Four Steps to a Fantastic First Class!

Grab your headset, put on a smile, and get ready to start this amazing journey!

You have made it through the hiring process. You have opened up your schedule to get VIPKid bookings. You’ve done all the normal prep work. And it worked!  You’ve been booked! If you are like me, there will be a point of panic when you realize that you will be talking to a little human across the world in just a few hours, and everything you learned during the hiring process has disappeared from your mind!

Don’t worry. That feeling is normal, and it won’t last long. Below are four simple steps that will help ensure a fantastic first class!

Award all five stars during class.

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, check out this post that outlines the Types of VIPKid Rewards.

For some reason, many new teachers don’t know about stars, so let’s get that out on the table. There are many different ways and styles of rewarding stars, but to get off on the right foot, make sure you give them out.

Review the lesson materials in advance.

Before my first class, I was trying to find a way to print out the lessons and make notes on each slide. That’s not necessary. But it IS important that you review the lesson (maybe even a few times.)  You can review it in the teacher portal by clicking on “materials” or even on your phone app.  As you review it, be thinking about the following things:

  • Objectives: What are the primary goals for this lesson. If a student is struggling or you are running out of time, you want to allow the most time for the activities directly related to the objectives.
  • Songs: Are you familiar with the tunes for the welcome and goodbye song? (If you’re not a singer, don’t worry. Even songs I know by heart are usually unrecognizable for me, and the kids are very forgiving!) But it does help if you know what the song is supposed to sound like!
  • Teacher Tips: Read the teacher tips that are usually above the slides (or occasionally printed on the bottom.) These give you instructions on what to do on each slide. They are difficult to read during class and will take your eyes away from your student, so it’s better to review them in advance.
  • Reward: Will you be using the built in reward? Do you want to bring your own?
  • Props: What types of props will you find helpful? I generally make a list (and I keep them in my Feedback Panda templates, but for your first few lessons, just jot them down on a notecard or a piece of paper.
  • Pronunciation and Grammar: Do you know the correct way to do everything in the lesson? I know this sounds crazy, but for me, my phonics were pretty rusty. And I screw up present progressive verbs EVERY SINGLE TIME. So be sure you brush up on how to correctly complete the activities in the lesson!

Review the student info.

Just like the lesson materials, this can be found in the teacher app or also the phone app. It will show you how old the student is, how many classes they have taken, and (sometimes) tips that other teachers have left. I will warn you – take the tips with a grain of salt. Some teachers leave lengthy, personalized tips, some leave none, and some copy and paste what they send to the parent. And remember that every teacher/student combination is different. My very first student had very negative comments left about her. I was terrified. But she has ended up being my most regular student since that time. Just because a student didn’t mesh well with another teacher does not mean they won’t become your favorite student! You can also sometimes glean hints about what the student enjoys so that might help you plan out your rewards!

Have fun.

BY FAR, this is the most important advice I can share with you for your first class. I vividly remember sitting in front of my laptop at 5 am, TERRIFIED. But once I got into the lesson, I realized how fun this was going to be, and nothing else mattered. Remember, if you have fun in class, your student will too. If you want a chuckle, you can read my account of my first class here: My First VIPKid Class.

So grab your headset, put on a smile, and get ready to start this amazing journey! If you have other questions that I can help with, please let me know in the comments! If you haven’t yet applied for VIPKid and you’re looking for a mentor, I’d be happy to help get you to this point. You can start by applying here using my referral link.

Happy teaching!

 

Photo by GiselaFotografie

The Prop Report #2 – Joyin Animal Friends Hand Puppets

This prop set is an absolute yes – for the ESL classroom or just for fun.

 

Introduction:

Welcome to the second installment of a new series: The Prop Report. In this series, I plan to share my favorite 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:

Animal Friends Deluxe Kids Hand Puppets with Working Mouth (Pack of 6) for Imaginative Play

Manufacturer:

JOYIN

Recommended for ESL classroom?

