The Prop Report #4 – Make a Critter Blocks

Because there are so many different combinations, these will never get boring!

Introduction:

Welcome to the fourth installment of my 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:

Make a Critter Blocks

Manufacturer:

Crocodile Creek

Recommended for ESL classroom?

Yes! These are perfect for Halloween, but they can actually be used for excellent extension in a number of different lessons.

Recommended for hands on learning?

Yes! I think that you could really have fun making challenges for hands-on learning with kids. The older they are, the more complicated scenarios you can encourage.

Pros:

I have the “critter” blocks, but there are several other different options that I’ll include below too. These are versatile, and because there are so many different combinations, they will never get boring. I especially love:

  • The bright, colorful monsters
  • The ability for kids to choose monochromatic options or crazy color combinations
  • The fact that the monsters have many different types of accessories and clothes, perfect for level 2 extension

Cons:

They are just a little bit bulky to handle in the classroom. It takes a little bit of practice to get comfortable “rolling” the blocks or moving them to let the students choose. It is also a little bit difficult for me to hold all three (or six if we make two monsters!) But this is not a big enough con to stop me from using (and recommending) this fun reward!

It’s also a little bit more expensive than most rewards I use. (Ok, I usually use free digital rewards.) But I really enjoy using a few physical rewards mixed in, so for me, it’s totally worth it!

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here:

In summary:

This reward is a definite yes! 

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

Crocodile Creek – Make a Critter Blocks

For other issues of The Prop Report:

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China’s National Day and VIPKid

When is it?

Unlike many Chinese holidays and festivals, this one is not based on the lunar calendar. It has a fixed day every year – October 1!

In 2019, it will be celebrated October 1-7, but be aware that the weekends before and after will likely be mandatory work and school days.

What is it?

The full name of the holiday is “National Day of the People’s Republic of China.” It is a public holiday to honor the date that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) was founded in 1949. The holiday is celebrated in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

History

The first ceremony was held in Tianamen Square on October 1, 1949. The first public parade of the new People’s Liberation Army also took place in Tianamen Square, and that was also where the first address by the first Chairman happened. Many of the celebrations still happen in Beijing but are publicized on television.

Activities

The holiday’s activities actually begin the night before National Day. In past years, there was a wreath-laying ceremony done in remembrance of Chinese who perished, but beginning in 2014, this moved to a new “National Memorial Day” holiday held on the eve of National Day on September 30.

The morning of National Day, there is a 6am flag-raising ceremony. In 2019, the day will also marked with the National civil-military parade. This parade is one of the main highlights of the celebration in Beijing, and it used to be held yearly but now is held every 10th year. 2019 marks the 70th year of the PRC. The parade will be filled with key leaders in the Chinese government and will include a number of military weapons as part of the display.

According to ChinaHighlights.com, the event is celebrated October 1-7, which adjacent weekend days being mandatory workdays to help offset the time off. So you may find students traveling the first week in October, but home-bound while Mom and Dad work and they go to school the weekends before and after.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

I was pretty new last year at this time, so I did not notice a difference. I also do not teach weekends. Based on what I’ve seen from other teachers, the biggest impact will be for those of you who book classes on the weekends. If your students are in school the weekends before and after the holiday, they might not be able to take their regularly-scheduled classes. During the holiday week, too, it’s possible their family will be traveling, so they might add, cancel, or change classes. As with most holidays in China, just be aware and try to be mindful of student schedule changes. To minimize impacts, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! I have heard of teachers adding red paper lanterns to their classroom to celebrate. There are also a few reward systems out there with Google Slides, so you could incorporate those into your class. Of course, it’s also a good opportunity to introduce as free-talk or icebreakers in your class. Questions could be:

  • Will you celebrate National Day?
  • Will you watch the parade on National Day?
  • Will you travel next week?

What should I do to prepare?

There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom.  Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!

In 2019, there are two Chinese Culture workshops offered by VIPKid in the week leading up to National Day, so if you have questions or are looking for more information, that would be a good place to start! Check out the workshop schedule in the library for more info!

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Sources/More Information:

Wikipedia.com

China Highlights.com

YouTube video published by VIPKid: National Day with Belle from the Teacher Service Team!

Mid-Autumn Festival and VIPKid

When is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That means that the calendar date changes each year.

In 2019, the date falls on September 13, so the festival is celebrated from Friday, September 13 through Sunday, September 15.

What is it?

The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second largest festival in China (second only to Chinese New Year.) It is celebrated in mid-autumn (hence the name.)

The Mid-Autumn Festival may also be called The Moon Festival or the Harvest Moon Festival (since the moon is at its fullest and brightest during this time of the year.)

History

The festival was historically focused on moon-based sacrificial ceremonies. It was a time to give thanks for plentiful harvests. There were also several legends associated with the festival.

