The Incredible Years® Blog

Hot Tips for IY Group Leaders Delivering Child Programs Online

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  • by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, PhD, Developer of Incredible Years® Programs

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In the past few months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many teachers and child group therapists trained in either the Incredible Years® Dinosaur Small Group treatment program or the Classroom Dinosaur curriculum have started remote delivery of the Dina Dinosaur curriculum to support children’s social and emotional adjustment at home.

Felicity Mask CropWe have been impressed by their willingness to cope with technological challenges and with their innovative responses to this on-line delivery approach.  It seems that most child group therapists and teachers we have talked with have followed the Incredible Years® principles and have worked to make the remote sessions as similar as possible to the IY in-person groups. They are also finding ways to promote genuine relationships and fun interactive experiences and games to present curriculum to the children. Many have sent the children letters and home activities from Dina Dinosaur (posted on Incredible Years® website). Reports indicate that the children have been responsive and engaged with the puppets and activities and look forward to the weekly sessions. Attendance has been good, with few drop outs.  This document expands on the previous blogs and articles I have written about reaching out to children with Dinosaur School.

One way that Incredible Years® and Dinosaur School teachers and therapists around the world have connected with families is by filming their interactions with their puppet friends. These are then shared with children and their families.  The Incredible Years® program developer has posted video example scenarios of herself using the puppets to explore children’s feelings (boredom, loneliness, fear and anxiety, anger and depression) and how they can cope with these feelings.

These videos, as well as videos produced by other dinosaur group leaders around the world, can be found on the Resources for Group Leaders page of our website (look in the tab titled “Resources and Videos for Teachers Working Remotely with Preschoolers”).

For example, please see the vignettes posted at Colorado Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting (RMPBS).  RMPBS partnered with Invest in Kids Dinosaur School trained teachers to film them using the Dinosaur Curriculum puppets to talk about feelings such as being brave, impatient, scared, calm, loved, proud, sad, and grateful.

Triceratops.jpgThese teachers use the Dinosaur Curriculum feeling cards (from Triceratops Unit Three: Understanding and Detecting Feelings) to help children name these feelings, have discussions about how cope with their uncomfortable feelings so they can feel better, and have set up related art and game activities such as feelings bingo, feelings wheel, feelings dictionary, puppet plays, and songs (such as the Rainbow of Feelings from Dina’s Greatest Hits). In some cases, teachers have set up systems so that children can send in pictures of what they are doing to feel happy. These are shared with the children in the subsequent on-line program session. The children are delighted to see each others’ work.

Another group of teachers from Palomar Family Counseling Services Inc., funded by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services, also developed some incredible video clips of how they deliver Dinosaur School on line, again focusing on the Triceratops Feelings Unit.  Please check out their videos of how they use the puppets and books to help their students talk about their feelings and find ways to cope with them.

All these examples show ways that teachers and small group therapists can reach out to help children process their feelings through puppet scenarios, reading books, and writing or art activities. Evaluations so far are promising and indicate the children are enjoying and looking forward to these on-line interactions with their puppet friends.

Of course, there is a need for a randomized control trial (RCT) to compare on-line individual or on-line group training with in-person training to determine whether the on-line approach is as effective as the RCTs conducted in the in-person child groups (Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., Stoolmiller, M. 2008; Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., Hammond, M. 2001; Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M. J., Hammond, M. 2004; Webster-Stratton, C, Hammond, M. 1997). Nonetheless at a time when we can’t safely do in-person group delivery with children, the IY Video tele-session on-line approach seems an opportunity to learn how to support children and their families in a different way.

It was definitely daunting at first; we didn’t know how students or parents would respond, or how we, as group leaders, were going to do it without the classroom interaction. Don’t let those thoughts be discouraging! Our videos aren’t perfect, but they are authentic and responsive to the very real challenges that arrived with the pandemic. Students are struggling with many different and complex feelings, so continued social-emotional support is critical during this time. I love that we have been able to provide some of this support through our virtual Dinosaur School circle time. My coworkers and I never anticipated being on YouTube, but we all agree that it’s been an excellent way to reach students and families in the world of virtual learning. – Emily Shoots, Lead Teacher Facilitator, Palomar Family Counseling Service, Inc. San Diego

We have been doing our Dinosaur School once a week, and a puppet comes to our google meeting. One session we talked about feeling lonely. I had sent out the shared video from Carolyn Webster Stratton with Felicity Feelings ahead of time and as a result one student brought her new guppies to the meeting and said that she told her mom she was feeling lonely in her room and her mom got her some guppies. We also had a student share that when he was at home he worked hard to build a rocket and he felt proud when he was done. He shared all of this with us without any prompting or follow up questions. Our students have done a remarkable job understanding and labeling their feelings through this difficult time and I owe so much of it to the time we spent with the feelings unit in the IY Dinosaur School curriculum.  – Dinosaur School Trained Teacher, Colorado.

felicity with magnifying glass.JPGThis paper is written to help IY child therapists and teachers understand how to deliver the child dinosaur curriculum on-line in either individual or group format. It will cover how to select children for either the individual or a group on-line IY video approach, provide tips to tailoring the IY child on-line session agenda, how to determine the length and number of sessions needed, and ways to promote essential IY methods, processes, and program delivery fidelity principles when delivering the IY dinosaur child program on-line.  Child therapists or teachers will learn how to work with their coleaders, to share their screen to mediate video vignettes, and to promote more intimacy and child engagement by setting up cooperative practices’, fun games, and drawing contests using the zoom rooms, white boards, or art supplies at home. They will learn how to use Zoom chats to reinforce children with dinosaur stickers, how to involve parents in these activities, and how to use the IY web site resources to share on-line weekly home activities.

Read Carolyn Webster-Stratton’s Hot Tips for IY Group Leaders Delivering Child Programs Online

Please visit our Resources for Group Leaders Working Remotely webpage for:

☀Handouts and Activities for Parents and Children
☀Sample Videos for Delivering Dina Child Programs Online
☀Editable Cards and Awards

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