VIPKid Unit Assessments

Unit assessments have gone from one of my most feared classes to my favorite.

Just when I thought I had my pacing mastered (1 slide per minute = a 25 minute class,) I opened my schedule and saw it…

a unit assessment!

What is a Unit Assessment? It is an assessment that gauges how well the student has mastered the information in a unit. These are introduced at the halfway point and in the last lesson of the unit. (In level one, that means they have an assessment in lessons 4 and 8. In all other units, the assessments are in lessons 6 and 12.)

As a new ESL teacher, the unit assessments lead to a number of questions:

  • 50 slides? How will I cover 50 slides in 25 minutes?
  • What if I get done early?
  • What if I can’t finish?
  • What is the project? Do they know about it?
  • Do I still need to have a secondary reward?
  • Should I help them if they don’t know the answer?
  • How do I grade them?

In today’s blog post, I thought I would tackle a few of the most common questions for you.

UA Timing

I think this is the most common question I hear. On one hand, there are almost double the number of slides as a normal MC lesson. On the other hand, 100% of the material is review, so often kids can fly through it since there is less “teaching.” Here are a few tips to help you master the timing of a UA.

  • Don’t panic. Many of the slides are section breaks with no discussion required.
  • Review the UA in advance. Get a feel for how many sections there are and how many questions are in each section. I tend to monitor my pacing by sections rather than slides with the UA. For example, if there are six sections, I should be finishing up section 3 when I am halfway through class. BUT – remember, not all sections are created equally. If you have a student who did a really complex project, you may allocate more time in that section and less in another.
  • Be ready to extend. Don’t wait until the end of a lesson to find out you have a lot of extra time to kill. That won’t be productive. If you see that your student is well prepared and doing well in the assessment, extend as you go. This has three benefits:
    • You will keep them engaged throughout the lesson.
    • There’s less risk of mom and dad complaining that you finished the lesson too early.
    • It provides great content for your feedback. (“Not only did Bao Bao answer the assessment questions about XYZ correctly, but he also demonstrated his understanding with new examples I gave him in class!”)
  • If you have a student who is struggling with the content, do your very best not to skip slides. Instead, move quickly through the section breaks. Don’t spend much time on the “game.” You read the storyline rather than having the student read it. But always try to complete all of the actual assessment.

The UA Project

The UA Project is “homework” that is done outside of class in levels 2 and above. This is a topic I’ll probably go back and write an entire blog post about. For today, I just want to touch on the basics.

  • Yes, the students already know about it. It is first introduced in lesson 5. It is also reviewed in lessons 6 and 11. The students and their parents also have information about the project in their materials from VIPKid.
  • No, not all students complete the project. In fact, I would guess that most do not.
  • It’s possible that some have uploaded it in the portal already. There is a “Project Demo” button that gives them that option; however, I’ve only seen one student ever use it. In most cases, just ask the student to show you their homework, and they will hold it up to the camera.
  • If they did not do it, you have a few options. In order of my personal preference:
    • You can have the student complete the project live with you in class. They can draw or write on the blank slide or a piece of paper and do it quickly. If I do this, I generally give them half credit for the project.
    • You can wait, and if time allows, have them complete it at the end of the class. This is good because you run less risk of taking up too much class time; however, I sometimes forget to return to it.
    • You can give them zero points and move on. I usually use this only as a last resort. Realistically, these kids do so much in their lives. They often have 12 hour days in school plus extracurricular activities. Then they learn English on top of that! As a momma, I know some weeks we simply couldn’t get everything done. I might choose the English homework too.

UA Rewards

It’s never required by VIPKid to have a secondary reward. However, I do recommend it. For UA’s, you can use their built-in game concept or do a reward of your own. I personally like to make a game board on my whiteboard using UNO cards. If I have time, I will print custom stars that match the UA theme, but often I just use my tried and true Dino stars. I also LOVE the UA maps in Google Slides. These usually follow the theme of the UA game, but at the end of each section there’s a cute gif or picture. My flow is simply “Yay! Good job!” I hold up my phone and show the animation to display the gif and go to the next level; then say “You get a star!”  I stick my star on my game board behind me and move on to “Level 2 – BEGIN!”

UA Grading and Progress

I always do my best to grade accurately (but positively.) They aren’t trying to get into an Ivy League school with these results, BUT I think it’s very important for parents to understand how their child is progressing.

