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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! 

April Enrolment V2 TWLI-1

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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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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Linking Early Speech to Reading

By Natalie Corbett Sampson, MSc, SLP(C) on Thu, Aug 19, 2021 @ 04:01 PM

Children typically start reading in the first years of elementary school, but building foundational skills to do so starts several years before they start sounding out words. Words of any language are made by mixing up and combining individual sounds. As babies learn to create words to speak, they do so by gaining phonological awareness; the ability to hear individual sounds and manipulate sounds to create and change the meaning. For example, by three a child knows that for most nouns, you add a /s/ sound to the end to mean more than one (cat to cats).writing connections

As children learn to speak, they often go through a period of time where their use of sounds is inaccurate. They may drop sounds from words, use the wrong sounds in the wrong places, leave out whole syllables. Examples of these common errors are:‘top!’ for ‘stop!’, ‘tat’ for ‘cat’ and ‘nana’ for ‘banana’. Speech errors are part of the learning process, as with crawling and walking, researchers have developed a timetable of milestones to mark expected ages by which children will use each sound accurately. 

But what if they don’t?

When speech errors persist beyond the age they are expected to be corrected, a Speech Language Pathologist may recommend intervention to improve the child’s use of sounds in words, phrases and sentences. Speech therapy will help a child improve intelligibility which in turn boosts confidence and communication skills and reduces frustration and negative behaviour. 

And strengthens a shaky foundation for reading. 

The sounds the child is struggling within speaking are the same ones she will need to use to read. Having a strong enough understanding of ‘t’ and ‘k’ so she can hear the difference and produce them differently helps when learning the letters that represent the sounds. 

English is hard. It has 44 sounds but only 26 letters, spelling rules and exceptions to rules, words that look the same and sound different, words that sound the same and look different. It’s important that all early readers have as many tools in their toolbox as possible including intelligible speech, strong phonological skills and the confidence to tackle reading head-on that comes with being a competent, assured communicator.

Are you wondering if your child is developing age-appropriate phonological skills?  We offer a complimentary Speech and Language screening to help you determine if your child is meeting communication milestones by gaining and using skills as expected for their age.  Simply click below to learn more and sign up.

Speech Language Screener

 

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How Parents Can Help Kids Learn Online

By Melinda Cameron on Thu, May 14, 2020 @ 06:15 PM

At Halifax Learning, parents have always been a big part of their child's reading success. These days, it's more important than ever. But how can parents provide the best support on their child's reading journey, as they learn to read online with SpellRead?

1. Be present...

Kids usually need older family members around to start the Zoom or video chat meetings and to make sure the microphone and camera are working correctly. There can also be times when it's good to be around to troubleshoot any issues that come up, like if kids accidentally click the wrong part of the screen or if there's a problem with wifi.

2. ...but not TOO present.

Classes are designed for kids to do successfully with their class and instructor, so parents don't need to be around to give hints about the answers or do the activities! Any support that's needed will be provided by the instructor.

3. Have materials at the ready.

Each online class goes by quickly, so the better prepared kids are, the more work that gets done. Some families set an alarm for 10 minutes before each class - that way, they can be logged in and ready to go when the class starts. Better yet, set an alarm for 30 minutes before each class, giving kids time to have a quick snack and drink if needed and to use the washroom.

Supplies kids will usually need to have include:

  • Pencils and a notebook or scribbler
  • Sound cards
  • Speed packs

4. Be positive!

Make your home a safe place to make mistakes. Not every answer will be correct the first try - if it was, what are we even doing here? Encourage kids by noticing when they're working hard. 

For more information, please visit our website www.halifaxlearning.com

game tip

 

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Bundles of Joy

By Britt P. Curran on Sun, Jan 19, 2020 @ 12:55 PM

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We entrust individual tool-kits made for emergencies to ensure preparedness in times of need or against the elements.

First Aid: rife with bandages, alcohol swabs, and tweezers. Car gear: brimming with vice grips, jumper cables, and a handheld GPS. Survival sets: jam-packed with the likes of granola bars, matches, and a rescue blanket.

But safety needn't be the only motivator for compiling personal provisions. Last decade—which sounds like LIGHT-YEARS ago—spawned a shopping boom of moderately customized subscription boxes. From beauty and pets to accessories and meal prep, these deliveries introduced consumers to new products and new ways to simplify or enhance day-to-day.

Learning kits are no different. Tailoring a go-to bundle for your learner means no fumbling for a sharpened pencil or humming and hawing over a book choice: everything is already prepped in a designated box, basket, or bin!

