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!

The Prop Report #4 – Make a Critter Blocks

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

Introduction:

Welcome to the fourth installment of my series: The Prop Report. In this series, I plan to share my favorite props and rewards that I use in my ESL classroom. The link to the product is an affiliate link, so if you choose to purchase the item through the link, I get a little bonus. For more info about this series of posts, you can read my overview and full disclaimers here.

The product:

Make a Critter Blocks

Manufacturer:

Crocodile Creek

Recommended for ESL classroom?

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

Recommended for hands on learning?

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

Pros:

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

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

Cons:

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

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

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here:

In summary:

This reward is a definite yes! 

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

Crocodile Creek – Make a Critter Blocks

For other issues of The Prop Report:

Adding a VIPKid Referral Code

When you sign up through a VIPKid mentor, you get 1:1 guidance and support through the hiring process and beyond, and we get a little bonus once you teach your first class.

When you are just getting started as a new teacher applying with VIPKid, there are two ways you can sign up with an existing teacher as your “referring teacher.”

  1. You can sign up using a referral link. This automatically associates you with the referring teacher, and we’ll be notified of your application. As of October 1, VIPKid teachers are no longer allowed to share our referral links or codes in a public space like this, but you can contact a teacher directly if you would like their help.
  2. You can sign up using a referral code.

To do this is simple:

If you do not yet have a VIPKid teacher account

  1. From the registration page, click on “Sign Up.
  2. Click on “If you have a referral code, click here.”
  3. Input your referring teacher’s code in the box that appears. Complete the remaining information and click the “Sign Up” button.

If you already have a VIPKid teacher account

  1. Once you are logged in, click on “My Account.”
  2. Click on “Add Referral Code” (available until you complete the demo.)
  3. Add the referral code of your mentoring teacher.

If you aren’t sure what a referring teacher is, or if you want one or not, remember VIPKid’s objective is for you to have the opportunity to work with a friend or trusted acquaintance who is already a teacher. You get 1:1 guidance and support through the hiring process and beyond, and we get a bonus once you teach your first class. Most importantly, it’s totally free to you! We are here to help you.

In the meantime, best of luck, happy applying, and happy teaching!

One Year and 100 Blog Posts Later…

This is my 100th blog post. And since September 18 marks the one year anniversary of when I signed my first contract with VIPKid, it’s only fitting that this post be a first year check-in. Consider this my behind the scenes “VIPKid tell-all!” I’ll share the answers to three questions people don’t usually ask me, but I’m sure they’ve wondered.

How much money can you make with VIPKid?

How much money you make with VIPKid depends on a lot of factors. Are you working part time, or full time? How long have you been doing it? Do you work enough to qualify for a raise?

  • My husband and I once calculated that if you made an average of $8.00 per 25-minute class and worked “full time” – 40 hours per week, you would make around $42,000 per year teaching classes. It’s important to remember that if you are looking to do this full time, you have to grow your business. It takes time to get to a point where your schedule is consistently filled.
  • I work VERY part time. I only teach 3 classes per day, and only Monday-Friday. Last fall I did teach up to five classes per day, but I scaled back in February and have kept it at three. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve made, working 1.5 – 2.5 hours per day M-F.

What are the worst parts of working for VIPKid?

There are three things that I struggle with when it comes to VIPKid. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things that people find to complain about. No company and no experience is perfect, but these are the big ones for me.

