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!

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!)

Trick or Treat? Halloween Rewards for VIPKid!

Halloween is in the air, and I take every opportunity to celebrate. I thought I would share with you four ideas for easy Halloween reward systems. I have two for beginners and younger students and two that are a little more complex.

  • Spooky Spiders: Based on the reactions from my students, the favorite so far has been spiders. Everyone has a reaction and you can do fun TPR with anything creepy crawly! I printed out four different colors of spiders (great for extending) plus one big spider with a silly face. I drew a spider web on my whiteboard and tape the spiders on the board when my student does a good job.

spooky spiders

  • Jack-o-Lantern: For this one, you simply draw a face on a laminated pumpkin picture. This is especially helpful if your lesson has to do with parts of the face or emotions. To get the kids involved, you can ask them if they want to make a happy pumpkin or a sad pumpkin. (When I first used this, I had cut out face parts but I found that it was just as easy to draw them!)

jack-o-lantern

  • Haunted House: This one took a little more preparation. I printed and laminated a free printable haunted house coloring book page. (I chose one that had five windows/doors.) I then printed and laminated smaller Halloween pictures and a yellow sheet of paper. I cut out three sides of each window/door and put the small pictures behind the windows. When my student does a good job, they get to “open” a window. For added extension, number each window and door and let the student choose a number.

haunted house

  • Build-a-Costume: This is my favorite one, but it’s more appropriate for older kids. This is inspired by the old “paper dolls” of days gone by. I found a picture of a girl and printed that, along with different parts of a costume. For modesty, I started her out with jeans and a Halloween tank top, and then layer other pieces over that. This is fun because kids can choose what they want her to wear (socks, pants, dress, etc.) This is great if you have a lesson on clothing or colors.

Build a Costume

For all of these, always be sure if you are printing images off the internet that they are free stock photos or that you have permission to use them.

If you would like to see these in action, you can check out my You Tube debut to watch a short video that shows these reward systems in action.

Halloween is a great opportunity to share a little slice of our culture with our students, so have fun with it!

If you have other Halloween rewards that have worked well, tell me about them in the comments! If you have questions or I can help in any way, let me know! As always, if you are ready to apply, I would love for you to use my referral link and let me help you through the process! Happy Halloween!

close up photo of halloween decors
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

VIPKid Short Notice 24-hour Bookings

From my very first class, I realized that short notice bookings were an important tool for my VIPKid growth. At the same time, they were one of my biggest fears. Below are the basics about short notice classes, how to deal with them, and how they can help you.

What is a short notice class?

When you log in to update your availability and open time slots to teach, you have the option to allow short-notice bookings. This means that a parent can book a class anywhere from 24 hours to 1 hour before the class start time. (If you don’t select this option, the time slots expire 24 hours before the class start time.)

It’s been my experience that most short notice bookings come in overnight. I go to bed, and when I wake up the next morning, a class has been booked! Some of these classes are trial classes, and perhaps parents decide at the last minute to try it out. Sometimes these are regular major courses, and perhaps schedules have changed so the parents need to make a last minute adjustment.

What are the benefits of short notice classes?

  • Experience: As a new teacher, you need experience to teach. The more available you are, the more likely you are to get bookings.
  • Flexibility: The more short notice classes you teach, the more comfortable you’ll be in quick lesson preparation. This could lead to other opportunities such as substitute teaching.
  • Money: All courses booked within 24 hrs will earn an extra $2 as a short notice bonus. If you teach several short notice classes in a week, that can add up fast!

I’m convinced. How do I open my classes up for short notice booking?

The process to allow short notice booking is simple.

  • If you are using the VIPKid Teacher app, once you use the slide button to open the slot, touch the “24H” button to turn it blue. In the screenshot below, the 5:00 am timeslot is NOT available as a short notice booking but the 5:30 am timeslot is.

mobile app booking slots

  • If you are using the VIPKid Teacher Client/PC App or the VIPKid Teacher’s Portal in a web browser, when you click on the timeslot to book it, first check “Course” and then change the bottom option from “Available” to “Short Notice.”

screenshot - booking timeslots

How can I prepare for a short notice class? 

As a new teacher, this was my biggest concern. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do a good job without adequate preparation time. As I gained experience, I found there are a few key preparation steps that make short notice classes easy.

