The Prop Report

I thought I would begin sharing my product reviews about what does (or doesn’t) work well in my classroom.

I don’t love to shop. I am not especially good at it, and I don’t like it when I order something that isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

That said, I do enjoy having fun (and practical) things in my classroom!

From this foundation, the Prop Report was born. Occasionally, I thought I would begin sharing my product reviews about what does (or doesn’t) work well in my classroom.

But first- a few disclaimers.

  1. If I provide a link to a product, it will be a labeled affiliate link. (hopefully. If I can figure out how to do it!) My goal is not to get rich quick, but if you do happen to use my link to get a great product, I will get a small payout. Yay!
  2. I am not turning this into a product blog. Most of what I write about will be teaching. When I do throw in a product, I will label it clearly so you can skip over it if you’re not into those posts!
  3. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEND MONEY TO BE A GOOD ONLINE TEACHER! I use cute props and backgrounds and rewards because they make me happy. But there are plenty of prop minimalists who do amazing things in their classrooms. I don’t ever want one of my recommendations to be perceived as “necessary.” It’s not.

I will try to keep a list of companies that I have an affiliation with. So far, it’s just:

  • Amazon.com

(but do you really need more than that!?!)

I hope you find this helpful. If you have questions about any of the products that I talk about, or if you have questions about other products that I might like to try, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching! (and shopping!!)

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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and VIPKid Class…

If you are like me, two things are true:

  1. You will be shopping for stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve.
  2. You will want to steal your kids’ toys for your classroom.

If so, I have the perfect solution for both of these things … Uno cards!

Uno cards are one of the most versatile props that I use in my classroom. I was first inspired when we had a couple of French foreign exchange students stay with us for two weeks when my kids were in middle school. They could quickly and easily relate to colors and numbers, so it was one of the first games we played.

Below, I’ve included a short video that shows how I use Uno cards in my classroom, but here is a quick summary:

  1. Colors and Numbers: This is the obvious use for these. You can quickly and easily hold Uno cards up to reinforce either colors, numbers, or both. You can pair them to go up through the double-digit numbers as well!
  2. “Only”: That was today’s lesson. Make your own combinations to show the “only” red card or the “only” 2.
  3. Equal/Not Equal: 3=3. Enough said.
  4. Greater Than/Less Than: 3<5. 3>1. Of course, be careful that if you add a greater than or less than sign when you hold up your cards that it points the right way!
  5. Same/Different: This is similar to “only.” For the most basic example, you could hold up two red threes, and say “same.” As the lessons/students become more advanced, you could have conversations about how a red three and a blue three are the same and how they are different.
  6. Before/After: This could be in a math lesson or in a calendar/days of the month lesson.
  7. UA Levels: Use this as part of a secondary reward system to acknowledge when a student moves from one level to the next.
  8. UA Projects: Use them to let the students know that they are in lesson 5 (Hold up the #5) today, and that their homework (project) is due in lesson 12 (Hold up the 1 and 2.)

Feel free to check out this video to see how I use my cards in action. The possibilities are endless!  How else would you use Uno cards in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below!

Now…off to do my own last minute shopping!

thumbnail uno

VIPKid Prop Ideas – “My Feelings” Demo Class

“Even as a child, I didn’t want to pretend. If I was going to have a tea party, there had better be tea.  Because of this, I use props every chance I get.”

I love props. Even as a child, I didn’t want to pretend. If I was going to have a tea party, there had better be tea.  Because of this, I use props every chance I get. If you aren’t sure where to start, I thought I’d provide a few options for different props that you might want to use during your “My Feelings” demo class.  You do not need to use all of these ideas, of course! You should have at least two different types of props that you use, but choose based on what suits your style and helps you communicate your lesson!

It’s important to remember that the props are not the most important part of the lesson here. Be sure you are familiar with the Teacher Applicant Performance Indicator. There are 24 distinct areas in which you are measured, and supplementary tools is only one of them. Props can also help affect rapport and energy level, but if you focus TOO much on the props, it can adversely affect your efficient pacing and timing or pull you off track from your lesson objectives.

Pick props that help you teach. Pick props that you can have fun with, and that you think a child will like. And then enjoy!

