Teacher Essentials

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

I have three disclaimers to give before I start sharing.

  1. You should not need to buy much to be a successful teacher. Yes, there are some basic technical requirements, but all of the props and things are optional. You probably have most of what you need around the house already.
  2. Most of the links I’m sharing are affiliate links, so I get paid something if you use them. I don’t know how much. So far I’ve earned a whopping $1.11 since I started with Amazon. ๐Ÿ™‚ So I won’t get rich, but if you’re going to order something anyway, you can help a fellow teacher out!
  3. I will not share any links below for things that I don’t personally use in my classroom*. These are my recommendations, and I’ll stand by them!

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

Technology

laptop

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

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

Dell Inspirion 15.6 Inch HD Touchscreen Laptop

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

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

headset

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

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

Cons: If you have a large classroom and are far away from your laptop, perhaps a wired solution isn’t the best. But the cord is rather long, so I can’t imagine a scenario when you would be that far away! ๐Ÿ™‚

external camera

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

Logitech C920 Camera

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

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

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

Classroom Supplies

lamination

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

Scotch Thermal Laminator

Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches

paper cutter

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

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

CARL Professional Rotary Paper Trimmer

magnets

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

10×2 round magnets

Packing tape

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

Scotch Packing Tape

Organization

rolling utility cart

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

Grammercy Cart by Recollections

Hanging wall organizer

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


Godery 5-pocket Hanging Wall Organizer

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

Props and Rewards

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

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

Happy teaching!

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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:

VIPKid Meetup – Goodie Bags

Tomorrow, I’m hosting my very first VIPKid meetup. If you aren’t sure what that is or why they are so awesome, read this first.

In addition to teachers having the chance to meet one another and have some fun, I hope that everyone who attends leaves with some fun, new ideas to try in class. That’s why I’m so excited about the goodie bags that I put together. (Stay tuned for my follow up post to see if other people were as excited as I am!) ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are thinking about hosting a meetup of your own, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Oh, and VIPKid does have a reimbursement process (currently up to $100.) So if you’re looking for inspiration, here’s what I’ve included. (For each item, I’ve included where I purchased it, as well as a similar link on Amazon (because a. Who doesn’t love Amazon? and b. If you purchase using my affiliate link, I get a few cents. Win-Win!)

A cute, magnetic notepad. I got these from Michael’s for $1 each. They would be great for noting your students for the next day, planning out props, or just doodling! Try this 12-pack from Amazon for only $18.99!

Ice-Cream Cone or Fuzzy Pens. This was a Dollar Tree find. First, I bought all the ice cream pens they had. Then I came back and bought fuzzy pens for the rest. Either would be great for note-taking with your new note pad, and they can serve double duty as a prop for colors! Mine were $1.00 at Dollar Tree, but try these from Amazon ($5.99 for 6.)

Dice and Dice Games. This might be my favorite thing in the bags. (Well, one of my favorite.) I got the dice in a two-pack from the Dollar Tree, and each bag includes one. I printed off the games from vipkidresources.com. You can check them out in action and get the links in this post!

Flash Cards. I picked up 3 packs for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree. I don’t think you can match this online! But I found something still affordable at Amazon. Try these for $9.99 for a four-pack.

Novelty Pencil Sharpeners. The ones in my bags are fish, because they had them in a two-pack at Dollar Tree. BUT… had I done my research online, I would have ordered THESE! I actually have one of these from years ago that makes an AMAZING prop in the level 2 unit all about your face! Mine was a giveaway from a drug rep to a nurse, but I use it ALL THE TIME.

Door Hangers. This is my other favorite item. I actually purchased some pre-decorated “color-your-own” door hangers from Michaels, but these from Amazon are cuter, and a better deal (and would prevent the pre-painting step!) To make mine, I basically painted the wooden door-hangers, then used Mod Podge to make cute, VIPKid related images. I thought these would be super-helpful if you had young children at home that you were trying to teach boundaries.

