Using Find A Star as a VIPKid Classroom Reward

I LOVE classroom rewards. I loved earning them when I was a student, and I love using them in my ESL classroom today. I even sometimes have fun and use rewards in my job in corporate America. Yes, even executives smile when you give them a glittery star!

I wanted to take some time and walk through each of my favorite types of rewards in more detail. If you aren’t familiar with it, this will give you a good overview. If you are familiar with it, maybe you’ll learn some variations to change it up in your classroom!

Today, our focus will be on my personal favorite: Find A Star (FAS).

What is Find a Star?

In your VIPKid classroom, kids should be rewarded with stars throughout class, but it’s also recommended that you use a secondary reward as well. Find a Star is perfect because it brings both things together! You have a set of numbers or pictures, and students take turns guessing the number or picture. When they choose one, you reveal what’s behind it, and it’s either a star (YAY) or something else (also YAY!) When they find a star, you also reward one in the classroom.

How to Introduce Find a Star

At the beginning of the lesson, I simply say, “When you do a good job, you get a number! It will be a star or a ______. Ok?”

When it’s time to pick, I say, “Good job! You get a number. What number do you want?” If they struggle with this, you can give them options: “Do you want one or two?” They usually get the hang of it quickly. I even use this with most level one students!

Print vs. Digital

This game can be played using 2-d printed stars and numbers or digitally. You will see in the video below that I use a combination. I play the game digitally, but I do have a printed number grid posted in the background where I put stars when they find one.

To use a printed version:

  1. Print out cards with numbers on them. I prefer games that use 10 numbers. That allows for all five stars to be found and then you have five others.
  2. Print out as many stars as you want to give out. Make sure they fit behind your printed numbers.
  3. Print out the remaining number of images that are not stars. You can use anything for this: frowny faces, My Little Ponies, Ultraman – basically, use anything that you think your student would like. That makes the non-star finds fun too!
  4. Before class, arrange the numbers with each item behind them on a whiteboard, cookie sheet, or clipboard. You can make these magnetic by taping magnets to the back, or you can use scotch tape. Use what works for you!

To use a digital version:

  1. Find your favorite digital FAS! If you aren’t using them yet, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/vipkidgs/ and check out the announcements to get started!
  2. Get ready to play!
  3. You can use printed stars in conjunction with a digital FAS, but you don’t have to. It’s totally your preference

See it in Action

You can see how I use Find a Star in this video! I talk about all things Google Slides, but you can fast forward to about 3:23 if you want to see Find a Star specifically!

Google Slides is an easy way to integrate technology in the ESL classroom!

In this video, I held up my phone to reveal the rewards. Since then, I’ve begun using OBS that allows me to display it in my classroom or even use a green screen.

Using FAS with green screen in class.
Displaying FAS using OBS.

Find a Star Variations

There are many ways you can change your Find a Star game if you want to make it different. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Use different numbers. Instead of 1-10, add increments of 10 (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.) or use higher numbers (11, 12, 13) or even random numbers (48, 72, 123.) This can make the game more age-appropriate. If you are printing cards, you can either use pre-printed flash cards to do this, or you can have a stockpile of different numbers. With Google Slides, you can make a copy of any reward and just change the numbers.
  • Use letters, pictures, or vocabulary words instead of numbers. Many google slides options already have these. You can usually find them by searching in Slidekick by the lesson number.
  • Use 3-d objects for your FAS. I have a few puzzles that I’ve hidden stars behind the pieces. This can be a fun change of pace.
  • Use different types of stars. No one says you have to use the same stars all the time. You can have stars that reflect the lesson content, or have funny stars, or character-themed stars. My favorite thing to do (when I have time) is make custom rewards with unique stars in digital form and then print off copies to use. My students are usually surprised by this, so it makes it fun for me. If you’re looking for some ideas, I’ve started putting a few of my stars on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Extending with Find a Star

My favorite part of any reward is using it as extension in the lesson. Here are just a few ideas for how to do this. The list below starts with younger kiddos and moves to more advanced students.