Slide One: Welcome Page

This is the page I would have up during the interview; it’s not a part of the lesson. No props needed.

Slide Two: Objectives

No props needed here. You should not review this slide with your student. Use the page number navigation box at the bottom of the page to skip straight to slide four.

Slide Three: My Feelings

I don’t think this counts as a prop, but I would suggest having your name “Teacher Amelia” displayed somewhere prominently on your wall. It could be

  • Drawn on a whiteboard
  • Printed on paper
  • Spelled out in toy blocks

Slide Four: Reward System

You definitely want to have your reward system present physically in the room. Here are a few options:

  • Print out the actual “Reward System” slide and:
    • Draw bananas in the squares as rewards
    • Print copies of the little monkey holding the banana over his head and tape them in the squares
    • Print other copies of bananas and tape them in the squares
  • Print a picture of a monkey and pictures of bananas, and tape the bananas around the monkey
  • Use a monkey stuffed animal and tape or velcro bananas to him
  • Use a bunch of real bananas and pull one off the bunch each time there’s a reward

Slide Five: Warm Up

Since this is a poem, not a song, I probably wouldn’t use any props here. What’s most important in this slide is using TPR, so you don’t want your hands tied up with something else.

Slide 6: Find the Sound

I would start with having the letter “M.” This could be:

  • A magnetic letter you hold up to the camera
  • “M” written on a small whiteboard
  • “M” on a building block
  • “M” drawn on a piece of paper or printed from the internet

You could also have physical items for the monkey and mouse (the correct answers.) I might only use these if the student struggled, which they shouldn’t since it’s a review. If you want to have them handy, you can print these pictures from the powerpoint and:

  • Simply hold them up
  • Laminate them
  • Laminate them and attach them to a stick/toothpick

If you happen to have mouse or monkey toys around, you could use those (but I wouldn’t go and buy them.)

Slide 7: Blending Sound

For this, I would have a prop available. This might include:

  • A small whiteboard where you can write the phonics blends
  • Magnetic letters (my favorite!)
  • Printed/laminated page with phonics and/or blanks to fill in

Slide 8: I have many feelings.

This slide is ripe for props. Options include:

  • Printed emojis (I opted for the style that’s on most phones since they are easily recognizable.)
  • Smiley/frowney faces on sticks/toothpicks
  • Puppets or dolls (only if they have clear expressions that align with the emotions.)
  • A face that you can draw on (on a whiteboard or laminated page) to draw different emotions
  • Printed photographs that clearly show the different emotions

Slide 9: Meet Dino and Lily

I personally probably wouldn’t use props with this slide, but you could if you wanted to.

  • If you happen to have a stuffed Dino lying around (ha!) that would be fun to use.
  • You could print pictures of Dino and Lily and put them on sticks/toothpicks (or just hold them up) in the camera for their speaking parts.
  • You can keep your props from the last slide handy so if your “student” struggles with the word “angry” or “happy” you can remind them with the same prop.

Slide 10: Shoot the Ball

Because this is an activity, I would recommend having some kind of goofy prop available. You want to get the kid excited that it’s “Activity Time!!”

Use your creativity here! Ideas I’ve seen include:

  • Funny hats
  • Headbands with crazy things on them
  • Musical instruments
  • A stuffed animal or puppet with a crazy voice
  • Lighting – wouldn’t it be fun to turn on a disco ball in your classroom?
  • A basketball, either real or a small one, that you can “whoosh” when they draw a correct line to the basketball goal

Really, the only point here is to amp up the energy for the activity.

Slide 11 – Goodbye

You’re done! No need for props here!

Props are as individual as we are. I hope these ideas have served to inspire you, but I encourage you to use what makes you comfortable in the classroom.

If you have ideas for other props, leave them in the comments here! If you would like feedback on your own props and are looking for someone to help you through the process, I would be honored to be your mentor. My referral link is here!

If you’re not sure what to expect with a mentor, you can get a little more information in my blog post and video What’s a VIPKid referral anyway?

Good luck with your demo, and happy teaching!

Class Prep: VIPKid Courses & Mock Class

I am a planner. I like nothing more than a color coded calendar with every hour neatly catalogued. So for me, it was important that I understand early how to prepare for a class.