  • Chang E flies to the moon: One of the most popular stories is centered around an archer (Hou Yi) who somehow inherited a special, sacred elixer. (The stories behind this vary.) His wife Chang E ended up drinking the elixer and flying to the moon!
  • The Jade Rabbit pounds herbs: It is said that the Jade Rabbit (jack rabbit) is Chang E’s companion on the moon. He continually pounds herbs to make pills in an attempt to find a combination that will send Chang E back to Earth so she can be reunited with her husband.
  • Woodsman Wu Gang chops the laurel tree: This is a legend where a woodsman attempts to chop down a self-healing laurel tree each day at the Moon Palace. The tree heals itself each evening, and he resumes his efforts the next day.
  • Zhu Yuanzhang’s mooncake uprising: Zhu Yuanzhang is the founder of the Ming Dynasty. He attempted to launch an uprising on the night of the Mid-Autumn festival, but communications proved to be challenging. They ended up hiding notes in mooncakes to distribute them, leading to Zhu and his rebel forces taking the capital of the Yuan Dynasty (now Beijing) and beginning the Ming Dynasty.

Modern Day

Today, the festival is still celebrated by eating mooncakes. They are often given as gifts to wish someone a long and happy life. Families take time to appreciate the moon, honor family members who live far away, and sometimes celebrate with lanterns or dragon and lion dances, depending on their regions. People typically get one day off of work to celebrate, making the festival a long weekend in many regions.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

I started with VIPKid last year around the time of the Mid-Autumn festival, so I do not have personal experience with bookings during this festival. In perusing the Facebook groups, it sounds as though it all depends on the students and their families. Some take the time off of classes, while others use the extra day off to book extra classes. Just be aware and try to be mindful of student schedule changes. As with most holidays, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! There are a few traditions that are easy to incorporate:

  • Mooncakes. Depending on your supermarket, you may be able to find actual mooncakes that you can eat “with” your students. If not, there are lots of mooncake rewards (digital or printable.) These can be fun to use around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. You can also use it for free talk, and ask your students if they made or ate Mooncakes! VIPKid even provides a mooncake reward system here!
  • Tradition. Especially if you teach older, higher-level children, this could be a good opportunity to compare traditions. Ask them to tell you If they grew up listening to the legends. Have them tell you their favorite one! You can share stories about “harvest festivals” in your country and foods that we eat. Holidays are always a good opportunity to share culture!
  • Decoration. If you enjoy decorating your classroom, there are some lovely images available for the Mid-Autumn Festival. The image on this blog post is from PNG Tree, but there are many beautiful images available.

What should I do to prepare?

There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom.  Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!

If you are a current VIPKid teacher, keep your eyes open, because sometimes they will offer workshops about specific festivals. There are several Chinese culture workshops scheduled during September, so those might be a good place to start.

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Sources/More Information:

TravelChinaGuide.com

Wikipedia.com

CCTV.com

Dragon Boat Festival and VIPKid

The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday that has been celebrated for over 2,000 years in China.

When is it?

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month of the year. That means that the calendar date changes each year.

In 2019, the date falls on June 7, so the festival is celebrated from Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9.

What is it?

The Dragon Boat Festival is a traditional Chinese holiday that has been celebrated for over 2,000 years in China. There are different stories about the history of this holiday. Today, many people in modern China say that the festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a poet and minister during the Zhou Dynasty. He was a member of the royal house, but when the king made an alliance he disapproved of, he was banished for opposing the alliance. During his exile, he wrote poetry, and after 28 years he was captured and committed suicide by drowning himself in the river. Legend says that local people who admired him raced out in their boats to save him, and thus originated the dragon boat races.

Aside from the legend of Qu Yuan, the fifth lunar month is surrounded by superstition, with some people believing that it’s an unlucky month. Some believe that natural disasters or illness are common this month, so during the festival people may do ceremonies to try to avoid bad luck.

As you might expect with a holiday this old, there are many other theories about the origin of the holiday, and how people celebrate will vary based on region and personal preference!

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

While this day is celebrated as a public holiday, some families celebrate and others do not. Some students will book extra classes, and others may cancel if they actively participate in festival events. Often, families who live near rivers have a greater opportunity to celebrate, so if you’re not sure, ask your student if they will be celebrating! As with most holidays, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

Any time you can bring elements of a festival into your classroom, children and their families will appreciate your efforts! There are a few traditions that are easy to incorporate:

  • Dragon Boats (obviously.) This is a fun and easy thing to incorporate in your reward systems because they are so easily recognized. You could make rewards like:
    • Dragon Boat teacher vs. student race
    • Decorate a dragon boat
  • Zongzi. Zongzi is a rice dumpling. People traditionally wrap these in leaves of reed, lotus or banana in a pyramid shape. They might be filled with any number of sweet or savory fillings. You can incorporate this yummy tradition in your classroom with:
    • Free talk: Ask your student if they made or ate Zongzi.
    • Play Find A Star and they get different fillings or a star when they “bite” into their Zongzi.
  • Superstition. Especially if you teach older, higher-level children, this could be a good opportunity to compare traditions. Ask them to tell you about the special 5-chorded braids that are made to ward off bad luck. Share with them our superstitions about bad luck (black cats and walking under ladders.) Holidays are always a good opportunity to share culture!

What should I do to prepare?

