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 “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. 🙂

Attending a VIPKid Meetup

There’s just something about being able to have a live, face-to-face conversation with someone!

VIPKid has been one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done. And they pay me for it! But let’s face it, people just don’t understand it!  How many times have we heard:

  • Wait, do you speak Chinese?
  • You do it on your computer?
  • You sound like you’re talking to your students again…
  • That better not be another picture of a cute kid!

Even those who are most supportive of us just don’t understand what it’s like to form these bonds with students and their parents across the globe.

Because our students are not in a brick and mortar school, we can’t just pop into the teacher’s lounge when we want to talk to someone.  So where do you go for support, help, or collaboration?

Many of us turn to online communities, which are GREAT.  (I’ll list some of my favorites in an upcoming blog post.) But there’s just something about being able to have a live, face-to-face conversation with someone.

Fortunately, VIPKid realizes this and encourages teachers to participate in local meetups!

What is a meetup?

Straight from the VIPKid suport center, “Meetups are a great way for teachers to gather and share their ideas or teaching experience with one another. Attending one can not only improve your daily routine, but the useful tips and getting to know other teachers will certainly provide a boost to your teaching business that only require a positive outlook and basic social skills!”

How can you find a meetup near you?

VIPKid lists all meetups on their community events page. You can search by city/state or zip code to find a meetup in your area.

What can you do at a meetup?

Anything you want! In all seriousness, every meet up is different. Meetups are hosted by VIPKid teachers, and so they will be different based on personality, location, time of year, and attendees.  I have been to two meetups, and both were fun but very different.

My first meetup was hosted by Teacher Beth. It was hosted at a Mexican restaurant and we ate dinner. The atmosphere was informal, and it gave teachers (and a few prospective teachers) a chance to talk to one another, get to know each other, and share stories about their classes. Of course, there was a swag giveaway, and I won my first Dino!

My second meetup was just this month and hosted by Teacher Kimberly. This one was in a private room at a coffee shop. A few of the same teachers were there, but many new ones. This one included an icebreaker, plus some targeted discussions about tips for new teachers, the Teacher App, the application process, recruiting, and even a demo of Google Slides. Kimberly had made goody bags for all attendees, and –  you guessed it – there was swag! (This time I won a cute dragon Dino and a Dino-topped pencil!)

Both of the meetups resulted in new, local friendships and a lot of fun.

A few common themes that I’ve seen before include:

  • Prop Swaps: Teachers can bring extra or gently used props they no longer need and trade with others. It’s a great way to get new ideas for props or re-home some of your own!
  • Crafting or Painting Parties: These are fun, and they can serve double duty as classroom decorations after you’re finished.
  • Escape Rooms: I’m planning my first meetup in August, and it will include an escape room. Why? Because they are super fun! It’s also a good chance to work together and teambuild.
  • Meals: Of course, we all have to eat. Why not grab a bite and swap stories at the same time?
  • Family Fun: Theme parks, picnics, bowling, and parks can all make for a family-friendly day where everyone can have fun. Not only can teachers have fun sharing stories, but their kids can commiserate about mom or dad stealing their toys as props, and spouses can share their favorite (or least favorite) VIPKid tales too!
  • Festivals, Museums, or Tours: We all enjoy learning about other cultures. Often, teachers will get together for local Chinese festivals or others. It’s a great chance to learn and have fun with your fellow teachers.

Really, the sky is the limit. The goal is to have fun and enjoy spending time with your fellow teachers (and of course, get some cool new VIPKid swag.)

Can prospective teachers attend a VIPKid meetup?

Absolutely! Just keep in mind that they are designed for existing teachers, so if you are interested in an actual recruiting event or something that is designed for prospective teachers, Coaching Days might be more appropriate.

Like I mentioned, I will be hosting my first meetup in August, so I’d love any tips and tricks. I’ll be sure to blog about it along the way. And if you’re local, I’d love to see you there!