Totally! I use these all the time!

Recommended for hands on learning?

Yes! I think that young kids would have a great time putting on puppet shows with these.

Pros:

This set of puppets comes with six different animals, so you have a variety to choose from. My favorite feature is the hard, moveable mouths (in all of them but the elephant.) I also love that you can position your thumb and pinky in the arms and move their arms. (Be sure to check out the video for the famous dabbing raccoon.) The sleeve of the puppet goes far enough down your wrist that you don’t have to be extremely careful about showing your arm and ruining the “magic” on camera. These puppets are large enough (especially the elephant and monkey) that they are comfortable on your hand. I also really like that they are substantial enough that you don’t have to use them as a puppet.  You could actually hold them just like a plush stuffed animal.

Did I mention the moveable mouths? Kids like nothing more than to see an animal “eat” one of their stars or even bite their teacher!

Cons:

Not all of the animals are commonly found in VIPKid lessons, though they might be in other ESL company powerpoints or perhaps even other lessons. If you are a prop minimalist, it might be overkill to have six puppets, especially if all you want to use them for is an icebreaker.

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here: Super Cool YouTube Video

roar

In summary:

This prop set is an absolute yes – for the ESL classroom or just for fun.

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

 

JOYIN Animal Friends Deluxe Kids Hand Puppets with Working Mouth (Pack of 6) for Imaginative Play

VIPKid – Teaching on the Road

My VIPKid journey has been filled with milestones. In fact, we earn different badges to celebrate the big ones. So far, after 1.5 contracts, I’ve earned a few:

  • 30/100/180 days as a teacher
  • 1st, 10th, 100th, and 500th classes taught
  • 1st, 50th, and 100th 5-apple ratings
  • 100th student taught

This morning I celebrated my own personal milestone: teaching my first class remotely. One of the most amazing benefits of teaching with VIPKid is the ability to teach from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Up until now, I just haven’t taken advantage of this.

My husband needed to come to New Orleans to renew his passport, so I tagged along for the ride. I actually closed my early morning times so I could sleep in, but I have my normal Monday morning 7am class (Rosie) who books like clockwork several weeks in advance. Today she had a mid-unit assessment scheduled, so we took the show on the road.

It just so happened that this was a very easy lesson for props. What did I bring? One ziplock bag that included:

  • My mini-whiteboard and a magnetic marker
  • Uno cards
  • He/She/It magnets

Because I was teaching a student I was very familiar with, I did not hang a special background. I sat in front of a blank wall with a picture on it. I was in front of a large window that offered plenty of light, plus I dragged a lamp nearby.

The results? An easy, effective class.

If you are thinking of taking your own classroom on the road, here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider using digital props and rewards. Google Slides is a great option for both, although there are other options available.
  2. Create a grab bag of versatile props that you can grab and take with you. I would suggest:
      A small, magnetic whiteboard and marker
      Magnetic stars that can attach to the whiteboard
      A small pronoun chart or print outs of pronouns
      Flash Cards (ABC’s, animals, numbers/math, and shapes)
      Key characters (Meg, Mike, Dino, and maybe the level 1 characters if you teach it)
      A simple backdrop (This could be a shower curtain, a blanket, or even a colorful gift bag that could be hung from the wall.)
      Some external, battery powered lighting (just in case.)
  1. Have fun! Just like with your classroom at home, if you are engaged and enjoying class, your students will too!

I also let Rosie’s mom know in advance I would be on the road so she wasn’t surprised. When I got set up, I sent her a picture of the day’s “classroom” on WeChat. After class, I got the sweet message below from her.

So, even though this isn’t a milestone “officially” with VIPKid, I consider this morning a success.

Have you taught successfully from the road? What’s your go-to list of traveling props? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! If you would like to keep up with my future trips I’ve started a dedicated feed on my instagram. I hope you will check it out!

