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 “Art” of Teaching

I couldn’t help myself. I bought an Apple Pencil. I justified it because I needed an iPad for backup when the Internet or power was down. I couldn’t miss my classes, after all. How that justified the pencil, well….

So far, I’ve mostly just doodled with it. During my non-VIPKid day job, I sit on a lot of conference calls. I find that if I let myself look at email, I will get distracted and stop listening to the meeting. So, I will occasionally doodle like the below.

But today I had the chance to draw my first “reward.” It was in one of my favorite 2-D prop groups, and someone had asked for a specific type of reward to be drawn. (Check out my little monster dudes above!) I gave it a shot, and it was actually very fun to duplicate and re-color my little drawing.

Would I recommend the Apple Pencil? Only if you are a serious artist or really enjoy doodling. I don’t think there is anything I could do with my poor level of talent that would justify the money spent on the pencil.

Is it fun? You bet. 🙂

Children’s Day with VIPKid

International Children’s Day is celebrated in China on June 1.

 

When is it?

International Children’s Day is a worldwide holiday celebrated on June 9; however, in China, this special day is celebrated on June 1.

What is it?

According to Wikipidia, when the People’s Republic of China was first established in 1949, the State Council set aside a half-day holiday on June first for all primary schools to celebrate International Children’s Day. In 1956, this was expanded to a full day holiday. Schools often hold special programs or host activities on Children’s Day. Young children of civil servants might receive small gifts from the government, and civil servants  may be given time off to spend with their young children.

Will I get bookings or cancellations?

Yes, maybe. I know, that’s a terrible answer. And I should preface this by saying I have never had personal experience teaching on Children’s Day. But I’ve read a lot about it and looked for other people’s experience. And like any holiday, every Chinese momma and daddy will be different. Some will look at the extra day off of school as a prime opportunity to add classes. Others will forget that they’ve scheduled Bao Bao for their school program and they’ll have to cancel. Some will use the long weekend to do a marathon of classes while others will decide to take a mini-vacation. We are all human, and so are your students and their families. The general consensus I’ve seen from social media is that bookings don’t dramatically decline. That said, if you plan to teach on Children’s Day, it’s best if you can open up short notice bookings and be as flexible as possible!

What can I do in class to celebrate?

  • Plan free-talk around the holiday. Examples of questions might include:
    • Did you go to school today?
    • Did you have any special activities?
    • Did you do any special performances or acts?
    • Did you receive any gifts?
    • What did you do for Children’s Day?
    • What did you eat?
  • Make Children’s Day decorations
    • Banner or sign
    • Confetti (if you are brave enough to clean up the mess!)
    • Streamers
  • Use special rewards for Children’s Day: Like most rewards, if you are excited by them, your students will be too. To get you started, I put together an idea for a printable at the end of this post, but have fun! Anything special, different, and fun will be enjoyed by your students! Try:
    • Blowing up a balloon each time you award a star
    • Using party horns
    • Giving “gifts” in gift bags with noisy tissue paper
    • Putting on a “play” one line for each reward
    • Stars with your student’s picture on them

What should I do to prepare?

  • Send e-cards, if you wish. There are several free e-cards, and your students will appreciate a quick personal note to say “Happy Children’s Day! Thank you for being a great student!” Update: VIPKid just announced that they have a free children’s day e-card available!

ecard

  • Remember that your students probably have a busy, exciting day planned, so be prepared for anything. You may have hyper, tired, or just very happy students. Be ready to adjust!
  • Have fun! We have the unique opportunity to celebrate this special day with our students, so enjoy it.

If you have suggestions of your own, please let me know in the comments, or let me know how your Children’s Day goes!

If you are just getting started and would like help through the hiring process, please feel free to reach out. I’d love to help you through the application process with VIPKid!

Here are a few printable ideas to build a Children’s Day reward. All graphics are from PNG Tree.

 

Making a VIPKid Bitmoji

Let me start by saying that this was not my idea. Many teachers have used this (probably more successfully than me!) But even though I used Bitmoji regularly, it took me a little trial and error to figure out how to make my very own VIPKid emoji.

