing, and so much more. Some of the changes we have seen since the program began are and are not limited to; He is no longer guessing at words. He is taking the time to sound things out more often and trying bigger words without a big a fit or blow-up of emotions. He is spelling with more confidence, he's picking up harder books to read on his own, reading difficult words while playing video games he plays as well as, show and movie titles. He doesn't always spell a word correctly. However, I can make out what he has tried to spell for the most part whereas in the past, I would have to get him to read it to me since it was quite cryptic when written. Even though he didn't know what he wrote most of the time. This still happens but not nearly as frequently and happens more frequently when he is tired or needs a snack. All of these are huge wins in our books. Oh, and another fun one that I must mention is, if my husband and I spell out a word to one another in secret, he is starting to know what the word is we spell out loud, even if we do it super fast! I can't express just how far he has come from where we started and it's all down to all of our hard work and dedication. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but it's true! It takes a community to raise a child.

Of course, there is still work to be done as he has a learning disability, this will not change, the program afforded him newfound confidence he didn't have before, which is invaluable and a big part of success in learning. This program has proven to be a benefit to our son's learning and we are glad we stuck with it despite the many challenges dealt with us these past few years. The financial side is a very small price to pay for his confidence and individual growth, which he will need to succeed and thrive in the world with all of the traits he was blessed with. The main piece of advice I can offer you is, stick with it and don't give up. Your kids are worth the effort and hug them often.

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Report Card Time in a Pandemic

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, Nov 26, 2020 @ 09:08 AM

This is a special time of year for many students and teachers - report card time! This year’s report card time is different from any other, because school has been much different for most kids. Whether students are now studying virtually at home or in school, there are likely gaps in most students’ education. Last school year at least a third of the scheduled in-person class time was missed for most students. For some students, this was a pivotal moment in their education to miss out on; as Dr. Heidi Beverine-Curry points out, kids at this sensitive stage (now in Grade 1) have missed key points in their journey to learning to read. 

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Keeping in mind this missed class time, should teachers and administrators should change their expectations for student progress? According to reading expert
Timothy Shanahan, students’ future employers and educators will not lower their expectations, so we shouldn’t either. 

If your child’s report card is coming home soon, how can you best use your conversation with your child’s teacher? 

  • Keep your expectations in check, because it has been an unusual year. 
  • Get a clear idea of your child’s skills.
  • Understand how to help them get to where they need to be, educationally. 

We should expect our kids to keep learning even when times are hard; one really important way we can do so is to make sure their reading skills are strong. When kids can read well independently, they can learn about anything in the world. Families who invest time now making sure their kids can read independently are giving them a skill that no one can take away, and that will continue to help them learn as they grow.

There absolutely should be a sense of urgency in making sure students are getting the education they need, and it’s more important than ever that kids learn to read the right way. Halifax Learning can help - we can assess your child’s current reading skills quickly and easily online, and our online SpellRead classes are a safe and reliable way for students to strengthen their reading skills.

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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:

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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.

halifax learning summer spellread reading support

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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Phonological Awareness and EAL

By Eryn Steele on Sat, Nov 24, 2018 @ 11:21 AM

The importance of phonological skills cannot be underestimated in teaching English as an additional language. Phonological awareness is understanding the sounds (phonemes) of the English language and knowing the symbol or letter (grapheme) that represents those sounds.

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A person who speaks, French, Spanish, Latin or German based languages are familiar with the English alphabet. There may be some differences with accents over letters, but the recognition of each letter is there with many similar sounds. English is derived from Latin, Greek and Germanic languages.

The English alphabet and its related sounds are not automatic to a student from a language that has an entirely different alphabet. This includes Russian, Persian-Farsi, Japanese or Chinese. The beautiful calligraphy of Chinese and Japanese has no relation to English.  Some of the letters in the Russian alphabet do match English. The Greek alphabet also has some similar letters and sounds.

So, what's next?