Whether you are preparing for your interview, a mock class, or a regular class, the steps are basically the same.

  1. Review the objectives.
  2. Review the slides.
  3. Review key skills.
  4. Learn about your student.
  5. Prepare a list of props or realia.
  6. Practice.

To help get you started, let’s look at each of these individually.

  • Review the objectives. If you do nothing else in preparing for a lesson, be sure you review the objectives. These will tell you what your child needs to learn. If you are teaching the letter “a” there might be a picture of an apple on the page, but that could be just to demonstrate the letter sound. It’s not important that the student remember the word apple, nor is it important they know that an apple is red. If you are doing a lesson on food, learning about the apple might be an important part of the lesson. So read your objectives. Your interviewer and mock class mentor will be watching for this, and it will directly affect the results of your real students later.
  • Review the slides. You will want to scroll through the slides enough that you are comfortable with them. For new teachers, this could take several times. If you’ve taught for a while or done this lesson before, a quick once-over might be sufficient. You will not be effective in class if you are trying to squint and read instructions on each page during your interview or class.
  • Review key skills. This is extremely important, especially if you are not a current ESL or lower elementary teacher. If you are teaching a letter, be sure you know the correct sound the letter makes. Be sure you know the standard letter motion movements. You need to be sure you know how your mouth (and your student’s) should look when they make the letter sound. You might think that “Everyone knows how to say ‘R'” but if you aren’t prepared to correct a “ruh” to an “rrrrr” you will be in trouble. If you are interviewing, your mentor is sure to mispronounce something to test you. With real students, missing timely error correction can build bad habits and result in poor feedback from parents.
  • Learn about your student. In a mock class, VIPKid will provide some basic information about your student. They will provide their age and some prior vocabulary. Score bonus points if you can work some of these into your lesson, since it shows you are prepared! In a real class, there is a “Student Details” section. There you can learn the name and age of your student, the number of classes they have taken with VIPKid, their ratings on the last lesson, and feedback from prior teachers. This can help you adjust to their personal style in the classroom, so pay attention!
  • Prepare a list of props or realia. I love props! When you are interviewing, you will need to make sure to use at least two different types of props or realia. For example, if you are teaching the letter “P” you could choose two or more of any of the following types of props: a magnetic letter, a whiteboard, printed/laminated letters or pictures, blocks with letters, stuffed animals or toys that start with “p” (panda, puppy, pig.) I’m sure you could come up with many other ideas, but be sure you have and use at least two different types.
  • Practice. As you are getting started and preparing for your interview, practice is the most important thing you can do. Practice your TPR in the shower. Practice with your family. Practice on video on your computer. Practice with your dog. You cannot practice too much. Once you are hired and have taught several classes, practice becomes less important than the rest of the preparation since much of the TPR and slide work will be familiar to you.

The more classes you teach, the faster you can move through these steps. Today, I spend between 5-15 minutes preparing for each class, whereas I spent several hours preparing for my initial interview and mock class.

If you have questions about how I prepare or have tips of your own you would like to share, let me know in the comments below! If you are ready to join VIPKid and apply, feel free to use me as a referral and I will help in any way I can!

Classroom Basics – Set up a VIPKid Classroom Without Breaking the Bank!

When I was interviewing and preparing for my mock class, I wanted to rush out and buy every teacher prop available. I love buying school supplies under normal circumstances, so with the idea of a “new classroom” in my mind, I was almost unstoppable!  However, I’m happy to report that I did not break the bank and was able to show some restraint.

If you are just getting started, there’s no need to spend a fortune in props and classroom decorations. Below are my top picks for things to get your classroom started.

Things You Already Have

  • Tape. Yes, just regular scotch tape. If you have some favorite reward systems, you can later invest in magnets, velcro, or some other adhesive, but for just starting out, tape works just fine. I use tape to decorate my walls and whiteboard, and I use it in virtually every reward system I prepare. It’s easy to use, and you probably already have a roll in your junk drawer!
  • Musical Item(s). Yes, I know that it’s vague. But this can be literally ANY musical item. If you can plan an instrument, that’s great. I can’t even read music, much less play an instrument, so an old kid’s harmonica is what I use. Before I start singing a song, I play a few discordant notes on the harmonica to get my student’s attention and set the stage for the song. A toy xylophone, kiddie piano, a pair of drumsticks, a kazoo, or even a whistle would probably work.  Just find something you’ll enjoy and get to playing!
  • Toys. On the subject of toys and fun, dig out some of your favorite old toys or game pieces. I have used stuffed animals, toy cars, card games, dice, and even a dog toy in my lessons. Be creative! If you are having fun, the kids will too.

