The Prop Report

I thought I would begin sharing my product reviews about what does (or doesn’t) work well in my classroom.

I don’t love to shop. I am not especially good at it, and I don’t like it when I order something that isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

That said, I do enjoy having fun (and practical) things in my classroom!

From this foundation, the Prop Report was born. Occasionally, I thought I would begin sharing my product reviews about what does (or doesn’t) work well in my classroom.

But first- a few disclaimers.

  1. If I provide a link to a product, it will be a labeled affiliate link. (hopefully. If I can figure out how to do it!) My goal is not to get rich quick, but if you do happen to use my link to get a great product, I will get a small payout. Yay!
  2. I am not turning this into a product blog. Most of what I write about will be teaching. When I do throw in a product, I will label it clearly so you can skip over it if you’re not into those posts!
  3. YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEND MONEY TO BE A GOOD ONLINE TEACHER! I use cute props and backgrounds and rewards because they make me happy. But there are plenty of prop minimalists who do amazing things in their classrooms. I don’t ever want one of my recommendations to be perceived as “necessary.” It’s not.

I will try to keep a list of companies that I have an affiliation with. So far, it’s just:

  • Amazon.com

(but do you really need more than that!?!)

I hope you find this helpful. If you have questions about any of the products that I talk about, or if you have questions about other products that I might like to try, please let me know in the comments!

Happy teaching! (and shopping!!)

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ESL Extension

Extension is not just a way to kill time. You want to … expand their vocabulary, grammar, or other English skills.

No one has ever accused me of being short-winded. In writing or speaking, I ALWAYS say too much. As such, it was no surprise that most of my VIPKid classes easily hit the 25 minute mark. In fact, my struggle is usually completing them by about 27 minutes in order to reset my classroom.

Imagine my surprise when one day I met Alina. Her English skills were on par for a level 2 student, but she was so well prepared for the lesson, that she was able to fly through each slide perfectly, with literally NO CORRECTIONS needed! She was not comfortable with free talk, so I had to be very intentional about what I asked her, or she would just freeze.

Thanks to Alina, I had to quickly learn the art of extension, and it has become one of my favorite parts of teaching. I teach Alina every other Friday now, and I always look forward to thinking up new ways to extend her knowledge just a little bit more.

The key to effective extension is your goal. It’s not just a way to kill time. You want to either:

  1. Confirm your student’s understanding of a concept
  2. Ensure your student can apply the new information or
  3. Add new information that relates to the content that expands their vocabulary, grammar, or other English skills.

Below are a few of my favorite extension techniques that you can customize for your classes.  These were written with major courses in levels 2-4 in mind, since most of those follow a similar “flow” in the lessons.

Noun Examples

Most lessons begin with the introduction of 1-3 new vocabulary words. There are always several examples in the lesson and several target sentences to learn. You can introduce new and different types of examples to help expand their understanding of the word, and help them use adjectives to articulate their sentences.

For example, if the target word is bus, you could use the below to extend.

bus

Verb Conjugation

I use this in almost every lesson. I have a few different laminated verb charts that I use, and I almost always go through a cycle of pointing at a pronoun and having the student say the correct word. “I _____. You ______. We _______. They _______. He _______(s). She _______(s). It _______(s.)”

You can then change the sentences slightly. Introduce different toys or characters that “do” the verbs. If Meg is doing it, they must know the right pronoun (she) and the right conjugation. If Mike is doing it, they must say “He” and the right conjugation. If Dino is doing it, they must say “It” and the right conjugation.

Sentence Objects

You can also change the object of the sentence.  If you are trying to teach the verb “point” and the target sentence “He points to a ____.” the possibilities are endless. “Teacher points to a Dino.” “She points to an apple.” “She points to a wardrobe.” (Any prop will likely do!) This can be extension and a review of prior lessons!

Role Reversal

For your more advanced students, you can get them to take on the role of the teacher. Ask them, “What can you point to?” and have them demonstrate, “I can point to a ____.” They also like it if you get answers wrong. If they point to a cat, you can say the sentence, “You point at a dog.” They’ll laugh and say, “No, teacher. I point to a cat.” I would only use this technique if I already had a good relationship with the student and I knew it would not confuse them!