If you are looking for an opportunity to have a job where you can travel as well, I’d love to help you get started with VIPKid. The first step is to apply. You can get a preview of all of the steps in the process here: VIPKid Application and Interview Process (Updated May 27, 2019). I would be happy to help you through the process. Just let me know!

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

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!!)

shopping cart.png

 

 

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. 🙂

Using WeChat

I only give my ID to regular students. I trust them, and I trust their parents.

What is WeChat?

WeChat is one form of Chinese social media. According to Intern China,WeChat is the biggest social media platform in China with over 963 million users each month. In my experience, it is used as a cross between Facebook messenger and Twitter.

  • Moments: People on WeChat have “Moments” that are publicly posted. They can be pictures, written updates, or videos that are less than 15 seconds.
  • Chats: People on WeChat can send private messages, or chats, to others in their address books.
  • Other Features: It can also be used to follow businesses, identify people nearby, place calls, or even send money. I don’t personally use it for these features, but they are available.

How do you download WeChat?

WeChat is available in the app store for iPhones or in the Google Play store for Android.

How do you use WeChat?

  1. Once you have downloaded the app, open it and click “sign up.”
  2. Select a name. (Some teachers suggest not to use your last name.)
  3. Choose what region you live in.
  4. Type your phone number into the field.
  5. Set a password, and click “sign up.”

How do you find and add contacts?

If you are interested in communicating with your students and their parents, there are two ways that most people let parents know they are on WeChat.

  • Feedback: I have a signature that I copy and paste when I send feedback to my regulars or send feedback to a learning partner.
  • Screenshot: We know not all parents read our feedback, so another option is to hold your QR code up during class. Please note, VIPKid discourages the use of WeChat, so I prefer not using class time to do this.

If you are interested in communicating with other teachers, I would recommend finding other WeChat users in the Facebook group VIPKid: Using Chinese Social Media.

How do you add a contact in WeChat?

There are two ways you can add a contact.

  • Username/Phone Number: From the contacts screen, click the plus sign in the upper right hand corner. Then type in the user’s WeChat ID in the search bar at the top. Please note, this may not be the teacher’s name as it’s displayed! For example, mine is AmeliaBarker (with no space) but it’s displayed as “Amelia Barker.”
  • QR Code: From the contacts screen, click the plus sign in the corner. Then choose “Scan QR Code. Scan and then add!

How can you use WeChat to grow your business?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really tried to use it this way, so I’d love to hear your ideas! Normally, because I’m communicating with existing students, there is less opportunity for this.  However, here are two examples that I recently posted that could result in additional business.

Trial Classes: Maybe your regular students are sharing VIPKid with their friends. I recently posted that I was certified in the new Trial 3.0 Plus classes, so they could recommend me to their friends!

7df0fd1bd9073ae322a7a01b13c3a7f1

Supplementary Classes: If you have new or unique certifications for supplementary classes, let your students know! Maybe that will be the encouragement they need to try them out!

15b8c19ed5fa812c0d036b1ad9f73a36

How can you use WeChat to enrich your relationships with your students or their families?

This is where I personally find the most value in WeChat. I only give my ID to regular students. I trust them, and I trust their parents. I have one student who is a very mature 11-year old that I have also added. (She was my very first student.) I have used WeChat to:

  • Send additional praise or homework for a student.
  • Remind parents to have their student bring their UA homework to class.
  • Ask a student or their parents if they are coming to a student no-show. (Even if they say no, you still have to stay until the fireman marks the class as finished.)
  • See more about the student’s interests to help choose rewards.
  • Find ice breaker questions. (Do you have a cat? — yes because I saw its picture!)
  • Share custom rewards or pictures (My favorite!) Check out an example of what I did this last week in this blog post!

I hope you found this overview helpful. If you have suggestions, tips or questions, let me know in the comments. If you would like to see all of the content I’ve posted on WeChat, you can check it out on Pinterest.