Happy teaching (and meeting!)

dino dragon 2

VIPKid Parents

Our VIPKid parents are the ones sitting just off camera supporting their kids. They make sure the learning continues outside the virtual “walls” of our classroom.

As a VIPKid teacher, we get to see our students for 25 minute blocks of time. Sometimes we see them one time. Sometimes we see them once a week or once a month. Sometimes we see our “regulars” a few times a week. Regardless, it’s safe to say that a great deal of learning continues outside the virtual “walls” of our classroom with the support of our VIPKid parents.

Our students’ parents are the ones sitting just off camera supporting their kids. They are the ones making sure that little Bao Bao has eaten and is sitting down, logged in with his headset on time. They are the ones watching the class from the other room, trying to learn enough themselves to help their son or daughter practice.

You always hear stories of the ones that are overbearing or that offer the wrong corrections. But as a general rule, Bao Bao’s mom and dad are just like us. They want the best for their kiddo and they are doing the best they can with what they have to work with between school, lessons, and all the many commitments we all have.

When I write feedback, I consider it a Virtual Backpack Note.

It’s my opportunity to give feedback on how the student did, but also offer suggestions for how parents can participate more fully in the process. Yes, I use templates. I offer some lesson recap. (And I know some parents don’t like this. In fact, it would drive my husband bonkers. But *my* parents like it.) Most importantly, I offer ways that they can reinforce the lesson outside of class, not with pronunciation practice (since they may not have correct pronunciation) but more with vocabulary or sentence structure practice.

I always make sure to include:

  • Anything the student excelled at – either with pronunciation, grammar, or even participation.
  • Anything the student worked especially hard to master.
  • Anything the student continues to struggle with (and I also include this in teacher to teacher feedback.)
  • Any behavior issues.
  • Suggestions for the parents to practice or help their child.
  • Thank you – either for the opportunity to teach their child, positive feedback on our last class, or both.
  • Next steps – this might include questions that I would like the parent to answer in feedback, or it might be a quick preview of our next class (My next class with Bao Bao is on Friday, and we will be talking about toys, so please have Bao Bao bring his favorite toy to class with him!)

Once you connect with like-minded parents, you can really build a relationship with two-way dialogue. Here are a few of my very favorite feedback messages I’ve received from parents:

 

 

(Click on any picture for a closer view!)

I really believe that I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with any one of these parents, and (language barriers not withstanding) have a GREAT conversation with any of them.

If you are looking for more help with parent feedback, check out:

If you are just getting started and have questions, please let me know in the comments. If you are thinking about applying with VIPKid, be sure to check out Completing the VIPKid Application. And of course, if you are looking for a mentor to help support you through the process, I would be honored to help. You can get more information at What’s a VIPKid referral anyway? or simply sign up with my referral link or by adding my referral code AMELI0055.

I hope you found this helpful. Happy teaching!

VIPKid Support Center

This might be the last of my blog posts you have to read.

I hope you still read them, but I wanted to let you know about one of the best kept VIPKid secrets: The Support Center. It’s true, if people read more in the Support Center, my blog would be obsolete!

If you are looking for an “official” answer about any of VIPKid’s policies and procedures, I would start in the Support Center.

Besides being able to open a ticket, there is an extensive knowledge base. Topics fall into the following categories:

  • Payment, Contract & Account
  • Bookings, Cancellations & No SHows
  • IT & Features
  • Feedback, Students & Parents
  • VIPKid Community
  • Important Procedures
  • and more….

Within each of these categories, there are hundreds of topics, including fan-favorites like:

  • How long do I have to wait during a no-show?
  • What’s the process to request a soft cancellation?
  • Where’s the next meetup?
  • Am I in the running to win the trip to Beijing?
  • and so much more!

If you haven’t seen it yet, log into the teacher portal at this link, and be sure to take a peek at the video I made to show you around:

Support Center Tour

If you have questions, please let me know in the comments. If you are just getting started and would like some help applying and getting familiar with the company, I’d love to help you through the referral process. I suggest starting with Completing the VIPKid Application.