  • Just having them choose a number can sometimes be extension enough, especially with your youngest students!
  • Have them ask for the number in a complete sentence. Instead of “1” have them say “I want number one.”
  • Have them also tell you the color of the square. “I want the red number one.”
  • When they find a star, have them tell you how many stars they have. “I have three stars.”
  • If you are using stars that are different colors, have them describe the stars, too. “I have two red stars and one blue star.”
  • When they don’t find a star, have them answer questions about the item, picture or gif that they find. “How does he feel?” “Do you like ___?” “What is it?”
  • Have them guess what will be under the number. “What do you think it will be?”
  • Have them describe the star or the picture to you. (Remember to always encourage complete sentences!) You can change it up by having them ask questions about it, make exclamations, etc!
  • Have them answer an open-ended question about what they find. “Tell me about a time you saw a _____.” “How does _____ make you feel?” “Why do you think ______?”
  • Give them a sentence about what they find and have them correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation in the sentence.

However you choose to play, Find a Star can make a fun game to reward your students and extend on the lesson. Do you have other ideas on how to play? Let me know in the comments!

Being a Beginner

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” – Meister Eckhart

Most of my blog posts are about teaching with VIPKid. Occasionally I branch off into my journey to get here. But today I wanted to share something a little bit more personal. I’ve decided to change my lifestyle and make a concentrated effort to get healthier.

As background, I’ve never been a very health-conscious person. I’ve gone through phases where I have exercised, and sometimes I eat better than others. But no one has ever looked at me and said, “Wow, what a healthy person.” A few years ago, I had a hysterectomy (in my 30’s) and went on hormones, and what was “a few pounds overweight” quickly started ballooning. (literally and figuratively!) I was still getting some exercise because I walked my dog Buster most mornings before work, and we were cooking some at home because our youngest kids were still living with us. We had to keep up some semblance of a good example! But even then, I was definitely not living my best life.

About a year ago, several things happened: our youngest two twins went to college. (Yes, one still lives with us … or at least we think he does. We don’t really see him much anymore.) That’s roughly when we stopped cooking at home. And I started teaching with VIPKid (which I LOVE!) BUT… the only downside is that I teach in the early mornings, right when I would walk Buster. So Buster (and I) have taken a bit of a backseat. My exercise dropped to almost zero, and my caffeine intake rose proportionately. I have realized that I have to make a change. I want more energy. I want to feel better. I want to be around longer. So I have to change.

So… today I began the first 12-week program. I know it’s old school, but I’m following the old Body for Life process. The idea is simple, and I know I can be successful, because it’s a series of small, attainable goals.

  1. Eating better. You eat six small meals per day consisting of a small portion of protein and carbs in each meal plus vegetables to at least 2 meals. (Of course plenty of water.) And my favorite part: one free day per week. That helps me be strong, knowing I can eat anything on one day each week.
  2. Exercising. No, I’m not doing Crossfit or Boot Camps. I don’t even think I’m in enough shape to do a Dino Dash step bet yet. But I’ve started. I joined a gym and will work out six days per week alternating weights and aerobic exercise. No workout lasts more than 46 minutes, which is awesome. I have to modify because I can’t do it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but I can do it after work.
  3. Living Intentionally. I’m setting goals. I’m planning my meals and exercise. I’m thinking about how I can be successful.

So why write about it here? For one thing, I’m excited for this fresh start, and I wanted to share it. For another thing, so many of you who read and comment on my posts inspire me. You may not even realize you’ve made an impact, but you have! Finally, this is an added layer of accountability. By telling 30,000 of my closest friends and putting these intentions out into the world, I feel that I have an added responsibility to see this through.

There is a quote from Meister Eckhart that says, “Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” I am excited to be beginning again with a new focus.

Don’t worry, my blog will still be about teaching, and cute kiddos, and amazing props, and all of those fun things. But the person behind the screen will just be a little healthier as she types.

Thanks for joining me on (another) journey!

Happy teaching, and exercising and eating healthier!

Amelia

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 #1 -Wooden Mix & Match Magnetic Pan Pizza

Introduction:

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

Wooden Mix & Match Magnetic Pan Pizza

Manufacturer:

Imagination Generation

Recommended for ESL classroom?

Probably not.

Recommended for hands on learning?

Yes!

Pros:

This is a fun set to play with. The wood is very sturdy, and the pieces are thick. I love that the pizza makes a “slicing sound” when you cut it, and there is a wide variety of toppings which would make great vocabulary extension. (It also makes the pizza colorful!)

Cons:

For an online classroom, it’s a little bit bulky to hold up to the camera, especially if you drop things like I do. It’s difficult to “slice” the pizza and get the slices to come apart without dropping pieces. (The velcro is way stronger than the magnets!) When you hold the slices up to the camera, you can also see the velcro on the sides of the slices unless you strategically cover the sides with your fingers, so it takes away from the realism of the pizza.