Indefinite Articles

Almost every lesson has the opportunity to extend by teaching and practicing a/an. In all of the examples above, you can demonstrate and explain when to use “a” vs. “an.” Many students pick up on this intuitively but you can always reinforce it or have them explain the rule to you.

High Frequency Words

There are plenty of things you can do with high frequency words, depending on your student’s comfort level.

  • Read them.
  • Read them fast (and time them.)
  • Spell them.
  • Make a sentence with each one.
  • Make a sentence with more than one.
  • Tell a story using the words.

My sweet little Alina is no longer shy. She blew me away last week when I asked her to make up a “telling sentence” and instead she told me a story! You can check it out on You Tube!

Counting, Colors and Size

These are some of the easier ways to extend, and they most likely won’t take up a whole lot of time. But you can always ask some basic questions about the pictures in the lesson.

  • How many elephants do you see?
  • What color is the chair?
  • Which car is the biggest? Which call is the smallest?

I NEVER wait until the end of a lesson to extend. If you remember our objective above, it’s not about filling leftover time, it’s about truly expanding on what your student is learning. Throughout the lesson, I look for opportunities that lend themselves to the examples above. I try to set my pace to approximately one slide per minute. If I check, and we have time, then I will introduce one of these methods into the lesson at the appropriate time. If not, I keep moving.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

If you are new to VIPKid and are looking for a mentor to help you with these (and other) ESL teaching techniques, I’d love to help you!

Happy teaching!

VIPKid and Daylight Saving Time (Spring Forward)

Last fall, I was a shiny, new VIPKid teacher. I was worried about Daylight Saving Time, and didn’t know what to expect. After surviving my first “fall back” shift, I wrote an article about VIPKid and Daylight Savings Time (Fall Back) .

Tomorrow, we are set to “spring forward” and this time, I have a lot less stress about the situation.

So what is changing for me?

As you might know, I only work super-part time. I have a day job that I begin at 8am Central Time each weekday, so my schedule has been 5:00 am – 7:30 am Central Time. This equates to 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm in Bejing. Once we spring forward, if I were to keep the same times open in Bejing time, MY time would be 6:00 am – 8:30 am Central Standard Time, which now overlaps with my day job.

What did I do?

At the risk of sounding a bit anticlimactic, I did nothing. I am keeping 5:00 am – 7:30 am Central Daylight Time open. For my students, that now represents 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm in Bejing. The time is already updated in the VIPKid portal, so as long as you set your clocks with the time change, 5am is really 5am. You don’t have to do the math!

What will happen to my schedule?

My schedule is crazy for the first week after Daylight Saving Time anyway, because it’s spring break week, so I am only working a few days. So my first “frenzy” (when parents book classes two weeks in advance) will happen this weekend.  It’s possible that I will lose a few regular students who prefer that later timeslot; however, many will shift with me.

What did I do to prepare?

  • A few weeks before the time change, I left comments in my feedback advising my regular students that my schedule would be changing. I apologized for the inconvenience and assured them that I still wanted to teach their son/daughter.
  • If those later timeslots did not book in the frenzy, I started closing them. (If this were my primary income, I might not have done this.) My goal in closing them was twofold: a) to get an idea of what students this would impact by watching for priority booking requests and b) to prevent getting any new regulars that I fell in love with that had to have that timeslot!

If you are worried about the time change, please don’t be. Students will come and go, and their schedules change (just like our kids’ schedules change!) This may be a good opportunity to find some new regulars, and if you have flexibility to teach at different times, perhaps you could accommodate some students who need to find a new teacher! And you never know, you might just catch some amazing sunrise snapshots between classes!

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, and I would be happy to help.

Happy teaching!

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Worst VIPKid Video Ever

When I decided to apply for VIPKid, I was nervous. Once I started watching YouTube videos, I was petrified.

You’ve all seen them – the cute, adorable, well-spoken, lively teachers. The ones with the perfect classroom and the ideal camera angle. The ones with the endless wardrobes of orange shirts in a variety of flattering styles. The ones who can balance a baby on one hip while teaching a class and making a perfect video with flashy animation bouncing across the screen all at the same time. They are perfect.

I watched these and thought, “That’s not me!”

But then I got hired. Then I got a class. Then I got some regular students. Then it was me. Maybe it wasn’t as pretty, but guess what? It didn’t matter.

What does matter?