Earbuds.  Ok. These are my last favorite item. Really. I purchased bulk headphones (in orange!) from TFD Supplies. I don’t have an affiliate link or anything, but they had amazing customer service, and their headphones are just $0.95 each (with a hard plastic case.) I added a self-print 2″ round sticker, and was done!

To top off the goodie bags, I threw in some extra candy that we had around the house from a Sam’s Club pack. Here’s a pack for $8.52 at Amazon. ($0.85 each!)

I got the bags at Michael’s in a baker’s dozen for $6.99 ($0.54 each!) plus tissue paper at Walmart for ten sheets for $0.98… ($0.10 each.) At Amazon, it would be $0.92 per bag and $0.49 per sheet of tissue paper.

Personalized Iron On Decals. It just so happens that one of the local area teachers does custom iron-on decals and sells them for $4.00 each ($8 with shipping.) I thought this was a great way to support a local teacher AND give away a fun item! (I’ve blocked out her number for privacy, but if you are interested in ordering from her, let me know in the comments and I can connect you!)

Of course, the VIPKid stickers and buttons were sent from VIPKid headquarters, along with other amazing swag to raffle off!

The total cost for my bags (per person) – ~$9.89

Total cost per bag using Amazon links – ~$14.29

Inspiration  – Priceless!

I really hope that my meetup guests enjoy receiving these bags as much as I enjoyed making them. If you have other suggestions for great giveaways, let me know in the comments! It’s never too early to start planning the next meetup!

meetup bag

The Prop Report #3 – 6-in-1 Puzzles

“…they could have been looking at the VIPKid curriculum when they designed the puzzles!”

Introduction:

Welcome to the third 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:

6-in-1 Puzzle Sets

Manufacturer:

LQT Limited

Recommended for ESL classroom?

Yes (for lower levels!) These are perfect for VIPKid level 2

Recommended for hands on learning?

Yes! But only for younger kids. Since there are only 5 or 6 pieces per puzzle, they are too simple for older kids.

Pros:

I personally have the transportation puzzle. (That’s what you’ll see in my video below.) I love it because sometimes I teach a student several lessons in the same unit, but I can do different puzzles for variety! I love that they have fun animals and bright colors (both great extension tools.) When I purchased this, it was sold as a single puzzle. Now it’s part of a set of four, and I swear, they could have been looking at the VIPKid curriculum when they designed the puzzles!

  • transportation
  • farm animals
  • wild animals
  • aquatic animals

I can easily think of lessons for each of these!

These are very easy to use in the classroom because each piece is numbered on the back. I don’t really enjoy puzzles and I certainly don’t want to figure them out on the spot with my student, so I love that they come with a small cheat piece that shows what the puzzle should look like completed.

The puzzle pieces are thick and sturdy, and they show up well on camera.

Cons:

The way I choose to attach these to my whiteboard is by magnet. While it works, it can sometimes be a little bit clunky to connect the pieces. There might be a better way to use these (maybe thinner magnetic strips?) but as long as you are comfortable with the puzzles and familiar with your student, they work great!

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here: YouTube: Prop Report #3

In summary:

This prop set is a yes if you teach level 2 with VIPKid. They will provide great variety in your class and plenty of extension opportunities!

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

LQT Ltd Baby Wooden Toys Puzzles Jigsaw Puzzle Colorful Animal/Traffic/Ocean/Farm Puzzles 6 in one Box Educational Table Game Toddlers

 

For other issues of The Prop Report:

The Prop Report #2 – Joyin Animal Friends Hand Puppets

This prop set is an absolute yes – for the ESL classroom or just for fun.

 

Introduction:

Welcome to the second installment of a new 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:

Animal Friends Deluxe Kids Hand Puppets with Working Mouth (Pack of 6) for Imaginative Play

Manufacturer:

JOYIN

Recommended for ESL classroom?

Totally! I use these all the time!

Recommended for hands on learning?

Yes! I think that young kids would have a great time putting on puppet shows with these.

