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Governments, education authorities, international organizations, and the private sector have come up with various solutions to help students cope with the effects of coronavirus on education.

Online speech language therapy & reading and math tutoring: A Brooklyn Letters Learning Specialist Shares her Tips for Virtual Teaching

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Online Speech Language Therapy, Coaching and Online Tutoring Services

Brooklyn Letters and its branches in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island will be offering all speech language and feeding therapy, coaching and literacy and math tutoring services online seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

It is now necessary for all speech language therapy and tutoring to be done remotely due to the pandemic. The transition from physical classroom to a virtual classroom has been a tenuous one. Children are trying to get used to online learning while parents are attempting to balance their own stresses working from home. Educators have also been scrambling to set up the best possible classrooms online for their students.

Brooklyn Letters team of highly professional and talented speech language pathologists and learning specialists have been working around the clock to make the transition from one-to-one services to remote services a seamless experience. There have been new technologies to implement, many lessons and activities to download, and creative plans to assimilate for families. There have been glitches, which is to be expected. However, one of our learning specialists, Lauren T., was kind enough to share her personal experience with us of preparing and administering her first couple of remote tutoring sessions with a 6 year old. She has been tutoring this child in one-to-one sessions for weak phonological awareness, assistance in understanding the concepts of syllables, rhyme, and onset/rime, and boosting her reading level.

Lauren shares remote tutoring tips:

In terms of organization, I followed a tip from someone on Facebook and created a folder just for that student and copied the documents I would need into it. Then I left it open in the background for easy access. Thus, if I closed something by mistake, I could easily reopen it.

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Shared the Adobe pdf window through Zoom. Annotate in Zoom lets me spotlight the line of text I want her to focus on.

For this session I used only SMART Notebook. I had to create a few new SMART files to duplicate PPT files. SMART Notebook (the free version) has fewer design flourishes than PPT (i.e. could not give tokens a shadow and dimension unless I inserted a picture that already had shadow and dimension), but students can easily click and move things with a minimum of distracting activity. For instance, if a student clicks on a token in PPT, a bright box appears around it, and there is a lag when the image is moved. In SMART, it is a more subtle black box, and there was only the slightest lag. I put all the files I would need with movable pieces into one file: token boards, letter board, picture sort, and words to arrange into a sentence. Then I just scrolled to the correct page when needed.

At our next session I played a phonics board game with her. The game pieces were movable. For the die, I downloaded a cute app onto my phone; I would “roll” the die for her. I did not want her using a physical dice, which would end up on the floor in a corner.

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On Zoom, I am sharing the SMART Notebook screen, giving her control of the mouse so she can move the game pieces. (I also have control of the mouse.) She is off-screen, maybe fetching her marker. I asked her to spell the words for the pictures either of us landed on. I created this game using free clip art from the internet. The game board is something I found for free on the net — it comes blank, with just the colored circles. She had a good time — had a breakthrough with phonemic awareness during an earlier activity.

The HUE document camera worked well for displaying word cards and decodable text. I liked that the student could see my hands and fingers as she is used to, rather than relying on the mouse pointer to draw her attention to certain words. As far as I know, the image was clear on the student’s end.

There were some problems with getting the student oriented correctly to the camera on her parents’ large computer screen. When I asked her to show me what she wrote on her wipe-off board, she put it in front of my image on the screen rather than the camera. And lighting made it hard for me to see when the board was in range. I had her tell me the letters she had written. When I meet again, I will ask her parents to show her where the camera is. Also, being 6, she was too short for the chair, even at its highest setting. Next time I will have her sit on pillows to get higher. Also, being 6, she tended to drop the marker and had to scramble down from the chair to fetch it. She was out of my view, but for the most part climbed back up right away.

With an explicit lesson plan and everything open and ready to go, I was able to get to every part of the lesson and keep her engaged. It does take a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get remote sessions up and running. However, the only tools the families need to have are a computer with internet access that contains a camera, microphone, and a mouse (or touchscreen) to access the Zoom meeting. Zoom does not require an account or an app. Accommodations can also be made for tablets. Additionally, a dry erase board or paper with pencils or markers is necessary.

Other tips: I arranged lamps on my desk so that bright light was reflected off the wall onto my face. I also wore bright clothing and some lipstick. (Men should try this with tinted lip balm!) I work on a laptop, so I set the laptop on top of a stack of books so that the camera would be level with my face. This way I was not looking down all the time. The background was a curtain I arranged behind me rather than the top of the back wall. I did not have my headset, so I used the microphone on my webcam. This meant I was always talking loudly, which felt unnatural. For the next lesson I will use my headset, which I hope will mean my vocal communication will feel more intimate.

The student really enjoyed the sessions, and we will continue to meet in this manner. In general, the parents are overwhelmed by the heavy workload the school expects of the student (which I imagine is a common emotion among parents at this time), and also with managing the schedule to set up their other child with his twice-daily Zoom meetings and still have the time and space to conduct their own work they are doing at home. They are working on a schedule that fits their family.

Some parents are reluctant to give remote therapy or tutoring a try because their child is not yet adjusting well to the online learning environment with their schools. Science shows, and we have experienced this as well at Brooklyn Letters with our sessions with children, that there is such a different dynamic in instructing in a group setting versus a one-to-one setting. We encourage parents to contact us for assistance and are even offering a free 30 minute remote session so that parents can see how it will all work.

Not only do we offer tutoring for children with learning difficulties, disabilities, and literacy and math struggles, but we also offer a menu of personalized assistance. We can do student check-ins once or twice a day or a couple of times a week, organize work to be completed and prepare plans, help with homework, and even coach parents as to how to guide their children through these transitions. Parents can speak to a therapist or learning specialist for free to share their needs, and the professional will prepare a plan to offer. We understand that not every family situation is the same and, likewise, children's needs vary. Therefore, we will create just the right, individualized plan for each family's needs.

Our Director, Nicole, and Founder and CEO, Craig, are also available to speak with parents and answer any questions.

Written by Brooklyn Letters

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