Here are a few things to remember about grading and progress:

  • If they are struggling, you can absolutely help them. Our primary goal is to teach, so consider these assessments “open book” (or at least “open teacher.” 🙂
  • Every exercise has a sliding scale for grading, and most include an option for “Student completed XYZ with teacher assistance.”
  • The only times I give zero points are when the student fails to participate on a slide at all, or perhaps they still cannot complete the activity, even with teacher assistance. It is very rare that this happens. Usually, the student is able to complete the activities with help.

Unit assessments have gone from one of my most feared classes to my favorite. I love the flow. I love seeing the progress that my students have made. And I even love the cheesy game stories!

How do you feel about Unit Assessments? Do you have other questions you would like to see answered? Let me know in the comments!

game board

The Prop Report #1 -Wooden Mix & Match Magnetic Pan Pizza

Introduction:

Welcome to the first installment of a new series: The Prop Report. In this series, I plan to share my favorite (purchased) props and rewards that I use in my ESL classroom. The link to the product is an affiliate link, so if you choose to purchase the item through the link, I get a little bonus. For more info about this series of posts, you can read my overview and full disclaimers here.

The product:

Wooden Mix & Match Magnetic Pan Pizza

Manufacturer:

Imagination Generation

Recommended for ESL classroom?

Probably not.

Recommended for hands on learning?

Yes!

Pros:

This is a fun set to play with. The wood is very sturdy, and the pieces are thick. I love that the pizza makes a “slicing sound” when you cut it, and there is a wide variety of toppings which would make great vocabulary extension. (It also makes the pizza colorful!)

Cons:

For an online classroom, it’s a little bit bulky to hold up to the camera, especially if you drop things like I do. It’s difficult to “slice” the pizza and get the slices to come apart without dropping pieces. (The velcro is way stronger than the magnets!) When you hold the slices up to the camera, you can also see the velcro on the sides of the slices unless you strategically cover the sides with your fingers, so it takes away from the realism of the pizza.

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here: The Prop Report – Episode 1

In summary:

I would buy this for my own children (if they weren’t adults, that is.) I would also add this to a brick and mortar or home school classroom setup. I just wouldn’t recommend it for an online classroom.

If you would like to purchase it, here’s the link on Amazon.com:

Wooden Mix and Match Magnetic Pan Pizza – 20 Assorted Pieces!

Have you tried this product or similar ones? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

The “Art” of Teaching

I couldn’t help myself. I bought an Apple Pencil. I justified it because I needed an iPad for backup when the Internet or power was down. I couldn’t miss my classes, after all. How that justified the pencil, well….

So far, I’ve mostly just doodled with it. During my non-VIPKid day job, I sit on a lot of conference calls. I find that if I let myself look at email, I will get distracted and stop listening to the meeting. So, I will occasionally doodle like the below.

But today I had the chance to draw my first “reward.” It was in one of my favorite 2-D prop groups, and someone had asked for a specific type of reward to be drawn. (Check out my little monster dudes above!) I gave it a shot, and it was actually very fun to duplicate and re-color my little drawing.

Would I recommend the Apple Pencil? Only if you are a serious artist or really enjoy doodling. I don’t think there is anything I could do with my poor level of talent that would justify the money spent on the pencil.

Is it fun? You bet. 🙂

New Smart Demo Lesson – VIPKid Shortcut – April 2019

Starting in late April, the new Smart Demo option will make applying for VIPKid easier than ever!

Have you thought about applying for VIPKid, but you were concerned about the long interview process? If so, I have great news!

In the next few days, the faster, easier Smart Demo Lesson will be available to make your application process easier than ever!

What is the Smart Demo Lesson?

It’s a short, 2 1/2 minute recording that’s done right from the VIPKid Teacher App on your smartphone!

(If you don’t have it yet, just search for VIPKid Teach for Mobile for iPhone or Android phones!  The icon will be labelled VIPKid Teach.)

What is included in the Smart Demo Lesson?

Step 1: There will be a short review and 5 question quiz covering the basic VIPKid concepts:

  1. Lesson Objectives
  2. Repetition
  3. Speaking Speed and Language
  4. TPR
  5. Modeling

Step 2: Record a short, 2.5 minute demo based on a lesson slide.

How do I complete the Smart Demo Lesson?

  1. Create a VIPKid account.
  2. Download the VIPKid teacher app.
  3. Go to “Interview” in the app (It should say “Interview Pending.”
  4. Review the material* and answer the 5-question (multiple choice) quiz.
  5. Record the demo on the app and submit.
  6. Wait for feedback from VIPKid.

*In the material, you’ll be able to review a brief introduction that gives you instructions. There will be an overview of each of the five key areas that will be covered in the quiz.