I decided to write down a quick how-to guide to help!  Since not everyone has experience with Bitmoji, I’ll break it down into three sections:

  • Getting the App and making your own Bitmoji
  • Personalizing it for VIPKid
  • Making Props

and bonus content: installing the Bitmoji keyboard

Step 1: Getting the App and Making Your Own Bitmoji

  1. Download the Bitmoji app on your phone. Everything in this section needs to be done on your mobile device – either through the Bitmoji app or Snapchat.
  2. When you first download the app, you will need to register. If you use snapchat, you can log in using Snapchat. If you would prefer, you can sign up with Email.
  3. Once you sign in, you’ll be prompted to create a new Bitmoji. (This is the fun part!)  You’ll be prompted to choose everything about your Bitmoji from facial shape to eye color, and everything in between! Just choose each option and scroll to the next choice along the bottom of your phone app. It even lets you take a selfie so you can see your face next to your Bitmoji as you are designing it to see how close you are!
  4. Once you are finished, it will prompt you to go to “settings” and enable Bitmoji as a keyboard option. I suggest doing this while you are there, and I’ve put some instructions at the end.  But if you are ready to start making props, you can “skip” this step and go back and do this at any time.

Step 2: Personalizing Your Bitmoji for VIPKid

  1. As you are personalizing your Bitmoji, there are two things you will want to choose to make it a “VIPKid” teacher.
    • Headphones: These can be found under headwear, just like hats.
    • An Orange Shirt: There are several to choose from. If you don’t wear orange in class, just pick out something that suits your style
  2. Once you’ve chosen a shirt, you can also pick out a VIPKid logo or picture to put on the shirt when you print it and use it in props. I haven’t found a way to incorporate into digital Bitmojis, so no need to look for this in the clothing.

Step 3: Making Props

  1. From your laptop, desktop, or other favorite prop-making machine with a Chrome browser, go to http://www.bitmoji.com.
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and download “Bitmoji for Chrome”
  3. This will add the small, green icon into the upper right-hand corner of your Chrome browser.
  4. When you click on it, you can search for different Bitmojis or click through the grey icons at the bottom.
    • The star shows recent Bitmojis used and popular ones.
    • The hand shows hello and goodbye messages (like a wave).
    • The face with hearts has messages of love.
    • The smiley face shows happy messages.
    • The face with no smile shows sad or angry messages.
    • The horn shows holiday or event-specific messages.
  5. Right-mouse click on the bitmoji of your choice and choose “copy.”
  6. Right mouse click in a Microsoft Word or Publisher document, a Google Slides document, Powerpoint, or other prop-making software. Click “paste.”
  7. If you’d like to add a VIPKid or Dino logo, find a .png image and paste it onto the Bitmoji. If you don’t have one, check out VIPKid Branding Resources and you’ll find several.

chrome extension

browser bit

Bonus Content: Installing the Bitmoji Keyboard

These instructions are for an iPhone, since this is what I own. 🙂

  1. Click on “Settings.”
  2. Click on “General.”
  3. Click on “Keyboard.”
  4. Click on “Keyboards.”
  5. Click on “Add New Keyboard.”
  6. Click on “Bitmoji.”
  7. Move the slider so that “Allow Full Access” is green.

Once you have the Bitmoji keyboard installed, you can toggle between it by clicking the small globe at the bottom of your iphone keypad between the “123” button and the microphone/spacebar. You can then copy and paste into text messages, emails, or even WeChat!

For other operating systems, check out Bitmoji help at their website.

I hope this is helpful. If you are just starting your VIPKid journey and are looking for a mentor, let me know and get started with the application! Otherwise, happy teaching!

Using Google Slides with VIPKid

Google Slides is a tool that can be used to enhance your ESL lessons. They are essentially online slide shows that behave similar to Powerpoint, but everything is stored in the cloud. Teachers often use Google Slides for rewards, props, or both.

What types of Google Slides are available?

There are too many different options to count! I personally use Google Slides mostly for rewards. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, to choose from.  Some of my favorites include:

  • Find a Star
  • Candyland
  • Teacher vs. Student
  • Tap and Reveal
  • and so many more….!

How do you display Google Slides?

There are three main ways you can display Google Slides.

  1. Holding your phone up to the monitor. (This is what I do.  You can check out this video to see how it looks on camera.)
  2. Using software like ManyCam or CamTwist. This is a great option to be able to alternate between your face and a reward in the classroom, but it does require meeting basic, minimum computer requirements and a little more tech-savvy.
  3. A second monitor displayed in your classroom.