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here: The Prop Report – Episode 1

In summary:

I would buy this for my own children (if they weren’t adults, that is.) I would also add this to a brick and mortar or home school classroom setup. I just wouldn’t recommend it for an online classroom.

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

Wooden Mix and Match Magnetic Pan Pizza – 20 Assorted Pieces!

Have you tried this product or similar ones? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Other Episodes of the Prop Report:

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. 🙂

New Smart Demo Lesson – VIPKid Shortcut – April 2019

Starting in late April, the new Smart Demo option will make applying for VIPKid easier than ever!

Have you thought about applying for VIPKid, but you were concerned about the long interview process? If so, I have great news!

In the next few days, the faster, easier Smart Demo Lesson will be available to make your application process easier than ever!

What is the Smart Demo Lesson?

It’s a short, 2 1/2 minute recording that’s done right from the VIPKid Teacher App on your smartphone!

(If you don’t have it yet, just search for VIPKid Teach for Mobile for iPhone or Android phones!  The icon will be labelled VIPKid Teach.)

What is included in the Smart Demo Lesson?

Step 1: There will be a short review and 5 question quiz covering the basic VIPKid concepts:

  1. Lesson Objectives
  2. Repetition
  3. Speaking Speed and Language
  4. TPR
  5. Modeling

Step 2: Record a short, 2.5 minute demo based on a lesson slide.

How do I complete the Smart Demo Lesson?

  1. Create a VIPKid account.
  2. Download the VIPKid teacher app.
  3. Go to “Interview” in the app (It should say “Interview Pending.”
  4. Review the material* and answer the 5-question (multiple choice) quiz.
  5. Record the demo on the app and submit.
  6. Wait for feedback from VIPKid.

*In the material, you’ll be able to review a brief introduction that gives you instructions. There will be an overview of each of the five key areas that will be covered in the quiz.

If this process doesn’t work for you, remember you can also check out one of the following options:

Once you pass the Smart Demo lesson, what’s next?

Once you’ve passed (yay!) you’ll then move onto the certification process.  You’ll want to:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How long do I have to answer each question? – You will have 1.5 minutes to answer each question.
  2. What do I need to do for the demo slide? – There will be a slide provided to you (as question 6.)  There will also be an example of how to teach it.  You will need to spend 2.5 minutes demonstrating the slide.  Be sure to:
    • Speak slowly.
    • Be sure you allow time for a “student” to respond (pretend that you have a student.  It wouldn’t hurt to “correct” them once or twice as well!)
    • Don’t use extra words (incidental language.) Instead of saying “Can you say the word run?” simply say “Run” and encourage the child to repeat non-verbally.
    • Make sure you introduce the word and have the student repeat three times.
    • Use lots of TPR.
    • Be sure to cover the slide objectives that are listed.
    • If there’s an action (like “circle” or “drag and drop”) be sure you explain and DEMONSTRATE to the student how to do the action.
    • Use a prop! Once you’ve completed the application process I (or your mentor) will be happy to help you come up with a prop or props to use to help you on this slide!)
  3. What tips do you have for shooting a quality video?Be sure you are in a well-lit space. If possible be sure the room is bright with no distracting background and no glare.
    • Make sure your phone is positioned so that your head and shoulders are fully in the frame. It will be important for them to see your body language!
    • If possible, have your phone in a holder or propped up so you don’t have to hold it steady.
    • Wear a solid-colored shirt. (I would wear orange, but it’s not required!)
  4. How do I know my results?  You will get the answers to the quiz (and your score) immediately. You will get personalized feedback on your demo within 24-48 hours.  If you have not heard back within 36 hours, please email teachvip@vipkid.com.cn.
  5. How long does the whole process take?  VIPKid suggests allowing 10 minutes for the full Smart Demo Lesson: 5 minutes for the quiz, 3 minutes for the demo lesson, and 2 minutes for the analysis report.
  6. How long do I have to complete the Smart Demo Lesson? It’s recommended to submit the video within 3 days after completing the basic information.
  7. What do I need to do to pass? It will be difficult to pass if you get less than 3 questions correct; however, the demo will be more heavily weighted than the quiz.
  8. Can I restart the video recording? Yes there will be two buttons – one to re-record and one to submit.
  9. If I don’t pass, can I try again? Your interviewer can allow you the opportunity to re-record in certain circumstances. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

If you have other questions, please let me know, and I’d be happy to help.  If you’re ready to get started, I suggest starting by Completing the VIPKid Application. If you’re ready to apply, here’s how to register with my referral code to get extra help through the process.

