Teacher Essentials

As I scroll through Facebook, I often see posts from new teachers asking, “What _____ do you use?” We all want to be the best teachers possible, and why should we re-create the wheel when others have tried “all the things” already?

I have three disclaimers to give before I start sharing.

  1. You should not need to buy much to be a successful teacher. Yes, there are some basic technical requirements, but all of the props and things are optional. You probably have most of what you need around the house already.
  2. Most of the links I’m sharing are affiliate links, so I get paid something if you use them. I don’t know how much. So far I’ve earned a whopping $1.11 since I started with Amazon. 🙂 So I won’t get rich, but if you’re going to order something anyway, you can help a fellow teacher out!
  3. I will not share any links below for things that I don’t personally use in my classroom*. These are my recommendations, and I’ll stand by them!

*The two exceptions are my laptop and paper cutter. My laptop does not currently meet the requirements set by VIPKid, and although it works ok, the link I provide below has a slightly better processor than mine, but other specs are the same! The paper cutter I have actually got poor reviews, so I substituted a similar model with better reviews!

Technology

laptop

Before you purchase a laptop for use with VIPKid (or any teaching platform) be sure you check out the minimum system requirements. Here are the requirements for VIPKid.

I used a laptop that I already had purchased that does not have the i5 processor. However, I am about to purchase a new laptop, so I will make sure that it has the i5 processor recommended by VIPKid, so here’s what I will most likely purchase:

Dell Inspirion 15.6 Inch HD Touchscreen Laptop

Pros: It’s very inexpensive, as far as laptops go. I have had the lower version of this one since early 2017, and it has been easy to use. I have no trouble running the VIPKid PC app, multiple Chrome windows, and OBS (to display google slides.) I also love the touch screen functionality. It’s much easier to underline and circle with my finger than with a mouse!

Cons: Because it’s on the lower end of the Dell laptops, I fear that it may not last as long as others. The power source gives me trouble sometimes, so I must keep it plugged in to ensure uninterrupted use, but that’s a recent development in the last few months. If money were no object, I might upgrade to this one that has more memory and a backlit keyboard, but those are really conveniences not necessities.

headset

I use a Logitech USB headset. I couldn’t find an affiliate link for the one that I use, but here’s the regular link for it on Amazon. I generally by the least expensive Logitech USB headset that has a microphone. I have tried wireless ones, and I’ve tried other brands, but I always come back to these. I have two sets – one that stays in my classroom for teaching and one that I use on conference calls for work.

Pros: They are inexpensive, and they don’t hurt my ears (even though I wear glasses.) I have never had complaints about my voice volume or audio, and they last a very long time.

Cons: If you have a large classroom and are far away from your laptop, perhaps a wired solution isn’t the best. But the cord is rather long, so I can’t imagine a scenario when you would be that far away! 🙂

external camera

The camera in my laptop worked fine. I did not receive any complaints about it, and it met my needs. However, I always wanted my classroom (and my YouTube videos) to be a little bit brighter, so I decided to add an external camera. I have LOVED this one. It’s recommended by many, many teachers and also my husband!

Logitech C920 Camera

Pros: The use of an external camera (with no other changes) made my classroom and my face so much brighter! The images are crisper, and I just love them! I also downloaded the software that has great tilt and zoom features. Because I use OBS in my classroom, I don’t use the software during class, but I use it during my YouTube videos and for taking still pictures in my classroom.

Cons: Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use the microphone built into the camera. It has awful sound quality. But the camera rocks. Before I started using OBS, it would have been helpful to have a camera cover. For just a few dollars more, you can get this model that does.

The best testimonial I can give for this camera is in my live un-boxing video. Skip ahead to 1:45 to see the transformation when I plugged it in.

Classroom Supplies

lamination

My lamination adventure is a funny story. I did not buy this when I became a teacher. I already had it. And for the life of me, I could not figure out WHY I had it. My husband later reminded me that it was when we owned a restaurant. Perhaps we laminated menus? In any case, I use mostly digital rewards, but I do have some props and rewards that are 2-D, and I prefer to have them laminated. There’s a big debate over matte vs. shiny lamination pouches, but I’m cheap and I have never had trouble with the shiny ones, so I still stick with the basics. Here’s what I use:

Scotch Thermal Laminator

Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches

paper cutter

The paper cutter that I use is actually a Westcott, and it’s not available on Amazon. Interestingly, it had pretty terrible reviews, although I never had any trouble with it.