The next step is putting it all together in speaking and reading. A native English speaker learning another language may experience the same problem learning the sounds and usage of the same letters in French or German.

Where are you from?

Knowing the student's origin will help in teaching them to recognize sounds. People from countries that don't use the Latin alphabet will have to learn to read again even though they read fluently in Arabic or Korean. They are starting over much as English speaking children learn to read.

Chances are the people learning English as a second or even third language are familiar with some phrases. They may be able to piece together a few English words. However, they may not be able to read that phrase if it is written out. They will learn to manipulate the sounds and written language into sentences as they improve their English skills.

Short Sounds

Many ESL teachers begin by teaching the short vowel sounds in alphabetical order. Repetition is most important with drills and practice. Blended computer lab programs that involve reading along with working with individual teachers help students to become familiar with the basic sounds and how they are used to spell words.

They move on to learn the hard consonant sounds and rhymes. They are able to identify t,p,g,n,m,  sounds. They progress to other consonants and understand how the sounds blend together to form words and sentences.  Major emphasis is placed on reading and writing sentences as well as speaking. 

Rhyming, used with young children, works with adults as well to understand sounds. It starts with simple games such as learning how many words can be made from using it as a root word. Students learn to recognize the hard consonant sounds that form words such as pit and fit.

These are basic steps in building phonological skills for English Language Learners. More advanced programs teach the difference between spelling with the ph (as in phonics) and the f (as in fan).  Every effort is made to help students improve their English reading and spelling which has rules that are frequently broken. 

Hearing, speaking and reading English are the result of well-developed phonological skills. Study, practice and immersion in an English-speaking environment will help to build those skills.

Dr. Linda Siegel's research clearly shows the importance of phonological awareness and teaching English as an additional language.  Her work shows the evidence how important this is. 

Linda Siegel

With Halifax Learning EAL students have successfully achieved grade level skills with the SpellRead program in Nova Scotia and also abroad in China, and in the United States.  Did you know Halifax Learning facilitated an intensive version of the SpellRead program with pilots from China? 

For more information on any of our programs please contact us

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5 Summer Reading Recommendations for the Young Poet in Your Life

By Megan Brooks on Mon, Jun 11, 2018 @ 06:57 PM

halifax learning reading program spellread tutor tutoring

Using poetry to encourage young readers to practice and build confidence has been tested by parents and teachers since the cow jumped over the moon. 

Anna, Halifax Learning's poet laureate, is a six-year-old SpellRead student at our Halifax location. Anna's vibrant wardrobe matches her sparkling disposition and her playful prose.  Anna is inspired by poetry of all kinds and she's excited to share her work and recommendations with you. 

Anna began SpellRead last year and has truly flourished as a confident young reader. She has a particular fondness for anything with rhythm and rhyme and we're confident she'll someday share in Annette Bening's passion for Shakespeare ... and sounds and symbols of course!

We couldn't agree with this video more and Anna's  enthusiasm and determination to conquer phonological skills, understand the phonetic code and  comprehending new vocabulary to compose not only summaries, but cheeky rhymes about her beloved pets, is proof SpellRead works!


halifax learning spellread poetry reading progream tutor tutoring

 

This summer Anna recommends adding these tuneful titles to your reading list and playlist!

  1. Coat of Many Colors - Dolly Parton
  2. Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan
  3. Happy - Pharrell Williams
  4. What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
  5. One Love - Bob Marley

Share your favorite poems in the comments!

AllChildrenReadingWell (1)Are you concerned that your child is missing out on the joy and creativity that poetry brings? The source of interruptions in developing reading skills range from chronic ear infections, family illness to reading based learning disabilities and beyond. At Halifax Learning we're proud to offer an evidence-driven program that is proven effective to meet the most struggling readers needs. Regardless of your circumstances, SpellRead will fill the instructional deficits and provide the foundational skills needed for efficient reading. Download our free guide, "All Children Reading Well" to learn more about effective reading instruction. 

 

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