  1. Class Attendance. Many people complain about VIPKid’s strict attendance policy. You can only have six missed appointments per contract without risk of a contract termination. (If you are an existing teacher, you can read the policy here.) I understand the policy – trust me, there are some mornings when my alarm goes off that I might just stay in bed if there weren’t a strict policy in place. But it does lend itself to teaching while sick or through other difficult life circumstances. Yes, there are ways that you can apply for “soft” or “medium” cancellations that come with fewer consequences, but in most cases, I find myself simply pushing through. And honestly, I don’t want to let my students down. They have been looking forward to our class all day, or maybe even all week. I don’t want to be the one to let them down.
  2. Setting Boundaries. When you enjoy something as much as I enjoy VIPKid, it’s sometimes hard to “turn it off.” Even when I’m not teaching, I’m often blogging, or watching videos, or editing videos. But it’s important to set boundaries – both with how I spend my time and also with spending money. No, I don’t need ALL the cute props I see.
  3. Learning Social Media. This may sound silly, because I’ve been using social media for a long time. And I should start by saying, you don’t have to use social media to teach. It is NOT a part of the job. But if you are interested in the recruiting side of the business (which I am) or growing with the “builders program” to take on new roles within VIPKid, then social media can help. On one hand, I’ve enjoyed learning new things, but on the other, it can be overwhelming to learn how to effectively use You Tube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for business. And don’t even get me started on video editing! I try, but I’m still much better with words than with videos! So it’s been a challenge, but one that I do sometimes enjoy.

What is the best part of working with VIPKid?

This one is easy. The best part of working with VIPKid is getting to know these amazing students and their families. A close second is learning about the culture in China. After one year with VIPKid, I would say 2/3 of my classes are filled with “regular” students that I have taught multiple times. My most taught student is Emma, and I’ve taught her 64 times in the last year. She just recently overtook Erica (my very first student!) I look forward to seeing Tracy, Rosie, Eric, and Alina at their regularly scheduled times each week. There is NO END to the number of “cute and amazing kid” stories that I have. (Ask Michael, he’ll tell you.) I adore it when my students pull out a musical instrument to show me what they are learning, or when mom sends me a video of their daughter learning how to make dumplings with her grandma. I ADORE the people that VIPKid has brought into my life, and I will forever be grateful!

What’s the verdict?

This will come to no surprise, but I would ABSOLUTELY recommend VIPKid. I have no regrets and no intention of ending my teaching career. When I began, it was a way for me to earn a little extra money for our capital campaign at church. Now, I cannot imagine life without teaching. I have come to embrace the name “Teacher Amelia” and all that comes along with it.

If you’ve been tagging along with me for the last year, thanks for putting up with all of my stories and musings! I hope you will celebrate these milestones with me this month!

If you are new to VIPKid or have been thinking about starting out, DO IT! When you are ready, here’s how to apply (along with some helpful hints!)

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a solid honorable mention (maybe even a tie!) to my amazing referrals. Right up there with my students and learning about their families and cultures, I have truly enjoyed helping new teachers get started. I’ve lived vicariously through them as they’ve moved to Spain, Poland, Israel and more. I’ve had the chance to cheer them on in their careers (both with VIPKid and their “day jobs.” I’ve become closer to friends I’ve already known and gotten to know totally new people. Oh, and I learned about elephant snot. (Teachers use many tools in their classrooms. I’m just sayin’.)

So join us. You’ll be glad you did!

How to Ask for 5-Apple Feedback

It is critical to be genuine, both in your teaching and in your feedback, so do what works for YOU!

I have written several blog posts about feedback, and in the last (almost) year that I’ve been teaching, my opinion hasn’t changed much. When people ask me, “Do you ask for feedback?” My answer is “sometimes.” It really depends on the student, the class, and the parents.

When do you ask for feedback?

I usually ask for feedback when I am teaching students for the first 1-3 times, or when I have a specific question that I would like the parents to answer. Here’s a snapshot of when I ask:

How do you ask for feedback?

I vary the way that I ask for feedback, but below are a few examples that I have used in each of the above categories! All of these are at the very end of my feedback, after I have given specific information about the student’s performance!