The model below is similar – it is a rotary paper cutter (vs. a guillotine) and I like this because I am always afraid I will cut my finger off. This seems like a safer option to me.

CARL Professional Rotary Paper Trimmer

magnets

Jennifer Anderson turned me on to the benefits of small magnets and packing tape to attach things to my whiteboard in my classroom. I use these on stars and other 2-D reward systems. I also use them to change the background in my classroom. They are quick, easy, and inexpensive to use. Just be careful if you have small children or pets who might eat these. (I have neither.) Also, I tried to order the same magnets from Ali Express. Yes, they were cheaper, but despite my specifications, they were much smaller and took a very long time to arrive. I hate them. I will order these forever more.

10×2 round magnets

Packing tape

I’m sure any packing tape will do, but I like Scotch. You can buy the first one with the dispenser and then just buy refills for it.

Scotch Packing Tape

Organization

rolling utility cart

This was definitely a splurge, but I love it, and I use it every single day! Because I teach in a tiny half-bathroom, I don’t have a lot of space to stage props and things. I purchased this rolling utility cart that stays in my office until it’s time for class. I keep a box with all my 2-D stars on the bottom, and I set up props for my classes on the top two shelves. I have my scissors, lipstick, dry erase markers, etc. on the end within easy reach. I have my tape hanging on hooks. It works GREAT! After class, I roll it out of the way again!

Grammercy Cart by Recollections

Hanging wall organizer

This is inexpensive, but was a game-changer for me. I have two of these hanging out of sight (off-camera) in my classroom. I keep my most commonly used props here (animals, food, grammar, etc.) That way I can reach them without looking if I need to in class.


Godery 5-pocket Hanging Wall Organizer

You can check out a walk-through of my classroom organization on Instagram!

Props and Rewards

Like I said above, you don’t ever have to buy props and rewards. Between digital options and things you already have around your house, you can teach. But, I love to incorporate fun things with my classes. So if you are looking for a few fun extra’s check out these recommendations from The Prop Report! In each issue, I share pros and cons about each item and also a quick demo video that talks about how I use these in my ESL Classroom!

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. As I think about other useful items that I have discovered since becoming a teacher, I’ll add them here! If you have questions or ideas of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

VIPKid Teacher Tags

Teacher tags are meant to help parents find teachers who will meet their expectations.

When a new teacher completes the hiring and mock class certification process, VIPKid adds up to five teacher tags to our profile. These tags are all positive, and they are meant to help parents find teachers who are a good fit for their child. In addition, you can select some tags of your own, making the total tags available six! When a parent leaves you five-apple feedback, they will see your self-selected tags and be given the option to endorse one or more of them.

How do I know what my teacher tags are?

In the teacher portal, click on “My Info” and then “tags.” You will see your tags in each of three categories: Teaching Skills, Strengths, and Personality.

What tags are available?

VIPKid has posted the list of potential teacher tags in the Support Center. Check it out here! In the meantime, you can also review the below list of possible teacher tags assembled by Ed Nace (and reprinted with permission.) VIPKid recently updated their teacher tags, so some of these may no longer be available, but this gives some good insight – especially into those related to personality.

Ed’s list includes two types of tags. One is related to your academic expertise in the classroom, and the other is related to your personality. He lists an English translation of the tag, the actual Chinese characters/words, and then a basic explanation of the words since translations are not always true to the intention of the word. In case you aren’t familiar with Ed Nace (and why this list is awesome!) Ed and his family lived in China for eight years, and he is a veteran ESL teacher. He’s written some amazing books that help de-mystify Chinese culture, parent feedback, and teaching techniques. He’s saved me many times with his books. You can learn more at https://ednace.com/.

List and translations courtesy of Ed Nace. Learn more at ednace.com.

How many tags do I get?

Each teacher may have up to six tags assigned. If you have fewer than that, I do suggest adding more. Having a full set of tags will give the parents a more comprehensive view of your personality.

Should I change my teacher tags?

If you already have the maximum number, my answer is “probably not.” (This is my own personal opinion.) “But Amelia, you said in your Booking Boosters post that changing my tags could help me get bookings!” Yes, that is true; however, I suggest using it as a last resort if you have exhausted all other ideas and still aren’t getting bookings.

The reason I personally have chosen not to change my tags is that we may not have the same interpretation of our style as a Chinese parent would. For example, I think I am very detail-oriented. But compared to people in China, is that still true?