Herewith, two 10-item educational packs to have on-hand during homework, a holiday weekend, or yes, even a hurricane!




MATH MIX

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CALCULATOR
For checking, not completing, work!
LARGE, FOAM DICE
Your favourite dollar, craft, or game store might carry a variety of oversized dice. To use, have your learner roll two at a time and either add, subtract, or multiply the numbers, depending on skill level. Take turns challenging each other, or both roll two dice at a time and total your set to see who has the highest number!
1-100 FLASH CARDS
Helpful for familiarity and distinguishing high numbers, flash cards are a tried-and-true method for studying and recall. Battle it out by shuffling the card deck and splitting into two even piles. Flip your pile's top card at the same time as your learner: the highest number wins both cards! Count your pile at the end to see who reigns victorious.
BASIC OPERATIONS FLASH CARDS
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division cards foster learner engagement and automaticity. Timed readings also fuel speed and accuracy, and tackling single questions at a time promote focus. For example, if the card reads 4 x 5, the learner concentrates on just this; it isn't jumbled together on a page full of equations, which can be overwhelming.
PENCILS + SMALL SHARPENER
Have at least four writing utensils primed for problem-solving, and a sidekick sharpener for the inevitable broken lead.
GRAPH PAPER
Large, grid paper helps keep numbers aligned and work neat. Grab a stack at your local stationery or office supplies store, or print at no cost from this fuss-free site!
WORKSHEETS
A workbook on par with your learner's grade or skill level helps reinforce fundamental skills (e.g. mental math) and could effectively advance fluency. Digital inventories are often organized by concepts (decimals, order of operations, fractions, etc.) and offer thousands of printable activities. Math-Drills.com even features a holiday section, like Valentine's Day sheets, aimed at incorporating seasonal festivities into numerical practice.
RULER + PROTRACTOR
Make taking measurements and identifying angles easier by supplying the right tools. Opt for a clear ruler so learners can see work or lines underneath!
BUTTONS
Basic operations are strengthened through tactile and visual work. Seek out 50-100 buttons of any colour and size. Place all buttons on a table and ask your learner to isolate a designated amount, like 20 buttons, then regroup into fives. Discuss how four groups of five are created from 20 buttons. Ask them to rework the buttons into groups of four. Discuss how 5 x 4 = 20 AND 4 x 5 = 20. Reconfigure the 20 buttons again, asking your learner to make two groups of 10. Discuss how 2 x 10 = 20another way 20 can be divided. Continue with varying scenarios and operations.
WALL CLOCK
Manipulate the hands on a clock and ask your learner to write down the time displayed. Additionally, set a time and ask them to move the clock ahead by one hour and ten minutes; see if they can correctly change the hands. Continue exercises with different times. Looking to get crafty? Create your own clocks from Instructables for endless practicing!



LITERARY LOT

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NEWS ARTICLES
TIME for Kids offers printable news stories organized by grade and feature a high standard of readability and interest.

NEW + KNOWN BOOKS
Have a few surefire favourites to give your reader a confidence boost. Contrast to the well-worn pages of a beloved book, fresh reads can spark a similar excitement. Find a topic, level, or work by a treasured author to present a new challenge. If helpful, co-read to share the load, and tackle the longer, more daunting pages.
BOOKMARK CRAFT
What's better than a personalized bookmark to complement your kit? Browse Pinterest for a bounty of ideas, or peruse this well-curated DIY collection!
TIMER
Swap out your oven clock or cell phone for the job: pick up a cheap kitchen timer (and batteries) to designate for speed-reading flash cards, blocking off an independent writing portion, etc.
PHONETIC FLASH CARDS
From vowel sounds to real words, handy flash cardslike those for mathemphasize repetition, practice, and comprehension.
POCKET DICTIONARY
Seek out a second-hand tangible copy and avoid using a laptop or technology for searches, which helps minimize screen time. Thumbing through a dictionary (or thesaurus!) flexes your learner's alphabetization muscle, and creates moments of success when a word is found, read, and understood. Your Dictionary also offers a litany of literary terms with a printable version for kids!
PENS, PENCILS + HIGHLIGHTERS
Writing utensils and accessories are invaluable. Stick with a trusty HB #2 or try these mechanical pencils designed for handwriting. Pen options can include glitter, felt, fine-tip: whatever motivates students to express themselves! If printing a story or article, encourage your learner to highlight words they like, don't know, or want to include in a summary but fear forgetting.
BLANK JOURNAL
Opt for lined notebooks to inspire neatness. Your learner can write down the book's main points; create brainstorms for future poems and projects; summarize the story; etc.
BOOK LIGHT

In case the power does go out! Handy clip-on lights illuminate pages at night, during an outage, or in dim reading environmentslike a tent while camping.
MAD LIBS
A popular literary pastime since 1953, Mad Libs create prime opportunities to supplement learning. Not only are parts of speech discussed (verbs! adjectives!) but the end producta silly story customized by your learneris sure to elicit laughs. These classic printable editions are great for class, home, on-the-go, or in the car!



