Monday, May 15, 2017

Props for VIPKID classes

Props are needed to effectively teach ESL virtually. They reinforce the content and they help keep even the busiest of busy bees engaged in the lesson. When I was researching what I needed in order to teach virtually, I thought I would have to purchase a lot of props. You definitely do not! In fact, the more I work, the more I realize that the really big props can actually be challenging to work with. You need to be able to reach everything during your lessons without getting up.  When you have lessons back to back, you don't have a lot of time to set up and rearrange the props. So, I use a lot of printed out pictures as my props. To organize them,  I used an old coupon file folder. This makes it very easy to grab an image mid lesson.

This file folder is what I use the most (besides my white board!) It contains all my letter flash cards, color flash cards, shapes flashcards, VIPKID characters, cards with the weather on it, cards with places on them, and a set of images that help us discuss family members.

In addition to my file folder of print outs, I have a puppet. Young students are often very good at repeating what you say but when you want them to start asking and answering questions, it can be hard for them to do so. The puppet is very helpful for modeling conversation. 

Besides the file folder, puppet, and white board, I don't have many other props. I use a lot of TPR (total physical response) so I am very animated during the lessons. I review all the lessons the night before and if I happen to have something around the house that goes with the lesson, I will use that too. So while you definitely need props to help with lessons, you don't need to buy a bunch of themed props. In fact, you see those beautiful magnetic letters? Yeah...they never get used. It takes too much time to find the right ones. I just write on my white board. 

And here below you will see me taking a shameless selfie during a lesson while I explained a final project to take a picture showing them following classroom rules. It was 5:00 am!

Have any prop questions? let me know! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

My VIPKID Classroom Set up

Setting up a virtual classroom was so much fun! Here is what you will need....

1. An educational background. 

I personally chose the map because I saw lots of other teachers using it. It turns out, the map is so useful! I refer to it during almost every lesson. It also is helpful for me to engage in natural conversation with my student beyond what is presented in the lesson. I have seen other teachers use number or letter charts. I have also seen the most adorable "classroom starter kits" at teacher stores. I bet those would look amazing as a background. When I was finishing my second Mock class during the interviewing process, I had none of this set up. I had a plain wall behind me. I wasn't going to commit to setting up the class if I didn't get hired.... The mentor teacher did say that the background being plain was OK, but VIPKID prefers something educational.

If you are a traveling teacher or you do not have a dedicated work space, here are my suggestions.

1. Use a piece of fabric or shower curtain. Both are portable and easy to hang.
2. Grab a tri fold poster board and decorate it. It will stand up easily and even better, it will fold away easily.
3. Use ManyCam. This is not a program I personally use, but many VIPKID teachers use it. ManyCam is a software program that allows you to add a background and graphics onto live videos. If you have a plain wall, you can jazz up the space virtually. 

2. Good lighting. 

See that big light? It is wonderful! I found it at Lowe's. I  also bought LED daylight light bulbs. It makes for a clear, white light. Good lighting is so important! The students have to be able to see you, see what you do, see your lips move, and see your props that support the lesson. If you invest in anything, invest in good lighting

3. A good work space. 

You need a quiet and clutter free space to call your classroom. We are short on space so I am stuck in our living room. In this photo, you can see I have things on the sides of my classroom. When I am teaching, you cannot see them. Off to the side, I have plastic drawers to store my item. They are within my reach so I can get to them if needed in a lesson.
It is not hard to teach from a space that is not dedicated to teaching. Keep in mind too, some teachers are traveling the world! They change backgrounds and places all the time. How you teach is way more important. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Working for VIPKID

I took on a new adventure in teaching this past month...working for VIPKID! VIPKID is an online company based out of China that teaches English as second language. You teach children one on one in their virtual classroom. The company has the entire curriculum set up so as the teacher, you just have to make your own schedule and then show up to teach!

So how does it work? 