Years ago, I was very active in Toastmasters International. I participated in my local, area, and regional clubs and activities. I consistently got high scores in vocal variety, emotion, and intonation. I (and my Toastmasters peers) considered this one of my strong suits! However, I had the opportunity to speak in several Toastmasters meetings in the Philippines and in India. While they were very welcoming and provided positive feedback overall, vocal variety was my weakest area! Their perspectives and mine were simply not aligned because we were evaluating based on a different set of cultural norms.

Teacher tags are meant to help parents find teachers who will meet their expectations. If we accidentally mis-categorize ourselves since we are describing ourselves through an American lens, we are setting the parents up for potential disappointment. And disappointment could possibly lead to less than five apples. Because of that, I have chosen to leave my tags as applied by VIPKid and the parents. My only change was to add a tag in the area of “strengths” where I didn’t have any. That were visible. I chose to add the two that were already endorsed by parents. That way, when parents view my tags, they’ll see that other parents agree, and hopefully their expectations will be aligned.

I hope you found this helpful! Have you asked about your teacher tags? Were you surprised by them? Let me know in the comments!

Slidekick: Rewards

There are so many ways you can use Slidekick to quickly and easily identify the best reward for your student.

This is the second post in a 5-part series all about Slidekick, the app developed by a VIPKid teacher, for VIPKid teachers.

Be sure you check out Issue 1 (Getting Started) to get the basics!

I LOVE using Google Slides for rewards. While there are a lot of great ways you can use slides, this one is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE!  As of this moment, there are 5,347 rewards loaded in Slidekick spanning 35 different categories. (And because I’m an editor in the group, I can see many, many more just waiting for editing and approval!)

Within Slidekick, there are several ways you can search for rewards specifically.

Option 1: Search by reward keyword.

  1. At the bottom of the app, click on the star that’s labelled “Rewards.”
  2. Click on “View All Rewards” at the top of the screen.
  3. Use the search bar at the top to type in keywords.
    • These could be lesson-specific like “food,” “animals,” “India” etc.
    • Or they could be interest-based like “Batman,” “lego,” or “princess.”

It’s usually best to use one keyword to narrow it down; sometimes multiple keywords don’t return great results. For example, instead of searching for “Spiderman, Ironman, and Hulk” try searching for “Superhero.”

Option 2: Search by reward type.

There are so many different reward types here. To search for a certain reward type:

  1. At the bottom of the app, click on the star that’s labelled “Rewards.”
  2. Click on “View Reward Categories” at the top of the screen.
  3. Click on the reward type that you want to use, and you can browse all rewards of that type.

I’m going to resist the urge to talk about them all. (That’s a topic for another blog series.) Instead, I’ll list just a few of my favorites. A few of my favorite reward types are:

  • Find a Star (FAS): Students select a number (or vocab word, or picture.) Some of the options will reveal a star, while others will reveal a picture or gif. You can see an example of this in action in my blog post about Using Google Slides with VIPKid.
  • Pick One: This is similar to FAS, but there are usually two options to choose from. The student chooses one and a picture, gif, or scene is revealed. Sometimes there are stars incorporated into these, and sometimes there are not.
  • Candyland: This is my favorite for my younger students who might not be comfortable making decisions in class. In Candyland, students “spin” the wheel and land on different colored spaces. Each space correlates to something related to the lesson, and then there’s a gif that’s related.
  • UA Maps: These are special rewards designed that align with the “maps” or gameboards in the lessons for Unit Assessments.

Option 3: Search by Lesson

Some people choose the reward based on the student, while others choose it as a way to extend upon the lesson. If you are looking for the latter, there’s a slightly different process to find your reward.

  1. At the bottom of the app, click “lessons.”
  2. Either scroll through the list or use the search bar to find the lesson you will be teaching.
  3. Click on the lesson.
  4. Click on “Extension Rewards.”
  5. Scroll through the list of recommended rewards for this lesson.

It’s important to note that not all of the possible rewards for a lesson will be listed. So if you don’t see one that suits your desired needs, try searching under “rewards” for the lesson number or keyword.

There are so many ways you can use Slidekick to quickly and easily identify the best reward for your student. I encourage you to play around in the app and try it out for yourself.

If you’re looking for more, be sure you come back for the rest of the series! Or you can always see it in action on YouTube as well!

In the next three issues, we’ll dive deeper into:

  • Issue 3: Props & Lessons
  • Issue 4: Rapport
  • Issue 5: Bringing it all Together

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Google Slides Facebook group to get started.

If you have questions, please feel free to let me know in the comments.  Until then – happy teaching, and happy sliding!