  • Have a small stable of key props. You can almost always use Meg and Mike, dino, and numbers. If you have a set of magnetic letters handy, these can be used in any of the sound blending and phonics activities. I keep a harmonica handy that I use to open any song (I just play random notes!) and I keep a trophy nearby that I show them when they win a game. (This has gotten more than one “WOW!” from students. While it’s great to have super-customized props for each and every lesson, they aren’t necessary.
  • Have a few different secondary reward systems at your fingertips. An easy one that I’ve used several times is alphabet blocks. My kids’ real blocks are long gone, so I printed and laminated some pictures of blocks, but either would work. Before the class, pull out the letters that spell your student’s name, and each time they do a good job, they spell one letter of their name. This personalization makes it seem like you are prepared with a custom lesson, but only takes a minute. I also had balloons blown up for my “birthday” class, and I didn’t want to waste my breath (literally!) I’ve used the balloons as a secondary reward system for several students, and they’ve stayed inflated for several weeks.
  • Download the teacher app to your phone. You can quickly and easily flip through the slides on your phone while you dry your hair, get dressed, etc. (You can also flip ahead while in the lesson with your student.) Using the app also lets you quickly scan teacher feedback to see what works well and what reward systems have been used recently with the student. Even a cursory review of the student and lesson can ensure you are able to be effective and meet the objectives for the class.

If you still have questions, here is a link to more information on short notice classes from VIPKid. As always, feel free to ask me questions in the comments or by contacting me here. I would love to help you in your VIPKid journey. If you haven’t yet signed up, feel free to use my referral link and I will help you in any way I can!

My First VIPKid Class

If you have dreams of pre-planning every single lesson, it’s not going to happen. But do you want the good news? It’s not necessary!

This picture is not my most flattering picture. It showcases my look of terror! It shares with the world the look of adrenaline coursing through my veins when I woke up one morning to see that I had been booked for a short-notice class with my very first VIPKid student.

Her name was Erica, and the lesson was one that I had not seen before. Now you should know that I am a bit of a perfectionist. In my mind, I had hoped to have a full filing cabinet with printed objectives, props, and customized lesson plans for any class I might be asked to teach. I thought I would have my lesson plans arranged a week in advance, ordered by day and time. Let me tell you, if you have dreams of pre-planning every single lesson, it’s not going to happen. But do you want the good news? It’s not necessary!

Why did I have a short notice class?

I wish I could say that I was so confident in my teaching abilities that I knew I could handle anything. In reality, there was an incentive sponsored by VIPKid that paid teachers for opening a certain number of short notice PPT slots, so despite my anxiety, I opened them up.

“Oh, I’ll never get booked,” I thought. “I’ll check the VIPKid app on my phone and go back to sleep,” I thought.

Imagine my surprise to wake up to a notification, “Congratulations! You’ve been booked!”

What did I do?

Needless to say, I was immediately wide awake! After a quick shower, I browsed through the lesson on my phone while I dried my hair and put on makeup. I might not have a detailed plan in place, but at least I would be familiar with the learning objectives, reward system, and slides.

I grabbed a few props that I already had prepared from my mock classes, and yes, I went a little overboard. I ran to Walmart (since I still had over an hour before class began.) The lesson was about birthdays, so I bought balloons, candles, and a few other small props. I didn’t spend more than a couple of dollars, because I had promised myself that I wouldn’t let my enthusiasm cause me to spend my earnings before I’d even gotten paid!

I had time for a quick selfie before I jumped into the classroom to ensure everything was working properly.

So how did it go?

I know, the suspense is killing you!

In short, it went fine. I’m sure if I were to go back and watch the video now, I would cringe. My time management was terrible, and I didn’t finish the slides. My blood pressure was probably through the roof the entire time.

Reviews of the student had not been exactly glowing. There were reports of her not smiling, and comments that she got distracted easily. I went into the lesson expecting the worst, and just hoping that I didn’t get fired!

Erica was a superstar, though. It’s true she didn’t (and still doesn’t) smile much. She doesn’t like to sing the songs (although music class IS her favorite class.) But she is intelligent and a great student. How do I know? She is one of my most regular repeat students. I teach her almost every week now!

No, my teaching was far from perfect, but it wasn’t about that. It was about connecting with the student and helping her achieve the lesson objectives.

Once that first class was completed, I was able to take a deep breath and relax a little bit. I had survived, and so had my student. There would be other milestones and other sources of anxiety, but the bandaid had been ripped off and I saw that I would be fine.

Are you nervous about your first class? Do you want someone to help talk you through it? Feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll be happy to help. Want to share your own success stories or fears? Leave them in the comments! If you are ready to take the plunge and become a VIP teacher so you can have your own “first class” memories, I would be honored to help you along the way! Feel free to ask for help and use me as your referral. Let’s get started together!