Trial Class Feedback

Bao Bao did a great job in class, and he will do very well with VIPKid! Did Bao Bao enjoy class? If you have any questions, you can contact your Learning Partner or ask me in your feedback. Receiving positive, 5-apple feedback is very important to VIPKid teachers, and it is a great way to be able to share ideas about Bao Bao’s classes! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

First Class Feedback

Thank you for the opportunity to teach Bao Bao in class today. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did! I would love to hear your comments about our class. VIPKid teachers always value feedback, but I especially enjoy learning about my new students’ families! Thank you! Teacher Amelia U

Second or Third Class Feedback

It was great to see Bao Bao again today. I can already see improvements from our last lesson. Keep going! If you have any suggestions or requests for our next class, please tell me in your feedback! Thank you! Teacher Amelia

Asking about Rewards

Today we played a game where “My Little Pony” characters were eating. This helped Bao Bao practice her new vocabulary using things that she enjoys! “Rainbow Dash eats!” I like extending on our lessons like this because it helps me ensure that Bao Bao understands and can apply what she is learning! If there are other toys, television shows, or movies that she likes, please let me know in your feedback, and I will try to incorporate them into upcoming lessons! Thank you – Teacher Amelia U

Asking for Feedback at Other Times

There may be other times that it’s appropriate to ask for feedback. You will get to know your students and their parents, and you’ll know what’s effective and appropriate. A few other examples might be:

  • I know that proper pronunciation is very important to you, so I took extra steps to practice “parallelogram” with Bao Bao. He was doing much better by the end of class! If you have any specific requests when you review the class, please let me know in the feedback! Thank you!
  • Did Bao Bao enjoy her reading course? I really enjoy teaching the supplemental courses, and I think that it will help Bao Bao continue to improve her reading skills in new ways. Please let me know if she enjoyed it in the feedback! Thank you!
  • I will not be teaching on September 2 because it is an American holiday. Feel free to send a priority booking request if there is another time you would like to schedule Bao Bao’s class. You could also leave me alternate times in the feedback and I will try to open classes if I am available. Thank you!

When NOT to Ask for Feedback

If you are not willing to listen with an open mind to your parents’ feedback, then please don’t ask. If you don’t want to consider new reward ideas, then don’t ask. It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when people ask for my advice and then blatantly disregard it. So please… only ask for feedback if you really want to hear it!

It is critical to be genuine, both in your teaching and in your feedback, so do what works for YOU! The above examples are what works for me. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for feedback, then don’t! Because that will show through to the parents.

Do I think that asking for feedback makes a difference in your apple rating? No, probably not. I’ve asked. I’ve not asked. And the feedback ebbs and flows regardless. So again, do what works for you. If you are interested in my other thoughts on feedback, you can check them out here:

If you are a new teacher looking to get started, I would love to help you through the hiring process! Feel free to contact me with questions!

It’s a Small World

“Even though I’ve read that the world population has doubled in the last fifty years, in some ways this world is smaller than ever. “

Most of my blog posts are specific to my time with VIPKid. My goal with my blog is to share my experience and to help other teachers get the information they need to be successful.

But to know why I value my time as a teacher so much, it might help to know a little bit more about where I came from. So, if you’re interested, join me on a crazy trip down memory lane to see how on earth I landed here!

Where I began…

I grew up in a small town in Missouri, about three or four hours south of either Kansas City or Saint Louis, depending on which way you were looking. My class was exceptionally small. There were seventeen of us. Even in my small, small school, that was considered unusual. My family always encouraged me to think big, but for many years, I didn’t know what that meant.

My roaring 20’s…

During college, I started working in the contact center industry. If you haven’t heard that term before, think about all of the companies you do business with. If you need to contact them, there’s someone available to help you. I say “contact center” because that contact might be a phone call, an email, a chat, or even a Tweet. You might be speaking to someone in sales, customer service, or technical support. And I have been involved with all of the above.

I began as an outbound telemarketing agent for MCI. I was one of the people who called you (or most likely your parents) to ask, “Have you thought about switching your long distance service?” Today, my job is more of a project and process manager, working with teams behind the scenes to make sure things run smoothly. But the bottom line is: my job is to help people. No matter what specifically I’m doing, I always tell people that I’m in customer service, because that’s why we do what we do. My teams are here to support our customers. Period.

Seeing the world…

At one point in my late 20’s, I had begun traveling within the US for work, but I had not yet begun traveling internationally. In fact, I didn’t even have a passport. I was talking with a colleague who worked at Reuter’s. She lives in London, and I said to her, “I wish I could travel internationally.” She gave me a blank stare and said, “Why don’t you?” The next week I applied for a passport, and the rest is history.

