Using puppets and storyboards during teletherapy has helped speech teacher Marisa Ferrara Campos of PS 257 in Brooklyn keep her young special education students attentive and focused during the pandemic.
Campos was among 34 members honored for creative projects at the UFT Speech Improvement Chapter’s annual Better Speech and Hearing Month Celebration, held virtually on May 20. Her project, Speech Through My Tablet: Tales and Tele-Puppets, aimed to help students continue to meet language and literacy goals using those materials.
Campos started a Donors-Choose campaign to raise funds to buy nursery rhyme and fairytale storyboards and characters to use with her students, many of whom are visual and auditory learners. She would tell a story, and they could retell it using those tools.
“It kept them engaged and they looked forward to coming online,” Campos said.
Student projects also were cited. Shanelle Pryce, a 9th-grader at Cambria Heights Academy for New Literacies in Queens, won for a comic strip she created. Titled “What Speech Means to Me,” it depicted Shanelle explaining to her class the purpose of speech therapy.
She said that “she had a lot of support and learned a lot of different strategies to help her with her work and managing her anxiety,” as she made the transition from 8th grade to high school during the pandemic, said her speech teacher, Miriam Rabinowitz.
“All the time and effort and care you invest in students to help them improve ... it was touching how much the help and support meant to her,” Rabinowitz said.
Getting students ready to learn, she added, is “about building rapport, establishing a safe place and that connection” for them to feel heard and supported.
The winning projects, displayed in prepandemic years at union headquarters, were shown in a Powerpoint and can be viewed in the Speech Improvement Chapter’s section of the UFT website.
Retiree Lisa Arian received the Friend of the Chapter award for many years of service to the chapter and for the Speech Survival Class she created to help new speech teachers.
Chapter Leader Caroline Murphy praised the creativity of the projects and commended the use of digital programs to reach remote students. “I was amazed to see all the hard work that went into them,” she said.