Slidekick: Getting Started

This is the first post in a 5-part series all about Slidekick, the app developed by a VIPKid teacher, for VIPKid teachers.

What is Slidekick?

Slidekick is an app that was developed to help VIPKid teachers find, organize, and use Google Slides in ESL classrooms.

Where can I get Slidekick?

It is not available in any app store, and it is not for sale.  You can only get it by being a member of the VIPKid teacher community, and the easiest way to connect is through Facebook.

Once you join the Facebook group, go to “Announcements” and check out the Slide Guide. There, you will find a link to download Slidekick (along with many other useful resources!)

The first time you download it on each device (phone, laptop, iPad, etc.) you will be asked to provide an email address.  You’ll be emailed a code that you need to input in order to proceed with the download. Occasionally, you’ll be prompted to get another code, but for the most part, I stay logged in without going through this additional step.

How much does Slidekick cost?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Slidekick (and all VIPKid Google Slides) are free for use in the VIPKid classroom.

What can I do with Slidekick?

You’ll learn more about how to use Slidekick in the next four blog posts; however, here’s a sneak peek at what’s in store!

  • News and Updates from your Google Slides admin team.
  • About the VIPKid #GS Group – learn the history of this phenomenal group of people and resources!
  • Who’s Who in Google Slides: Find out who the admins, moderators, and editors are. Thank or tip them for their work in Google Slides.
  • #GS Admin Team: Meet the Sliders behind this group and find out more about these amazing individuals.
  • Create & Contribute: Find templates and resources to help you create your own Google Slides creations! Upload them right from the app!
  • Join Us! Join the Google Slides admin team for recorded and live training sessions!
  • Rewards: Search by category or topic for specific rewards to use in class.
  • Lessons: Search by lesson for props, extension rewards, feedback templates, and lesson notes!

You will NOT be able to display slides from within Slidekick. There are other options that are recommended (also in the Slide Guide!) for the options people use to display the slides.

In the next four issues, we’ll dive deeper into:

  • Issue 2: Rewards
  • Issue 3: Props & Lessons
  • Issue 4: Rapport
  • Issue 5: Bringing it all Together

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Google Slides Facebook group to get started.

If you’d like to see a quick walk-through on screen, check out the accompanying YouTube video:

Slidekick – Episode 1

Slidekick 1 thumbnail

If you have questions, please feel free to let me know in the comments.  In the meantime – happy teaching, and happy sliding!

 

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!

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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!

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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.

Google Slides Magic

By now, you may know I love Google Slides. I usually default to the classic rewards and use them to extend on our lesson. Every once in a while, I will make a very unique, custom reward that I use for one specific student.

A couple of weeks ago, my sweet student Tracy brought some paper frogs she had drawn and cut out. They all wore clothes and crowns, and she said one was the mom, the dad and the baby. That same class, she brought her My Little Ponies to class with her.

As background, Mom used to get very upset when Tracy brought toys to class. In feedback, I explained we could use them, as long as Tracy just brought one or two toys, so Mom reluctantly agreed. As we used them more and more in class, Tracy got more excited about learning, and Mom got on board.

Fast forward… after this frog class, I thought it would be fun to make Tracy a special reward, so I wrote a story using Google Slides. I downloaded most of my images from my subscription to PNG tree, and I made up a story about the frog prince who lost his parents. Tracy is in the unit studying “feelings” so the topic was great to ask “How does he feel?”

Tracy was delighted to see that I had a custom story for her, and she recognized her toys from the last lesson!

In a rare occurrence, Mom wasn’t in class with her that week, but when I got the feedback, Mom thanked me for making the reward and asked if I could send her the pictures from the slides. (In China, they can’t get to Google Slides, even if I wanted to send her the full lesson.)Screenshot (1)

I took screenshots for her, and sent them via WeChat.

In our next class, as soon as I turned on the camera, Tracy held up a printed version of my story! She proceeded to read the entire thing to me, inserting the emotions she had learned to describe the characters. She and mom had been practicing all week until Tracy could read it on her own!

My heart just melted!

Here is a video I made so you could see how I first used it as a reward for Tracy, and then how she read it back to me. The audio is not very good from the playback, but it’s still adorable! Watch the cutest thing ever here: Google Slides Magic Video

Thank you to Google Slides and WeChat for making it possible to build such fulfilling relationships with families across the world.

If you would like more information about using Google Slides with VIPKid or are just interested in getting started in general, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching (and sliding!)