Pros:

This set of puppets comes with six different animals, so you have a variety to choose from. My favorite feature is the hard, moveable mouths (in all of them but the elephant.) I also love that you can position your thumb and pinky in the arms and move their arms. (Be sure to check out the video for the famous dabbing raccoon.) The sleeve of the puppet goes far enough down your wrist that you don’t have to be extremely careful about showing your arm and ruining the “magic” on camera. These puppets are large enough (especially the elephant and monkey) that they are comfortable on your hand. I also really like that they are substantial enough that you don’t have to use them as a puppet.  You could actually hold them just like a plush stuffed animal.

Did I mention the moveable mouths? Kids like nothing more than to see an animal “eat” one of their stars or even bite their teacher!

Cons:

Not all of the animals are commonly found in VIPKid lessons, though they might be in other ESL company powerpoints or perhaps even other lessons. If you are a prop minimalist, it might be overkill to have six puppets, especially if all you want to use them for is an icebreaker.

See it in action:

You can see my unofficial product demo here: Super Cool YouTube Video

roar

In summary:

This prop set is an absolute yes – for the ESL classroom or just for fun.

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

 

JOYIN Animal Friends Deluxe Kids Hand Puppets with Working Mouth (Pack of 6) for Imaginative Play

Other Episodes of the Prop Report:

VIPKid – Teaching on the Road

My VIPKid journey has been filled with milestones. In fact, we earn different badges to celebrate the big ones. So far, after 1.5 contracts, I’ve earned a few:

  • 30/100/180 days as a teacher
  • 1st, 10th, 100th, and 500th classes taught
  • 1st, 50th, and 100th 5-apple ratings
  • 100th student taught

This morning I celebrated my own personal milestone: teaching my first class remotely. One of the most amazing benefits of teaching with VIPKid is the ability to teach from anywhere you have an Internet connection. Up until now, I just haven’t taken advantage of this.

My husband needed to come to New Orleans to renew his passport, so I tagged along for the ride. I actually closed my early morning times so I could sleep in, but I have my normal Monday morning 7am class (Rosie) who books like clockwork several weeks in advance. Today she had a mid-unit assessment scheduled, so we took the show on the road.

It just so happened that this was a very easy lesson for props. What did I bring? One ziplock bag that included:

  • My mini-whiteboard and a magnetic marker
  • Uno cards
  • He/She/It magnets

Because I was teaching a student I was very familiar with, I did not hang a special background. I sat in front of a blank wall with a picture on it. I was in front of a large window that offered plenty of light, plus I dragged a lamp nearby.

The results? An easy, effective class.

If you are thinking of taking your own classroom on the road, here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider using digital props and rewards. Google Slides is a great option for both, although there are other options available.
  2. Create a grab bag of versatile props that you can grab and take with you. I would suggest:
      A small, magnetic whiteboard and marker
      Magnetic stars that can attach to the whiteboard
      A small pronoun chart or print outs of pronouns
      Flash Cards (ABC’s, animals, numbers/math, and shapes)
      Key characters (Meg, Mike, Dino, and maybe the level 1 characters if you teach it)
      A simple backdrop (This could be a shower curtain, a blanket, or even a colorful gift bag that could be hung from the wall.)
      Some external, battery powered lighting (just in case.)
  1. Have fun! Just like with your classroom at home, if you are engaged and enjoying class, your students will too!

I also let Rosie’s mom know in advance I would be on the road so she wasn’t surprised. When I got set up, I sent her a picture of the day’s “classroom” on WeChat. After class, I got the sweet message below from her.

So, even though this isn’t a milestone “officially” with VIPKid, I consider this morning a success.

Have you taught successfully from the road? What’s your go-to list of traveling props? I’d love to hear about them in the comments! If you would like to keep up with my future trips I’ve started a dedicated feed on my instagram. I hope you will check it out!

If you are looking for an opportunity to have a job where you can travel as well, I’d love to help you get started with VIPKid. The first step is to apply. You can get a preview of all of the steps in the process here: VIPKid Application and Interview Process (Updated May 27, 2019). I would be happy to help you through the process. Just let me know!

The โ€œArtโ€ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