While they might not provide shelter during a storm—or help home cooks decide which spices complement certain ingredients—these kits can offer unplugged entertainment and practice. The best part? Creating a kit is a bonus activity for you and your youngin at a one-time cost with the rare addition of surplus components.

Here's lookin' at you, kit.

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2020 Vision

By Britt P. Curran on Wed, Jan 01, 2020 @ 04:38 PM

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New Year's resolutions can make even the keenest of change-craving individuals squirm with anxiety. We might take the countdown to midnight as seriously as Cinderella, anticipating a wave of consequences if there isn't enough shift, shuffle, or progress.

But much like fashion's jelly sandals, steely resolutions are a thing of the past; the should and must and have-to dialogues are dated. To approach 2020 with plans, not pressure, allows both you and your learners alike to breathe easier, placing good intentions and realistic goals at the new year's forefront.

With 2019 in the rear-view mirror, here are four ways to make January—and a fresh decade!—sparkle with educational success.



CHECK (OUT), PLEASE!
Libraries rival It's a Wonderful Life for timelessness. While e-readers and downloadable novels are popular present-day preferences, little competes with the task of physically trekking to a library to peruse classics, new releases, or suggested reads. Before visiting, reflect on a recently beloved story and Google "books similar to (title here)." Browse names until one peaks your interest, then search the Halifax Public Library's online catalogue to check availability, put on hold for pick-up, or join a wait-list.
Once at your local branch, ask staff for recommendations. In July 2015, the now five-year-old Halifax Central Library housed more than 80,000 books alone—a statistic substantiating that you and your learners will surely find something fitting!

In an effort to re-welcome youth to their neighborhood site, HPL offers Read Away Your Fines: a program aimed to help individuals ages 5-17 quash outstanding account charges. Accompany your learner and chat with staff about starting. Every 15 minutes of on-location reading = a $2 decrease toward unpaid fees. It's a win-win-win: the library reduces its borrower debt; young persons have more opportunity to check-out items this year; and designated reading time encourages active, intentional literacy.

Similarly, to motivate community members back to public libraries, HPL hosted a "Go Fine-Free" initiative in December, 2019, to waive individuals' outstanding fees. As a limited-time opportunity, the mission hoped to alleviate borrower debt without judgement, question, or expectation. Stay tuned for news, events, and potential comparable offerings!


KEEP IT CHILL
What's cooler than magnetic poetry? From basic building pieces to a slew of novelty versions, your kitchen appliances will become a new canvas for learning, laughing, and wordplay silliness.

The original Magnetic Poetry brand features a vast selection of younger editions, including Story Maker, Kid Artist, and Opposites. Work together to create sentences and ridiculous poems, or leave your child to their own imaginative devices and see what transpires on the fridge! **IMPORTANT: Supervise website browsing, as other themed kits are named and geared for older audiences.

For younger learners, foam letters help foster alphabet familiarity. Woozles and Tattletales, two beloved local children's bookstores, offer varieties like Magnetic Wooden Letters by Melissa and Doug and Magnetic Learning Letters, respectively. Craft and discount stores also feature options, so see what budget, size, and style is most attractive!

GIVE ME A CLUE?
Group word activities nurture togetherness and teamwork, with a bonus focus on fine motor skills.

Crosswords are a tangible, challenging choice for family time. Kids Puzzles and Games promote free printable crosswords, as well as word scrambles, Sudoku, mazes, and much more.

Depending on the ages of your learner(s), find a topic and length that feels manageable and fun, not impossible. Reviewing the answers afterwards and filling in blanks can also be a helpful way to finish without frustration!

TAKE NOTE
In keeping with a pen-to-paper theme, source out stationery that suits your learner's likes, hobbies, and preferences. Try themed cards (forest animals, anyone?), Post-its, dollar store index cards, or whatever else inspires imagination.

Every weekend—or as often as doable—have your learner draw a name to see who's on his or her to-write list. Extend the recipient list beyond the immediate family! Maybe a cousin, coach, teacher, friend. Place as many names into a Mason jar as your little likes, and lead by creative example: fill your own jar, perhaps including your kids, siblings, boss, neighbour, favourite barista, whomever! Set aside 10-15 minutes together to scribe your own notes.