There’s really not too much you need to do to prepare, unless you want to incorporate decorations or rewards into your classroom.  Be flexible, and be open to hearing if your students want to tell you about their own celebrations on this day. Most importantly, have fun!

If you are a current VIPKid teacher, check out this link for the 2019 Dragon Boat Festival workshop schedule and a free printable download from VIPKid!

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how this festival has been for you in the past!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Sources:

TravelChinaGuide.com

Wikipedia

Children’s Day with VIPKid

International Children’s Day is celebrated in China on June 1.

 

When is it?

International Children’s Day is a worldwide holiday celebrated on June 9; however, in China, this special day is celebrated on June 1.

What is it?

According to Wikipidia, when the People’s Republic of China was first established in 1949, the State Council set aside a half-day holiday on June first for all primary schools to celebrate International Children’s Day. In 1956, this was expanded to a full day holiday. Schools often hold special programs or host activities on Children’s Day. Young children of civil servants might receive small gifts from the government, and civil servants  may be given time off to spend with their young children.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

Yes, maybe. I know, that’s a terrible answer. And I should preface this by saying I have never had personal experience teaching on Children’s Day. But I’ve read a lot about it and looked for other people’s experience. And like any holiday, every Chinese momma and daddy will be different. Some will look at the extra day off of school as a prime opportunity to add classes. Others will forget that they’ve scheduled Bao Bao for their school program and they’ll have to cancel. Some will use the long weekend to do a marathon of classes while others will decide to take a mini-vacation. We are all human, and so are your students and their families. The general consensus I’ve seen from social media is that bookings don’t dramatically decline. That said, if you plan to teach on Children’s Day, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

  • Plan free-talk around the holiday. Examples of questions might include:
    • Did you go to school today?
    • Did you have any special activities?
    • Did you do any special performances or acts?
    • Did you receive any gifts?
    • What did you do for Children’s Day?
    • What did you eat?
  • Make Children’s Day decorations
    • Banner or sign
    • Confetti (if you are brave enough to clean up the mess!)
    • Streamers
  • Use special rewards for Children’s Day: Like most rewards, if you are excited by them, your students will be too. To get you started, I put together an idea for a printable at the end of this post, but have fun! Anything special, different, and fun will be enjoyed by your students! Try:
    • Blowing up a balloon each time you award a star
    • Using party horns
    • Giving “gifts” in gift bags with noisy tissue paper
    • Putting on a “play” one line for each reward
    • Stars with your student’s picture on them

What should I do to prepare?

  • Send e-cards, if you wish. There are several free e-cards, and your students will appreciate a quick personal note to say “Happy Children’s Day! Thank you for being a great student!” Update: VIPKid just announced that they have a free children’s day e-card available!

ecard

  • Remember that your students probably have a busy, exciting day planned, so be prepared for anything. You may have hyper, tired, or just very happy students. Be ready to adjust!
  • Have fun! We have the unique opportunity to celebrate this special day with our students, so enjoy it.

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how your Children’s Day goes!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Here are a few printable ideas to build a Children’s Day reward. All graphics are from PNG Tree.

 

‘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

Because This VIPKid Teacher is up at 5 am on Thanksgiving…

I know, everyone will be posting #whatIamthankfulfor things today, but I can’t resist. This Thanksgiving morning, I’m awake, even though I didn’t book any classes. “Sleep in,” I thought.  “It will be great,” I thought. Well, that didn’t happen, but it’s ok. The extra hours of quiet before the Thanksgiving frenzy have given me time to reflect on my last 66 days with VIPKid.

Here’s what I’m thankful for:

  • Something that makes me WANT to get up in the mornings. I was the person who, into my early 30’s, had a rule that no one could call me before noon because I just might be sleeping. Now, I wake up at 4:00 in the morning excited for my upcoming classes!
  • A chance to help kiddos across the globe. These kids will be movers and shakers. They will be the next generation of colleagues and leaders. They will be peers to my grandchildren. (Yikes!) It may seem like a fun way to earn extra money right now, but I believe it means much more than that.
  • All the fun of homework games, but with a paycheck! My mom and I were remembering all the fun that I used to have coming up with games and activities to help my kids with their homework all those years ago. One day, maybe when they got smarter than me (or at least “cooler” than me), it stopped. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was able to start teaching again. And – now I get a paycheck every two weeks to do it!
  • Did I mention the paycheck? It may not have been the primary reason for me to start doing this, but it’s a nice bonus! In my first 66 days including my nice black Friday check, I’m up to almost $800, so it’s not insignificant. It’s allowing me to contribute more to our church, do a little extra Christmas shopping, and just enjoy having some extra pocket money.

I’m thankful for VIPKid and the great support they offer when things go wrong: the firemen in the classroom, the support at FreshDesk, their willingness to always answer questions. I’m thankful for the facebook groups where I can go to get ideas for rewards and to share fun stories. My husband is tired of hearing about my tales of the classroom, so I’m over the moon to have a group of other people who LOVE talking about it too!

It’s been a fun 66 days, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities in the months ahead!

Happy Thanksgiving!

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com