You will be amazed at how many household items you will find that you can use in class. However, there will be a few things that are worth purchasing.

Things to Buy

  • Magnetic Letters.  These are inexpensive and versatile. They can be used for beginners when learning letters and letter sounds. They can be used in phonics practice for more advanced students. They can be used to customize your classroom decorations or help with verb conjugation. The possibilities are endless! You could probably get by with one set of capital letters, and two sets of lower case letters.
  • Small Whiteboard.  I picked one up for around $5.00 I think, and I use it all the time. I use it along with my magnetic letters, and I use it to write examples. It can be used to correct pronunciation (b vs buh) and to draw reward systems. This is one of my go-to items in the classroom.
  • Something You Love. I have to confess. I did make a major splurge recently, but in all honesty, I would have bought these with or without a classroom! I came across a few finger puppets that were custom made from Chicago artist Dan Crowley.  I absolutely adore all of his work, and so I purchased two puppets, a sun and a moon. I’ve had the chance to use them when teaching about the weather and “good morning” but really, I just love looking at them! (But they do look FANTASTIC over video in the classroom!) While I try to be frugal, if you find something that you just love, it’s ok to buy it. Why? Because if you are excited, your students will be too. And I love anything that helps my students love learning.

Bonus Buy

  • A Laminator. I’m not sure why, but I already had a laminator. However, if you are hired, you can invest in a decent home laminator for $25-$35, and the plastic sheets cost about $11 online from Amazon. I use my laminator all the time, from making reward systems to decorating my classroom. I print, laminate, and attach pictures of animals to those pointy kitchen skewers I hate to cook with, and voila – instant puppet. If you don’t have a whiteboard, you can also use a laminated piece of paper as a makeshift whiteboard. I probably wouldn’t purchase a laminator just for the interview process, but if you are looking for a way you can start building up re-usable supplies for your classroom, this is a good place to start.

If you’d like to see more about the basics I use, I put together a quick video that shows these items in my classroom. As always, if you print pictures off the Internet, make sure you have permission to use the image.

Good luck setting up your classroom. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me.

Of course if you are ready to get started with VIPKid and are looking for a mentor, feel free to reach out and use my referral link.

person holding pink piggy coin bank
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Trick or Treat? Halloween Rewards for VIPKid!

Halloween is in the air, and I take every opportunity to celebrate. I thought I would share with you four ideas for easy Halloween reward systems. I have two for beginners and younger students and two that are a little more complex.

  • Spooky Spiders: Based on the reactions from my students, the favorite so far has been spiders. Everyone has a reaction and you can do fun TPR with anything creepy crawly! I printed out four different colors of spiders (great for extending) plus one big spider with a silly face. I drew a spider web on my whiteboard and tape the spiders on the board when my student does a good job.

spooky spiders

  • Jack-o-Lantern: For this one, you simply draw a face on a laminated pumpkin picture. This is especially helpful if your lesson has to do with parts of the face or emotions. To get the kids involved, you can ask them if they want to make a happy pumpkin or a sad pumpkin. (When I first used this, I had cut out face parts but I found that it was just as easy to draw them!)

jack-o-lantern

  • Haunted House: This one took a little more preparation. I printed and laminated a free printable haunted house coloring book page. (I chose one that had five windows/doors.) I then printed and laminated smaller Halloween pictures and a yellow sheet of paper. I cut out three sides of each window/door and put the small pictures behind the windows. When my student does a good job, they get to “open” a window. For added extension, number each window and door and let the student choose a number.

haunted house

  • Build-a-Costume: This is my favorite one, but it’s more appropriate for older kids. This is inspired by the old “paper dolls” of days gone by. I found a picture of a girl and printed that, along with different parts of a costume. For modesty, I started her out with jeans and a Halloween tank top, and then layer other pieces over that. This is fun because kids can choose what they want her to wear (socks, pants, dress, etc.) This is great if you have a lesson on clothing or colors.