Seal and decorate with stickers, then hand-deliver (or mail) before the next time you draw! Eliminate the pressure for anyone to produce a flawless memo and write what comes to mind. Maybe a haiku? Recall a fun, shared memory. Tell your reader something new, or jot down a simple "thanks for being you!"



Halifax Learning believes in practices that focus on enjoyment and effort, not perfection. Need more ideas? Two posts from 2018 and 2019 highlight parallel exercises!

Go ahead: Spell "CHEERS" on the freezer door, too.

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Making the Grade

By Britt P. Curran on Sat, Dec 07, 2019 @ 04:29 PM

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December has swiftly approached like a quick-on-its-toes cat, ready to pounce on ribbons, bows, and dangling ornaments. Parents, students, and educators alike share in the end-of-calendar year anticipation as much as those same feisty felines await long, winter naps.

The academic weeks leading up to the holidays boast their own brand of busy. By now, mid-term reports are distributed, PT meetings completed, and, potentially, a new dialogue has emerged regarding your child's areas of concern.

First things first: let's retire the phrase "bad report card"; words implying disappointment are unlikely to inspire change. They also often overshadow the full picture: every child has strengths, but something isn't clicking. Look beyond the letter or number of struggling grades. Which of your child's skills have been well-developed? What's been progressing as hoped or expected? What needs work or improvement?

Take an in-depth look at the data. What could a "C" or "D" really mean? What's considered when tallying percentages? Perhaps he or she has strong organization skills and positive interactions with others, but the actual workassignments, comprehension, correctness—is where they might be fumbling, not failing.

Parent-teacher interviews may be short, but try to make those minutes matter. If you're feeling post-meeting uncertainties, contact your child's teacher or administration with specific questions for additional feedback. Furthermore, HRCE's website suggests the following four prompts to help guide the conversation (during a chat or after):

  • "What do you see as my child's unique strengths/challenges?"
  • "How can I help build on/support my child's learning strengths and challenges at home"?
  • "How is my child's progress evaluated?"
  • "What outcomes has my child met and what are the outcomes my child is working towards?"

Lower or worrisome grades can prompt a dip in self-esteem. Be mindful of changes in your child's mood or behaviour and reach out to the school, a healthcare professional, or trusted resource to help boost confidence and self-worth when a learner feels heavily impacted.

photo-1479091792771-cdb6e8b16ed6The emphasis on grades can obscure other positives and accomplishments. During the upcoming two-week break, consider creating a "ME JAR": a crafty project to highlight strengths, skills, and special qualities. Re-purpose a large Mason or candy jar (or snag a cheap dollar store or second-hand container) and help your child decorate as they please—stickers, paint, washi tape, photos, rhinestones.

Cut strips of colourful paper and scribe encouraging, descriptive words that encapsulate who they are. Steer away from too many physical adjectives, like PRETTY or TALL, and focus on character traits and internal worth: KIND, PATIENT, BRAVE, GENEROUS, ORGANIZED, TIDY, POLITE, CURIOUS... the list goes on and on—literally! Be more specific, too: SUPER AT LAUNDRY,  MAKES A YUMMY SMOOTHIE, HELPS YOUNGER BROTHER, etc.

Every day or once a week, pull out a piece together and read aloud while both offering evidence to hit the point home. (Psst: lead by example and make your own jar; self-love can be inherited, learned, and nourished.)

FUNNY
PARENT/GUARDIAN:
"You are funny because you tell your grandfather jokes."
CHILD:
"I am funny because I do silly impressions."

MULTIPLICATION MASTER
PARENT/GUARDIAN: "You are a multiplication master because you know your eight times tables."
CHILD: "I am a multiplication master because I try to help others in math class."


The potential adrenaline from finishing strong isn't a myth. While the school year is into its fourth month, there's still a substantial amount of time to make meaningful changes. Use long weekends and snow cancellations to incorporate learning. Co-read a story, offer a creative writing exercise, enjoy an educational board game, or try a math worksheet—like these customizable ones from Web Math Minute.

Little rewards for hard work go far, too, and they needn't be extravagant or even monetary. Stickers, a bookmark, cozy socks, five extra minutes on YouTube, colouring a printed page, Go Fish!, or a free or low-cost community event. Perhaps even start a fridge chart where children build towards a bigger goal, like a movie date, hosting a sleepover, or a snowy outdoor scavenger hunt.

The holidays come but once a year, but the gift of feeling strong and supported—academically, emotionally, mentally? That will guide your learner better than the best red-nosed reindeer.

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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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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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