  1. I am motivated. This was something I *wanted* to do.
  2. I am not afraid of hard work. Teaching isn’t something you can fake. It’s too important.
  3. I care about my students. Their success is important to me.
  4. I want to have fun. When I have fun, so do they.

There isn’t a single student or parent out there who cares if my YouTube videos have animation, so neither do I.

If you’re thinking about giving VIPKid a try, just do it. If I can help, I would love to. Here’s my referral link.

In the meantime, if you want to see the ugly truth, below is probably the very worst VIPKid video ever. But it doesn’t matter. 🙂

The Worst VIPKid Video Ever

worst picture ever

What’s a VIPKid referral anyway?

By now, if you’ve read any of my blog posts or watched any of my videos, you’ve seen me talking about my referral link. So what is it, and why should you use it?

In short, by using a referral link, you are connecting one on one with a VIPKid mentor. This is not an employee; it’s a fellow teacher.  It’s someone who has been through the process and is willing to show you the ropes.

When I went through the process in September 2018, I didn’t have a mentor. This was especially unfortunate, because the process was changing AS I WAS INTERVIEWING (!) and so many of the videos didn’t really align with my experience. In hindsight, it would have been great to have someone I could lean on for questions and feedback through the process.

So – what can you expect from me, if you decide you would like me to be your mentor?

A. I will support you via email.

We all love email! It’s quick and easy and available all the time. If you have questions, shoot them over to me, and I’ll be happy to respond!  Just contact me here.  I’ll shoot you my email address. (Or it’s also in the photo and video at the end of this post.) I’ll do my best to respond within 24 hours!

B. I will review your demo class/mock class.

I was so nervous to present to the interviewer! I would have loved to be able to do a dry run and get some pre-feedback before the actual interview.

C. I will set up a 1:1 video call with you.

If you’re local, let’s just get together! If not, let’s zoom! There’s nothing that puts your mind quite at ease like just having a conversation with someone who has successfully completed what you are doing. It’s a great chance to set aside 30 minutes to get any questions answered and talk through the process.

D. I will add you to my brand new private Facebook group, Amelia VIPKID – Teacher Central!

What’s so special about a Facebook group? I’m glad you asked! This is basically a newcomer’s guide to VIPKid. It’s organized in such a way that it’s a roadmap. It’s quick and easy to refer to. I’ve structured the content into 16 units (and counting.) Some of the posts are a five-minute read, while others link to a longer blog post or video. (Speaking of videos, check this one out, where you can get a tour!

This page is very much a work in progress, and it will continue to grow with new information, so stay tuned!

There are plenty of good mentors out there to help you along your VIPKid journey. I hope this is helpful in understanding the process a little bit more and learning how I (or another) mentor can assist!

Happy teaching!

mentor support

How I earned over $500 in my bathroom!

First of all, I don’t call it a bathroom. It’s my classroom. And I earned the money teaching English as a second language to children in China!

I have a full time job in corporate America, but a couple of months ago I decided I needed a more meaningful hobby – something that was different than my daily grind. The ability to earn money at the same time was just an added bonus! That began my journey with VIPKid.

Why did I turn my bathroom into a classroom? This was an unused area of my home off of a spare bedroom that I use as my home office. The countertop placed my laptop at the right level, and it allowed me to have a wall behind me that was in easy reach. The lighting is easily controlled, and it’s right next to my wireless router, so there’s a strong wifi signal. It was perfect! There were two previously empty drawers perfect for storing props, and the huge bathroom mirror also provides a surface I can use as my own personal dry erase board to write myself lesson notes!

My journey with VIPKid has just begun, and so far I LOVE it. The children and their parents are amazing. The hours are flexible, and the classes are fun. As you can see, the pay is pretty nice too!

In full disclosure, I expect my paycheck to continue to grow. I am a brand new VIPKid teacher, and so I’m still building my regular student base.  At the time I’m writing this article, I’ve been a teacher for 47 days. (I signed my contract mid-September, 2018.) It’s important to note that I ONLY make myself available to teach Monday through Friday between 5 or 6 am Central and 7:30 am Central. I need to be ready to start my regular job at 8 am sharp.