 

Making a VIPKid Bitmoji

Let me start by saying that this was not my idea. Many teachers have used this (probably more successfully than me!) But even though I used Bitmoji regularly, it took me a little trial and error to figure out how to make my very own VIPKid emoji.

I decided to write down a quick how-to guide to help!  Since not everyone has experience with Bitmoji, I’ll break it down into three sections:

  • Getting the App and making your own Bitmoji
  • Personalizing it for VIPKid
  • Making Props

and bonus content: installing the Bitmoji keyboard

Step 1: Getting the App and Making Your Own Bitmoji

  1. Download the Bitmoji app on your phone. Everything in this section needs to be done on your mobile device – either through the Bitmoji app or Snapchat.
  2. When you first download the app, you will need to register. If you use snapchat, you can log in using Snapchat. If you would prefer, you can sign up with Email.
  3. Once you sign in, you’ll be prompted to create a new Bitmoji. (This is the fun part!)  You’ll be prompted to choose everything about your Bitmoji from facial shape to eye color, and everything in between! Just choose each option and scroll to the next choice along the bottom of your phone app. It even lets you take a selfie so you can see your face next to your Bitmoji as you are designing it to see how close you are!
  4. Once you are finished, it will prompt you to go to “settings” and enable Bitmoji as a keyboard option. I suggest doing this while you are there, and I’ve put some instructions at the end.  But if you are ready to start making props, you can “skip” this step and go back and do this at any time.

Step 2: Personalizing Your Bitmoji for VIPKid

  1. As you are personalizing your Bitmoji, there are two things you will want to choose to make it a “VIPKid” teacher.
    • Headphones: These can be found under headwear, just like hats.
    • An Orange Shirt: There are several to choose from. If you don’t wear orange in class, just pick out something that suits your style
  2. Once you’ve chosen a shirt, you can also pick out a VIPKid logo or picture to put on the shirt when you print it and use it in props. I haven’t found a way to incorporate into digital Bitmojis, so no need to look for this in the clothing.

Step 3: Making Props

  1. From your laptop, desktop, or other favorite prop-making machine with a Chrome browser, go to http://www.bitmoji.com.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and download “Bitmoji for Chrome”
  3. This will add the small, green icon into the upper right-hand corner of your Chrome browser.
  4. When you click on it, you can search for different Bitmojis or click through the grey icons at the bottom.
    • The star shows recent Bitmojis used and popular ones.
    • The hand shows hello and goodbye messages (like a wave).
    • The face with hearts has messages of love.
    • The smiley face shows happy messages.
    • The face with no smile shows sad or angry messages.
    • The horn shows holiday or event-specific messages.
  5. Right-mouse click on the bitmoji of your choice and choose “copy.”
  6. Right mouse click in a Microsoft Word or Publisher document, a Google Slides document, Powerpoint, or other prop-making software. Click “paste.”
  7. If you’d like to add a VIPKid or Dino logo, find a .png image and paste it onto the Bitmoji. If you don’t have one, check out VIPKid Branding Resources and you’ll find several.

chrome extension

browser bit

Bonus Content: Installing the Bitmoji Keyboard

These instructions are for an iPhone, since this is what I own. 🙂

  1. Click on “Settings.”
  2. Click on “General.”
  3. Click on “Keyboard.”
  4. Click on “Keyboards.”
  5. Click on “Add New Keyboard.”
  6. Click on “Bitmoji.”
  7. Move the slider so that “Allow Full Access” is green.

Once you have the Bitmoji keyboard installed, you can toggle between it by clicking the small globe at the bottom of your iphone keypad between the “123” button and the microphone/spacebar. You can then copy and paste into text messages, emails, or even WeChat!

For other operating systems, check out Bitmoji help at their website.

I hope this is helpful. If you are just starting your VIPKid journey and are looking for a mentor, let me know and get started with the application! Otherwise, happy teaching!