If this process doesn’t work for you, remember you can also check out one of the following options:

Once you pass the Smart Demo lesson, what’s next?

Once you’ve passed (yay!) you’ll then move onto the certification process.  You’ll want to:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How long do I have to answer each question? – You will have 1.5 minutes to answer each question.
  2. What do I need to do for the demo slide? – There will be a slide provided to you (as question 6.)  There will also be an example of how to teach it.  You will need to spend 2.5 minutes demonstrating the slide.  Be sure to:
    • Speak slowly.
    • Be sure you allow time for a “student” to respond (pretend that you have a student.  It wouldn’t hurt to “correct” them once or twice as well!)
    • Don’t use extra words (incidental language.) Instead of saying “Can you say the word run?” simply say “Run” and encourage the child to repeat non-verbally.
    • Make sure you introduce the word and have the student repeat three times.
    • Use lots of TPR.
    • Be sure to cover the slide objectives that are listed.
    • If there’s an action (like “circle” or “drag and drop”) be sure you explain and DEMONSTRATE to the student how to do the action.
    • Use a prop! Once you’ve completed the application process I (or your mentor) will be happy to help you come up with a prop or props to use to help you on this slide!)
  3. What tips do you have for shooting a quality video?Be sure you are in a well-lit space. If possible be sure the room is bright with no distracting background and no glare.
    • Make sure your phone is positioned so that your head and shoulders are fully in the frame. It will be important for them to see your body language!
    • If possible, have your phone in a holder or propped up so you don’t have to hold it steady.
    • Wear a solid-colored shirt. (I would wear orange, but it’s not required!)
  4. How do I know my results?  You will get the answers to the quiz (and your score) immediately. You will get personalized feedback on your demo within 24-48 hours.  If you have not heard back within 36 hours, please email teachvip@vipkid.com.cn.
  5. How long does the whole process take?  VIPKid suggests allowing 10 minutes for the full Smart Demo Lesson: 5 minutes for the quiz, 3 minutes for the demo lesson, and 2 minutes for the analysis report.
  6. How long do I have to complete the Smart Demo Lesson? It’s recommended to submit the video within 3 days after completing the basic information.
  7. What do I need to do to pass? It will be difficult to pass if you get less than 3 questions correct; however, the demo will be more heavily weighted than the quiz.
  8. Can I restart the video recording? Yes there will be two buttons – one to re-record and one to submit.
  9. If I don’t pass, can I try again? Your interviewer can allow you the opportunity to re-record in certain circumstances. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

If you have other questions, please let me know, and I’d be happy to help.  If you’re ready to get started, I suggest starting by Completing the VIPKid Application. If you’re ready to apply, here’s how to register with my referral code to get extra help through the process.

Good luck, and happy teaching!

How does your VIPKid apple rating measure up?

One of the features of the VIPKid platform is that parents are allowed to rate the classes we teach at VIPKid. Parents can leave five-apples, which is the best (and what counts toward raise eligibility with VIPKid) or they can leave fewer – all the way down to the dreaded one-apple.  Previously, I shared a little bit more about feedback in my post An Apple a Day. At this time, I was still new. I had only received 7 feedbacks from parents, and was still learning myself. Since then, I’ve earned 122 5-apple ratings, and continue to be touched and inspired by much of the feedback.

So I’d like to peel back the onion, er, apple? a little more and share some important and often overlooked components of parent feedback.

Not everyone leaves feedback.

One of the most common things I hear is, “I’ve taught ____ classes, and I don’t have any feedback. Is that normal? YES! Some parents never leave feedback. Some leave intermittent feedback. Some might not leave any feedback for months and then rate your last 60 classes. There is a great divide among teachers – some say you should ask for feedback, while others never ask.  Either way, don’t sweat it. There’s not a magic formula and you really have limited control over whether or not a parent leaves feedback. But if they do, remember…

Feedback is made of opinions.

This is not going to be a popular way to start this post, but it’s true. Many of the things that can influence a parent’s rating will be subjective.  Some common tags relate to prop usage, timely error correction, TPR, pronunciation corrections, expressive attitude, patience, class environment, and encouragement (among others.) Some of these are easy enough to quantify. For example, if a parent says that you failed to correct errors in a timely manner, it’s easy to watch a playback and either validate or invalidate this. However, if a parent says you did not have patience, that’s much harder to prove or disprove. There’s no quantitative way to measure patience in a visible way.

There *are* ways to get feedback invalidated, if a few circumstances are met.