1. Age- Children between the ages of 5-12 sign up.
2. Levels- Children can take a computer test to see what level fits them best. Not all kids take the test however. So you might encounter some trial classes where you are trying to find the best level fit for the child.
3. Schedule- YOU SET YOUR OWN SCHEDULE. I repeat... YOU MAKE YOUR OWN schedule!! Now, Beijing is about 12 hours ahead of the United States depending on your time zone. I am in the mountain time zone so currently Beijing is 14 hours ahead of us. VIPKIDS has peak hours in the evenings from 6-10 pm during the week. This means that for us, peak hours are first thing in the morning from about 4-9 am. You can also work many more hours on weekend evenings. I personally work from 5-7am during the week.
Classes are 25 minutes long, in 30 minutes blocks. This allows you to change classrooms and leave feedback and take a breather in between classes.
4. Planning- No planning! They have the curriculum already set up for you. The night before I log onto their virtual classroom and review the slides. I pull props I might need.
5. Pay-You get a base pay for every 30 minutes. On top of that there are bonuses such as $1 for being there on time and $1 for leaving feedback. There are also monthly incentives that change.

What is the hiring process like? 

To apply, you need a bachelors degree. Experience with children isn't a requirement, but it is defiantly a plus. The hiring process is quick and a little intense. There is an interview and 2 mock classes you teach. The interview takes 30 minutes and each mock class is 1 hour long, but you are only teaching for 25 minutes. You spend the other part of the time discussing what you did well and what you need to improve on.

I completed everything within 2 weeks. I only took that long because I scheduled everything during my son's naps. To prepare, I reviewed the slides and practiced. I also watched YouTube videos to help me out.

Do I need to buy things for the job?

There isn't much that you need to buy for this job. Props are important for young learners but if you are already a mom or a teacher  (or BOTH) you probably have everything you need. I usually walk over to my sons toy bin and pull a few items.

Here is what I did buy.
1. A small personal white board to hold up to the computer. It's the most important prop I have and probably the only one that I say is a MUST.
2. A poster for my background. I found a map at the dollar store! I love it and use it all the time in my introductions with new students.
3. A few sets of flashcards from the dollar store
4. Puppets to model conversation....but truthfully my son loves playing with them at the library so it was really for both of us!

Here are a few articles I found about the company.

Are you interested in making $14 - $22 an hour while working from home in your yoga pants? Click HERE. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Telling Time

Time is a pretty exciting math unit because the kids can immediately apply it to their own life and use it. So, I wanted to make it even more fun.

For this math game, I found that 3 students at a time worked best. 4 was a crowd. I couldn't let just 2 students play at a time because they were so excited about it!

To play, student 1 is the time keeper. The time keeper gets to set the time for the other players. I emphasized that the time keeper must know what they are are setting so they can check the other students. When the time keeper sets the hour and minute hand on the clock, they say "tick tock what time is on the clock?" This lets everyone know they are ready.

Students 2 and 3 are the time seekers. They write down the time on their white boards. The time keeper must check that the time seekers got the time correct. This way, everyone is practicing their time!

I also wrote the minutes on the table with dry erase markers for the first 2 weeks. They wipe right off with a lysol wipe.

In addition to our super awesome life sized clock we learned a time cheer! Students should just repeat after you. I got my inspiration from hearing army cadences. Lyrics are provided below!

Teacher: This is how you tell the time
Students: This is how you tell the time

Teacher: Have no fear you'll be fine
Students: Have no fear you'll be fine

Teacher: Step 1 short hand
Students: Step 2 long hand

Teacher: This is how you tell the time
Students: This is how you tell the time

Teacher: Have no fear you'll be fine
Students: Have no fear you'll be fine

Teacher: Short hand tells you the hour
Students: Short hand tells you the hour

Teacher: Small number has all the power
Students: Small number has all the power

Teacher: This is how you tell the time
Students: This is how you tell the time

Teacher: Have no fear you'll be fine
Students: Have no fear you'll be fine

Teacher: Long hand tells you the minutes
Students: Long hand tells you the minutes

Teacher: From 1 to 60 you did it!
Students from 1 to 60 you did it