In this short time, though, here’s how my student base (and paycheck) have grown:

  • My first week I opened 10 timeslots (none short notice) and didn’t get any bookings.
  • My second week, VIPKid offered an incentive for opening up a certain number of short notice time slots, so I opened 25 available class times, and I got two short notice bookings. (Both of whom have booked multiple classes since then!)
  • The first half of October, my mom had surgery, so my availability to teach was limited, but I taught 9 classes with one trial no-show.
  • The second half of October, I taught 35 classes.
  • Looking ahead, it’s only November 3rd, and I’m already booked for 14 classes. (VIPKid only opens up two weeks in advance, so there are plenty more bookings to come!)
September 2018 – 2H October 2018 – 1H October 2019 – 2H
% of Timeslots Filled 20% 25% 92%
Pay $22.00 $84.00 $410.00

I cannot recommend this opportunity enough. It’s a good company with good training and a simple process to learn and grow your student base. It’s fun, flexible, and so far pretty profitable!  Whether you are looking for some extra holiday spending money, a second career, or a meaningful hobby, VIPKid could be a good fit for you.

If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact me. If you are looking for someone to help you through the process, I’d love to be your mentor, so please use my referral link if you are ready to sign up!

 

Class Prep: VIPKid Courses & Mock Class

I am a planner. I like nothing more than a color coded calendar with every hour neatly catalogued. So for me, it was important that I understand early how to prepare for a class.

Whether you are preparing for your interview, a mock class, or a regular class, the steps are basically the same.

  1. Review the objectives.
  2. Review the slides.
  3. Review key skills.
  4. Learn about your student.
  5. Prepare a list of props or realia.
  6. Practice.

To help get you started, let’s look at each of these individually.

  • Review the objectives. If you do nothing else in preparing for a lesson, be sure you review the objectives. These will tell you what your child needs to learn. If you are teaching the letter “a” there might be a picture of an apple on the page, but that could be just to demonstrate the letter sound. It’s not important that the student remember the word apple, nor is it important they know that an apple is red. If you are doing a lesson on food, learning about the apple might be an important part of the lesson. So read your objectives. Your interviewer and mock class mentor will be watching for this, and it will directly affect the results of your real students later.
  • Review the slides. You will want to scroll through the slides enough that you are comfortable with them. For new teachers, this could take several times. If you’ve taught for a while or done this lesson before, a quick once-over might be sufficient. You will not be effective in class if you are trying to squint and read instructions on each page during your interview or class.
  • Review key skills. This is extremely important, especially if you are not a current ESL or lower elementary teacher. If you are teaching a letter, be sure you know the correct sound the letter makes. Be sure you know the standard letter motion movements. You need to be sure you know how your mouth (and your student’s) should look when they make the letter sound. You might think that “Everyone knows how to say ‘R'” but if you aren’t prepared to correct a “ruh” to an “rrrrr” you will be in trouble. If you are interviewing, your mentor is sure to mispronounce something to test you. With real students, missing timely error correction can build bad habits and result in poor feedback from parents.
  • Learn about your student. In a mock class, VIPKid will provide some basic information about your student. They will provide their age and some prior vocabulary. Score bonus points if you can work some of these into your lesson, since it shows you are prepared! In a real class, there is a “Student Details” section. There you can learn the name and age of your student, the number of classes they have taken with VIPKid, their ratings on the last lesson, and feedback from prior teachers. This can help you adjust to their personal style in the classroom, so pay attention!
  • Prepare a list of props or realia. I love props! When you are interviewing, you will need to make sure to use at least two different types of props or realia. For example, if you are teaching the letter “P” you could choose two or more of any of the following types of props: a magnetic letter, a whiteboard, printed/laminated letters or pictures, blocks with letters, stuffed animals or toys that start with “p” (panda, puppy, pig.) I’m sure you could come up with many other ideas, but be sure you have and use at least two different types.
  • Practice. As you are getting started and preparing for your interview, practice is the most important thing you can do. Practice your TPR in the shower. Practice with your family. Practice on video on your computer. Practice with your dog. You cannot practice too much. Once you are hired and have taught several classes, practice becomes less important than the rest of the preparation since much of the TPR and slide work will be familiar to you.

The more classes you teach, the faster you can move through these steps. Today, I spend between 5-15 minutes preparing for each class, whereas I spent several hours preparing for my initial interview and mock class.

If you have questions about how I prepare or have tips of your own you would like to share, let me know in the comments below! If you are ready to join VIPKid and apply, feel free to use me as a referral and I will help in any way I can!