Friday, January 21, 2022

At a Distance, Again

Well, besides the Jeopardescapade, this has been quite a crappy month for everyone. In Massachusetts, a huge surge in COVID infections after the holidays forced a lot of us to make changes again in how we are working with students. Schools have stayed pretty much as "new normal" here, with the exception of more testing and quicker on the draw to cancel school days for weather. Working in a private practice, we have made a shift to move as many sessions as possible into a temporary telepractice format for individuals and groups, while keeping in-person services for those that struggle to engage online (or are just over it). Of course we are taking extensive precautions: vaccine requirements, temp checks, health screens, powerful air filtration, double masking, distancing...

On that last one, I find technology to be a big help. We have an Apple TV (old ones work fine) with HDMI-ported TVs (just your basic TVs these days) in each clinic room. I have a Mac which can screen mirror to these, but if I didn't, an HDMI cable would do. The Mac just gives me more mobility. The use of a screen (like you would a board/projector in a classroom) can keep engagement up visually and can prompt session structure and communication from students in a variety of ways, while maintaining distance within the room. It can help also to reduce or eliminate shared "touched" materials, and though these really aren't the problem with an aerosol-spread virus, it's a step that can't hurt and can be reassuring to families. Here are a few examples:

-Use Jamboard activities that are game/play-like and prompt discussion and collaboration. I have mentioned Julia Dweck's collection and this week used the Traffic Jam game.

-Activities students can participate in actively via their smartphones. You can make a worksheet/thinksheet into a google form and email to them, or shorten the link with bit.ly. Kahoot is almost always a draw, whether you choose from topics of interest or social/language based games. Jackbox Games are worth an investment, and often on sale- these are joined by phone.

-Have a discussion and document the language in a simple Google slide like a flipchart. I guarantee they'll want to correct your typing, which means they are paying attention. Insert images! SlidesCarnival has good templates for free if you want to jazz it up visually.

-Anything visual that prompts discussion- consider infographics on topics of interest or something related to holidays or current events. With Chinese New Year coming up there are a variety of websites and graphics that describe the personality traits of the various animals/years. Great to connect to and have students self-reflect on how they might be same or different.

-Books that are visual with limited text. This week I used Jon Klassen's darkly humorous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat on YouTube. You read 'em, sound muted, pause at will- there is plenty to discuss with some facial expression interpretation.

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