Build a Costume

For all of these, always be sure if you are printing images off the internet that they are free stock photos or that you have permission to use them.

If you would like to see these in action, you can check out my You Tube debut to watch a short video that shows these reward systems in action.

Halloween is a great opportunity to share a little slice of our culture with our students, so have fun with it!

If you have other Halloween rewards that have worked well, tell me about them in the comments! If you have questions or I can help in any way, let me know! As always, if you are ready to apply, I would love for you to use my referral link and let me help you through the process! Happy Halloween!

close up photo of halloween decors
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

VIPKid Short Notice 24-hour Bookings

From my very first class, I realized that short notice bookings were an important tool for my VIPKid growth. At the same time, they were one of my biggest fears. Below are the basics about short notice classes, how to deal with them, and how they can help you.

What is a short notice class?

When you log in to update your availability and open time slots to teach, you have the option to allow short-notice bookings. This means that a parent can book a class anywhere from 24 hours to 1 hour before the class start time. (If you don’t select this option, the time slots expire 24 hours before the class start time.)

It’s been my experience that most short notice bookings come in overnight. I go to bed, and when I wake up the next morning, a class has been booked! Some of these classes are trial classes, and perhaps parents decide at the last minute to try it out. Sometimes these are regular major courses, and perhaps schedules have changed so the parents need to make a last minute adjustment.

What are the benefits of short notice classes?

  • Experience: As a new teacher, you need experience to teach. The more available you are, the more likely you are to get bookings.
  • Flexibility: The more short notice classes you teach, the more comfortable you’ll be in quick lesson preparation. This could lead to other opportunities such as substitute teaching.
  • Money: All courses booked within 24 hrs will earn an extra $2 as a short notice bonus. If you teach several short notice classes in a week, that can add up fast!

I’m convinced. How do I open my classes up for short notice booking?

The process to allow short notice booking is simple.

  • If you are using the VIPKid Teacher app, once you use the slide button to open the slot, touch the “24H” button to turn it blue. In the screenshot below, the 5:00 am timeslot is NOT available as a short notice booking but the 5:30 am timeslot is.

mobile app booking slots

  • If you are using the VIPKid Teacher Client/PC App or the VIPKid Teacher’s Portal in a web browser, when you click on the timeslot to book it, first check “Course” and then change the bottom option from “Available” to “Short Notice.”

screenshot - booking timeslots

How can I prepare for a short notice class? 

As a new teacher, this was my biggest concern. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job without adequate preparation time. As I gained experience, I found there are a few key preparation steps that make short notice classes easy.

  • Have a small stable of key props. You can almost always use Meg and Mike, dino, and numbers. If you have a set of magnetic letters handy, these can be used in any of the sound blending and phonics activities. I keep a harmonica handy that I use to open any song (I just play random notes!) and I keep a trophy nearby that I show them when they win a game. (This has gotten more than one “WOW!” from students. While it’s great to have super-customized props for each and every lesson, they aren’t necessary.
  • Have a few different secondary reward systems at your fingertips. An easy one that I’ve used several times is alphabet blocks. My kids’ real blocks are long gone, so I printed and laminated some pictures of blocks, but either would work. Before the class, pull out the letters that spell your student’s name, and each time they do a good job, they spell one letter of their name. This personalization makes it seem like you are prepared with a custom lesson, but only takes a minute. I also had balloons blown up for my “birthday” class, and I didn’t want to waste my breath (literally!) I’ve used the balloons as a secondary reward system for several students, and they’ve stayed inflated for several weeks.
  • Download the teacher app to your phone. You can quickly and easily flip through the slides on your phone while you dry your hair, get dressed, etc. (You can also flip ahead while in the lesson with your student.) Using the app also lets you quickly scan teacher feedback to see what works well and what reward systems have been used recently with the student. Even a cursory review of the student and lesson can ensure you are able to be effective and meet the objectives for the class.

If you still have questions, here is a link to more information on short notice classes from VIPKid. As always, feel free to ask me questions in the comments or by contacting me here. I would love to help you in your VIPKid journey. If you haven’t yet signed up, feel free to use my referral link and I will help you in any way I can!