There really is no right or wrong way to use Google Slides. The one limitation is that you must never try to upload the slides into the VIPKid classroom directly.

What are the benefits of Google Slides?

  • They are super easy. Once you get comfortable with the slide finder and/or the planner, you have hundreds of props and rewards at your fingertips!
  • They cut down on clutter. For prop minimalists, or those who travel, you no longer have to worry about keeping up with lots of different props and rewards for all different levels. Simply search and pull in what you need by type, character, or lesson.
  • They are totally customizable. Not only are you able to choose from a wide library of slides created by amazing teachers, but you can easily create your own too! Whatever you want to reinforce in a lesson – you can do so at your fingertips.

How can Google Slides enhance a VIPKid lesson?

I love to incorporate Google Slides with the interactive reward slides built into the lessons. Take a concept that’s in the lesson already and then build it out.

You can even customize your Google Slides to specific students and what they need to work on. I made a custom reward once using the artwork of one of my students.

I personally like to build in optional extension options. If a student is struggling and you are running short on time, you can do the minimum. If you are ahead of schedule and looking for extension options, you can spend time using questions and answers on the slides to add to the lesson.

I absolutely love Google Slides, and I use them more than any other reward. What’s your favorite reward? Let me know in the comments!

In the meantime, if you are just getting started and looking for more information on rewards in general, check out:

Types of VIPKid Rewards

Or, if you are wanting to get started with VIPKid, here are some tips on completing the VIPKid application or jump right in and apply here if you would like for me to help guide you through the process!

 

Types of VIPKid Rewards

What’s most important about rewards is that you do what works for you.

In VIPKid, you’ll hear a lot about rewards. One of the goals of our classes is to keep kids engaged by helping them have fun while they are learning!

There are several types of rewards that you can (and should!) use.  Below is a quick summary to help you get started.

Stars

In every class, the student has the ability to earn up to five stars. You should ALWAYS give the student ALL FIVE STARS! Kids redeem these for different prizes, and many parents consider it an entitlement, as though they’v epaid for these stars. You can give a star every five slides, or you can award them for particular behaviors. But always remember to give out all five stars! (I choose to have printed stars that I display, but this is a personal preference!)

Thumbs Up

These are available if you have a class in the “new” classrooms, so they might not always be available.  To award a thumbs up, you can click on the button that is right next to the stars. When you press it, the child receives one of two animations. One is a Dino saying “Good job!” and the other is a Dino saying “Perfect!” Some teachers feel that it’s not necessary to use this, but every time I use it, I get a big smile from my student. (Plus it gives me a break from saying it!) I usually try to use this once or twice per class if the student does something especially well.

2-D Rewards

These are usually printed rewards that you use and display on a whiteboard or easel. They can be as simple as fun, printed pictures of something the student enjoys. One of my personal favorites is a Spiderman printout with superhero words I can add as rewards. You could print out Disney princesses, My Little Ponies, Lego characters… the possibilities are endless.  You can also play games with printed rewards like find-a-star or tic-tac-toe. As I mentioned, I love having printed stars, and I have many different ones I’ve collected or made over time. Kids love getting stars and by adding variety to them in printed form, it keeps it fresh!

3-D Rewards

I am a big fan of “realia” or real items brought into the classroom. Kids also enjoy these! If you have kids, it’s super easy to use their toys as rewards as long as they don’t mind sharing! Lots of teachers use a 2-D printout of an ice cream cone with different scoops they add throughout the lesson. I have a toy ice cream cone with stackable scoops. The 3D option makes it easier to “lick” during class, and it looks great on camera! At Christmas, you could use stockings or gift bags with rewards in them, or you could even unwrap presents! Easter is coming up soon, so plastic Easter eggs filled with little prizes are always popular. Once you start looking around, you can find rewards everywhere!