One of the most amazing parts of working in customer service has been the opportunity to travel. I can’t even begin to choose a favorite place or a favorite trip. There are simply too many. But a few of my most memorable trips (not including personal travel) include:

  • Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s skyscraper in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
  • Riding donkeys to the top of a volcano in Tagaytay, Philippines.
  • Eating the “worst bbq in Texas” at Rudy’s in San Antonio.
  • Visiting the Taj Mahal at sunset and Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, India
  • Being unintentionally “locked in” to a team builder at Stone Mountain, Georgia when the power went out following a hurricane.
  • Exploring Niagra Falls with fellow trainers on an 0ff-weekend in upstate New York.

The list could honestly go on and on. Just sitting here and thinking about these different places, and more importantly, the people who were with me, has brought back so many amazing memories! Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always worked hard, but on the weekends, I played hard too. I always thought “What a loss it would be to not experience everything a place has to offer.”

What I’ve learned…

Every one of those experiences above took place with people that I’ve worked with. I’ve spent hours with them on video calls and phone calls. When I was lucky, I spent time with them in person. They are amazing people, and I am lucky to call them my friends and colleagues.

Too often, people hear the words “outsourcing” or even “customer service” and they immediately bristle. It brings out an emotional reaction in some due to political beliefs, and to others because they have had a bad experience – somewhere, sometime, with someone. If there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that it doesn’t *really* matter where someone lives. I can assure you that the person on the other end of the phone, email, chat, or Tweet almost always wants to help you. I’ve been that person. And while it’s true that everyone has bad days, by and large, when we help you, it makes us feel good. It makes our jobs easier. It lets us know we’ve accomplished something good. We know we have made a small difference in a world that can be filled with stress.

It doesn’t stop at work…

In my personal life, I’ve also been blessed to travel. I have made five trips to Honduras where I have gotten to know the amazing people in the village of San Joaquin. I’ve visited Christopher Columbus’s home and dined in a cave in the Dominican Republic. We lived in Canada for three years, and I learned all about milk in a bag. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit England (twice) to see a former colleague and friend. (The definite high points were walking through a crop circle and visiting Stonehenge. And of course there have been several amazing camping trips, beach trips, and cruises with my wonderful family.

If I have learned one thing, in all of these places, people are people. We all have good days. We all have bad days. We all have problems. We all get sick. We all want to do good. We all love others.

My time in China…

All of these roads have led me to where I am today. I still work with amazing people around the world in my day job. I still travel with my family as often as possible. And now, I have a new place on my bucket list thanks to VIPKid. As of the writing of this post, I have yet to “really” visit China. But I will one day. I feel like I’m there every single day when I teach my students with VIPKid. These sweet families bring me into their homes and entrust me with their most prized possessions: their children. I have gone to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on vacation. I’ve made dumplings (Zongzi) during the Dragon Boat festival. I’ve heard students practice their instruments, read their poems, and sing their songs. These kids are just like ours.

I’m even more lucky because several of my VIPKid referrals live internationally. One moved to Madrid, Spain after she was hired. The other applied while living in Denmark. I get the chance to live vicariously through both of them every day. It’s amazing to have a team of people who can literally live anywhere in the world. There was one day that I had the opportunity to start my morning teaching in China. Then I spoke to both referrals (one in Spain and one in Denmark.) Later, I spoke to a fellow teacher who lives in Berlin; then during my workday, I talked with my ‘day job’ team members in South Carolina, Florida, Jamaica, Honduras and India.

It’s a small world

Even though I’ve read that the world population has doubled in the last fifty years, in some ways this world is smaller than ever. I am blessed and thankful to have had the opportunity to see so much of it. My bucket list is far from complete, but I can honestly say that it’s already overflowing.

What’s on your list? Where will you go next? What’s stopping you?

Clockwise from top: The volcano at Tagaytay, a pool in Cancun (maybe?), a crop circle somewhere in the English countryside, and Niagra Falls.