It’s important to know that you can get feedback invalidated. It won’t be removed, but it won’t count toward your average. If you have gotten a 3-apple or below score, and you want to try to get it removed, check out the process here.

But better than invalidating bad feedback…

There are ways to improve your chances of getting positive (5-apple) feedback.

On March 7, 2019 VIPKid sent out some tips on what parents like and expect in a VIPKid teacher. As they said, “Knowing what parents DON’T want is the first step toward achieving a high feedback average.” They outlined eight behaviors to avoid that will help you avoid the dreaded low-apple feedbacks.

It’s important to note that these are not “requirements.” Often, teachers get upset and say that VIPKid can’t require us to do these things, which is true. But VIPKid also can’t force a parent to like our classes either. They provide these tips because they know their parents better than we do.  So I encourage you to take these things seriously.  Below are a few of the highlights that stood out to me.

  • Be high energy. VIPKid says that 30% of negative parent feedback is related to low energy in the classroom.  Remember, most of these students have been in school all day already, so the last thing they need is to have a tired teacher droning on at them. If you need some tips on how to seem more energetic, check out The Secret to High Energy VIPKid teaching!
  • Be patient.  The single biggest thing that can contribute to a perception of patience is smiling.  You will need to correct errors (see below) but do so with a smile! Impatience can also show through your tone or by interrupting the student. I know we all try not to do these things, but I know I sometimes FEEL impatient, and so it can take some intentional work to make sure this doesn’t SHOW to my student.
  • Be encouraging.  Parents  LOVE supplementary rewards. No, they are not required by contract. Yes, parents like them. Parents dislike it when a teacher doesn’t use them. This
  • Change it up. Besides always using a secondary reward system, parents appreciate a variety of feedback. Change it up –
    • Good job!
    • Perfect!
    • Way to go!
    • High Five!
    • Awesome!
    • Yay!

Pro tip: if your encouragement is working, your student should be responding! If they aren’t, it’s time to find another way!

Whatever your 5-apple rating is – don’t worry.  Your feedback rating is just one of many things that factor into your overall success. Hopefully you found this helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

If you are just getting started and would like someone to help walk you through the hiring process, I suggest starting here, and I’d be happy to help you along the way: Completing the VIPKid Application.

Good luck!

 

 

Getting Bookings with VIPKid

The more students who CAN book you, the more students WILL book you!

So you’ve made it! You’ve been hired as a teacher with VIPKid. Now all that remains is getting booked!

In 2018, VIPKid reported having 60,000 teachers and 500,000 students. By all reports I’ve heard, that number keeps growing! But with so many teachers to choose from, getting booked is not always immediate!

If you are thinking about applying with VIPKid, I always suggest starting as soon as possible because it WILL take time to build up your student base.  Below are the most common suggestions to help make that happen as quickly as possible.

Review your profile picture.

VIPKid will send you instructions for your profile picture.  They suggest that it be clear and in a professional style. If that’s not working to get you bookings, then try something else! Parents will be scrolling through hundreds of profile pictures, and that will be the first thing that catches their eye. Make sure:

  • You take up most of the frame. The background (even if it’s your amazing classroom) isn’t what the parents are interested in. They are interested in you!
  • Make sure it is well lit. Avoid shadows on your face.
  • Smile. Kids will want a fun teacher who smiles authentically and a lot.
  • Think about the colors that you are using. If you are wearing neutral colors, try something more colorful. If you are wearing patterns, try a solid color.
  • Consider adding something to make you stand out. While the main focus of the picture is you, you can add something to make you different. Maybe you’re holding a prop or a pet. Maybe you are in an active teaching pose. Find something that will catch a parent’s eye.

Review your featured photos and intro video.

Many of the same guidelines as above will apply, but you do have a little more flexibility to make these fun and personal! I have three important pieces of feedback here.

  • Make a video and use pictures that are fun for you! They don’t have to be the type of things that will go viral. We aren’t all you tube stars! Just have fun with them, and that will shine through!
  • Take one of the VIPKid workshops about “marketing yourself.” These are led by veteran VIPKid teachers and mentors, and they can give you great feedback on how to spruce up your profile to appeal to parents.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try again! You aren’t committing to use the same pictures and videos forever! If you aren’t getting bookings, try something else!

Take workshops.

VIPKid offers a robust list of workshops like the one I mentioned above. There is a workshop for anything you might need help with!

As a new teacher, the very first one you should sign up for is the New Teacher Kickoff Workshop. It is usually the first one linked under the “Library–>Workshop Schedule” menu in the teacher portal.

new teacher kickoff

That will be a great introductory session and they will introduce a roadmap of other helpful workshops to help you get your feet wet.

