(WGGB/WSHM) -- Masks with a clear area to show your mouth have become the latest tool in education amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Without these masks, I would have to do it virtually,” said freelance tutor Michelle Johnston.
Many teachers have adjusted how they instruct their students during the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnston, a local tutor, has created ‘Smile Masks’ which are made out fabric and have a cut-out area of clear plastic that allows students to show-off their smiles.
Johnston works with students in kindergarten through fourth grade on lessons in reading and math. She told Western Mass News that she made these masks to help see what her students are mouthing and so she could help them in-person.
“Because if they are having trouble making certain letter sounds, I can figure out what's going on. Are they placing their tongue in the right position to make say the ‘T’ sound,” Johnston explained.
Dr. Erika Hamilton, a microbiologist at UMass Amherst, echoes the benefits of these masks.
“This is can be important for someone who is learning the English language…either English is their second language or you are working with young children who are just learning to speak,” Hamilton added.
The masks are not just good for educational purposes. They are also helpful to read emotion.
“They can see if you are happy or sad and if they’re not quite 100-percent sure what the word is or what you are getting at with your sentence,” Hamilton explained.
Johnston said during her sessions, it's important to be able to read the students emotions.
“If they are getting frustrated, if they are excited about their success, I can continue to reinforce that way. If they’re not having it and they are shutting down, I can see that before it becomes a problem,” Johnston noted.
So how effective are these masks against COVID-19?
Hamilton said they are not as protective as an N-95 mask, but added they are not supposed to be.
“If they are correctly made, they are as effective as a fabric mask or disposable mask at catching our respiratory droplets, so they don't move or fall fly all over the room,” Hamilton said.
As for keeping them clean, Hamilton suggested hand-washing the masks.