Good luck, and happy teaching!

How does your VIPKid apple rating measure up?

One of the features of the VIPKid platform is that parents are allowed to rate the classes we teach at VIPKid. Parents can leave five-apples, which is the best (and what counts toward raise eligibility with VIPKid) or they can leave fewer – all the way down to the dreaded one-apple.  Previously, I shared a little bit more about feedback in my post An Apple a Day. At this time, I was still new. I had only received 7 feedbacks from parents, and was still learning myself. Since then, I’ve earned 122 5-apple ratings, and continue to be touched and inspired by much of the feedback.

So I’d like to peel back the onion, er, apple? a little more and share some important and often overlooked components of parent feedback.

Not everyone leaves feedback.

One of the most common things I hear is, “I’ve taught ____ classes, and I don’t have any feedback. Is that normal? YES! Some parents never leave feedback. Some leave intermittent feedback. Some might not leave any feedback for months and then rate your last 60 classes. There is a great divide among teachers – some say you should ask for feedback, while others never ask.  Either way, don’t sweat it. There’s not a magic formula and you really have limited control over whether or not a parent leaves feedback. But if they do, remember…

Feedback is made of opinions.

This is not going to be a popular way to start this post, but it’s true. Many of the things that can influence a parent’s rating will be subjective.  Some common tags relate to prop usage, timely error correction, TPR, pronunciation corrections, expressive attitude, patience, class environment, and encouragement (among others.) Some of these are easy enough to quantify. For example, if a parent says that you failed to correct errors in a timely manner, it’s easy to watch a playback and either validate or invalidate this. However, if a parent says you did not have patience, that’s much harder to prove or disprove. There’s no quantitative way to measure patience in a visible way.

There *are* ways to get feedback invalidated, if a few circumstances are met.

It’s important to know that you can get feedback invalidated. It won’t be removed, but it won’t count toward your average. If you have gotten a 3-apple or below score, and you want to try to get it removed, check out the process here.

But better than invalidating bad feedback…

There are ways to improve your chances of getting positive (5-apple) feedback.

On March 7, 2019 VIPKid sent out some tips on what parents like and expect in a VIPKid teacher. As they said, “Knowing what parents DON’T want is the first step toward achieving a high feedback average.” They outlined eight behaviors to avoid that will help you avoid the dreaded low-apple feedbacks.

It’s important to note that these are not “requirements.” Often, teachers get upset and say that VIPKid can’t require us to do these things, which is true. But VIPKid also can’t force a parent to like our classes either. They provide these tips because they know their parents better than we do.  So I encourage you to take these things seriously.  Below are a few of the highlights that stood out to me.

  • Be high energy. VIPKid says that 30% of negative parent feedback is related to low energy in the classroom.  Remember, most of these students have been in school all day already, so the last thing they need is to have a tired teacher droning on at them. If you need some tips on how to seem more energetic, check out The Secret to High Energy VIPKid teaching!
  • Be patient.  The single biggest thing that can contribute to a perception of patience is smiling.  You will need to correct errors (see below) but do so with a smile! Impatience can also show through your tone or by interrupting the student. I know we all try not to do these things, but I know I sometimes FEEL impatient, and so it can take some intentional work to make sure this doesn’t SHOW to my student.
  • Be encouraging.  Parents  LOVE supplementary rewards. No, they are not required by contract. Yes, parents like them. Parents dislike it when a teacher doesn’t use them. This
  • Change it up. Besides always using a secondary reward system, parents appreciate a variety of feedback. Change it up –
    • Good job!
    • Perfect!
    • Way to go!
    • High Five!
    • Awesome!
    • Yay!

Pro tip: if your encouragement is working, your student should be responding! If they aren’t, it’s time to find another way!

Whatever your 5-apple rating is – don’t worry.  Your feedback rating is just one of many things that factor into your overall success. Hopefully you found this helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments!

If you are just getting started and would like someone to help walk you through the hiring process, I suggest starting here, and I’d be happy to help you along the way: Completing the VIPKid Application.

Good luck!