Teachers also often speculate that learning partners get lists of teachers who attend workshops and might be more inclined to recommend them. I can’t confirm or deny this, but it certainly can’t hurt to take them!

Another good workshop that’s targeted specifically to getting bookings is called “Marketing Yourself.” This is offered several times per month and you can get live tips from the pros.

Add Certifications

You saw above the massive number of students reported by VIPKid in 2018, and these numbers are growing by the day! It makes sense that the more students you are qualified to teach, the more bookings you can get.

Depending on when you were hired, you may have one or two certifications already.  With the 2019 VIPKid Application and Interview Process (Updated March 2019) most new teachers will be certified to teach either “lower level” (Interactive Level 2 + Level 3) or “upper level” (Levels 4 and 5.) When I was hired, 60% of students were in level 2, and shortly thereafter they began being converted to Interactive Level 2. So if you started with the upper levels, a great way to get added potential students is by certifying for the lower level classes.

Trial Classes are another great way to increase your bookings. Many times, parents sign up for trial classes at the last minute, so more tenured teachers are less likely to be available. As an added bonus, trial students can often turn into regulars!

If you meet the requirements, Level 1 is growing by leaps and bounds, so if you have taught the minimum number of classes and there are vacancies available, this would be  a good option.

The more students who CAN book you, the more students WILL book you!

Open Short Notice Bookings.

I know this is scary, especially for new VIPKid teachers. But if you are a parent, you know how hectic life can get. Often, parents need to schedule last minute classes because that’s when their kiddo is available. When this happens, their regular teacher may not be available, so they will be more likely to give a new teacher a try. (Plus, lots of trials are booked as short notice too!) Don’t be afraid of short notice. My very first student was short notice, and she is now my most regular. If you’re still nervous, check out VIPKid Short Notice 24-hour Bookings for more information.

Don’t give up!

This is the most important advice I have. No two teachers alike, and everyone has a different experience. For some teachers, it takes days to get bookings. For others it takes months. If you try something and it doesn’t work, then don’t be afraid to try something else.  Ask your mentor for help. They can help review your information or perhaps even recommend you to others if they have a good parent network!

The students will come, and by following the tips above, you’ll be ready to support them in the very best way possible.  If you have tips of your own, or questions about anything you’ve read here today, let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

 

VIPKid – When Teaching is “A Lot”

This morning, I sit surrounded by props. Don’t get me wrong, I always love to use props; however, this morning there is an exceptionally large number of them. I have toys and magnets. I have every objective sentence and word printed out. I have google slides plus a third reward system. I have teaching aids. Why so many props?

I’m waiting for my first student of the day, and I need to be ready for anything!

This young man is smart. He can read well, but as my husband sometimes says when describing his younger self… “He is a lot.”

My first lesson with this young man culminated in him scribbling out the pages so I couldn’t see anything.  When I disabled his mouse, he wrote in the chatroom “NONONONONO” for the rest of the class. He did participate, but it was distracting to say the least!

My second class, I was ready. I had something printed for every slide, so young man – scribble away!  He wasn’t going to make it that easy on me though. In that class, he picked a word and just kept shouting it.  “Bike! Bike! Bike!” Obviously, I couldn’t stay on the bike slide the entire lesson, so I did the only thing I could think of doing.  I shouted back the next word “Car! Car! Car! Car!”  By some small miracle, he started repeating that! We went through most of the remaining lesson this way, and the only downside was my husband (asleep downstairs) waking up to a resounding chorus of “Round! Oval! Round! Oval!”

So why do I share this story today? I supposed it’s just to say “hang in there.” Not every student will respond in the same way. Sometimes, personalities will clash, or a student needs a much different level of engagement. And it’s ok.

I’ve been teaching for 77 days, and in that time I’ve taught 55 different students in over 100 classes. I’ve been amazed at how easy it’s been to connect with most of them, and so this is a challenge, and one I’ll willingly accept. And if you are paired with a student that you’re struggling to reach, check out the VIPKid workshop schedule.  There are likely to be workshops that address the exact challenges you’re having.

Of course, if I can be of any assistance, please let me know. If you are already a VIPKid teacher, feel free to message me here.

If you are looking for a mentor and someone to help you get hired at VIPKid, I’d be happy to help. Here’s my referral link.

I sometimes like to think that this boy could grow up to be as successful as my husband is. At some point, my husband learned to channel his energy and uses it to work for him. If I can help in one small way to teach this boy to do the same, I would be honored.

Happy teaching!

props galore