Digital Rewards

I LOVE digital rewards, and they are my go-to reward. f you travel a lot or don’t like keeping up with a lot of clutter, this is the reward for you. Honestly, I often combine these with a 2-D reward system because I like to have something that stays visible in the classroom, but many people use digital rewards exclusively. You’ll hear lots of teachers talk about Google Slides. Google Slides is a tool that’s a lot like Powerpoint, but it’s all online. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of games and rewards. Some teachers hold their phone or an iPad up to the camera to show the reward, while others use software like ManyCam or CamTwist to switch between their face in the VIPKid classroom and a reward. Here’s a post that explains how I like to use Google Slides in class: Using Google Slides with VIPKid.

VIPKid Reward Slides and Interactive Reward Slides

These are built-in reward slides or game ideas that are a part of the lesson. If you are crunched for time or looking for something that enhances the lesson directly, these are great options. I sometimes combine these with other rewards just for fun. (Check out this video! for an example!

What’s most important about all of these types of rewards is that you do what works for you. I LOVE reward systems and I think they are fun to plan and use. That’s why I tend to stitch together fairly robust and multi-layered rewards. I enjoy them, and so my students do too! If keeping up with rewards stresses you out, your students will feel it, so keep it simple. There are some teachers who use printed stars, and that’s it! You and your students will find what works for you, and that’s what you should use.

If you have any questions or you have suggestions of what works best for you, let me know in the comments below! If you are not yet a teacher and would like some help, I would love to be your mentor. Be sure to check out the article Completing the VIPKid Application before you apply!

Happy teaching!

 

Do I Need a Secondary Reward in My VIPKid Class?

Should you use a secondary reward system in your classes?

My answer will always be yes. 

This is probably not going to be my most well-loved post. In fact, I’m sure many VIPKid teachers won’t like it at all. But… I’m going to post it anyway.

Should you use a secondary reward system in your classes?

My answer will always be yes.

Before I explain why, I’d like to address the elephant in the room. Inevitably, someone will jump in and say:

  • VIPKid doesn’t require us to use a secondary reward system!
  • VIPKid can’t require an independent contractor to use a secondary reward system!
  • VIPKid shouldn’t require us to use a secondary reward system!

While these may or may not be completely true based on your contract and current teaching practices, one thing is inarguable:

VIPKid ALWAYS recommends a secondary reward system. Why? Because parents appreciate it.

My son is a bartender. He isn’t required to make conversation with his customers, he just has to make their drinks. However, he has learned that when he does make conversation with them, he has happier customers and earns more tips. So my normally introverted 24-year-old has learned to be quite a social butterfly. With us, we may not be required to give a secondary reward, but if we do, we will have happier students and parents which will lead to more 5-apple reviews.

If you love rewards like I do, this should be easy-peasy.  I love finding and making props.  But if you don’t, here are a few tips and tricks that can make this task easier for you:

  1. Join an online community. There are many communities that LOVE rewards and will be happy to let you use theirs! My two favorites include:
  2. Consider going digital. The second link I shared is for a Google Slides group. For prop and reward minimalists, this can save a ton of time and money, and there are so many amazing resources that you can use.
  3. Find a few favorites. You don’t have to change your rewards every day or with every student. Find a few simple, versatile rewards that you don’t hate, and use those!
  4. Beef up your stars. Since we all already award stars in the classroom, many teachers choose to just expand on that. In the Videos and Props facebook group, there are links to lots of creative stars. If you are giving a star anyway, make it a Hello Kitty Star or a fire truck star. Boom! Cute, secondary reward that helps keep your students interested.

I’d like to leave on a funny note…

Every time I see a debate on this topic, I think of this exchange from the movie Office Space. Jennifer Anniston plays the part of Joanna, a waitress in a fast food chain. Her boss, Stan, plays her manager, and is having a conversation about why she isn’t wearing very many pins and buttons (“flair”) on her uniform. He points out that her co-worker wears 37 pieces of flair, while she is wearing the minimum 15 pieces of flair as required by the policy.  Here’s their exchange:

Joanna:
You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there Bryan, why don’t you make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?

Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager:
Well, I thought I remembered you saying that you wanted to express yourself.

Joanna:
You know what, I do want to express myself, okay. And I don’t need 37 pieces of flair to do it.

The truth is, you don’t have to be a Joanna or a Bryan. To keep your students engaged and happy, there are lots of ways you can go above the minimum without being over the top.

If you have ideas or are looking for ideas to integrate secondary rewards into your teaching, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy teaching (and rewarding!)