What You Need To Know To Become A Successful VIPKID Teacher
After teaching almost 2,000 classes with VIPKID, I have realized the importance and value of the mock lesson during the application process. When I came across the VIPKID website one year ago, I was very anxious to start working with VIPKID as I had just left my brick and mortar job and was searching for my next position in education. At the time, the mock class just seemed like a nerve-wracking hassle to me. I mean I was a successful public teacher for 14 years. Why did I need to prepare yet another demonstration lesson to teach online? Well, I will admit, I was completely wrong. Teaching online requires a totally different skill set than you use in the brick and mortar classroom. Sure, a teaching degree and years of experience working with children will give you an advantage with this job, however, you need to understand the specific strategies that support English language learners. Some important advice for anyone prepping for the mock class- take it seriously. Don’t blow through the teaching preparation videos and articles that VIPKID provides you with during the application process. Their chock full of good information that’s going to help you become a more marketable and successful teacher. Remember, when you are a VIPKID teacher, you are considered to be an independent contractor. This means you will need to build your own client base of students. VIPKID is NOT responsible for helping you land bookings, increase your booking rate, or connect you with families. I have heard many stories of applicants who pass the application process but then cannot get bookings. My recommendation to them is to take every available VIPKID professional development workshop they can. You MUST put the time and effort into growing yourself as a teacher and refining your skills in the virtual classroom if you want to be successful in this profession. Below you will find a comprehensive list of the top on ESL strategies, tips, and tricks that have helped me teach 2,000 classes with VIPKID in under a year. My hope is that you can use, apply, and adapt them to help you as you embark on this amazing online teaching journey! Still have questions after reading this article? Want to learn more about the application process, applying with VIPKID, or how to successfully pass your mock class? Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to help you out J
- Total Physical Response (TPR)
If you have ever tried learning a foreign language or have visited a different country, you know how overwhelming the experience of understanding (let alone speaking) a new language is. Now imagine you are child learning through a virtual platform with a native English speaker. Sounds pretty intimidating right? Your primary goal as a VIPKID teacher is to do everything possible to help your student understand and interact with the English language. One way we give meaning to the vocabulary words and concepts were are trying to teach is by using Total Physical Response (TPR). This technique requires the teacher to use gestures, movements, and body language to help students remember, practice, and apply the new learning concepts. For example, if we are teaching the concept of “eat”, we make sure we demonstrate the action that represents this vocabulary word. However, this is just one part of (TPR). In order for the TPR strategy to be truly successful, you want your student to engage in these actions. The brain will remember and understand the concept much better when it is actively engaged in movement. A helpful hint, have your TPR for your Mock lesson and demo lessons pre-planned for the target vocabulary words and concepts. This will save you precious time then trying to figure out the movements and gestures to use while you are in the actual lesson! Want more information on TPR? Check out my other articles on this website or feel free to e-mail me!
- The importance of voice
If you have ever sat through a long speech or lecture, you understand the value of the speaker changing the intonation and expression his his/her voice. The same goes for the online ESL teachers! Your voice can be a very powerful strategy to motivate students to participate in the lesson. In order to prevent the lesson from becoming monotonous, change the volume and pitch of your voice as you introduce the vocabulary words, sentences, and lesson concepts. I will often use this strategy if a student is refusing to repeat the key vocabulary words during the lesson. Using a high voice, funny voice, loud voice, robotic voice (you get the idea), helps to engage the student and encourages them to participate.
- Song, Rhythm and Rhyme
This is often my go-to strategy in the classroom and it works like charm 90% of the time! In each lesson, you will have target sentences and vocabulary words the students need to repeat. Chanting or setting the sentences to specific tunes or songs helps students to correctly repeat the target vocabulary and sentences! If I am trying to get a student to repeat a 4-word sentence, I will often set it to the tune of the song “Hot cross buns”. The use of music and song helps engage the student and in many occasions, helps them to remember the phrase throughout the entire lesson! In the world of online teaching, the use of repetition is required in order to help the students master the vocabulary words. However, this does NOT mean your lesson needs to boring! Spice it up by singing or changing the lesson concepts with your students!
- Work the camera
Online teaching requires you to make the most of a small little tiny box on the screen in which only your face and upper part of your body can be seen! You really need to spend some time understanding how to work the camera to your advantage. This means ensure your face is clear and close enough so student can clearly see your mouth as you model the correct formation to produce different sound and words. Another major tip- practice holding up your props in the online classroom, ensuring they are NOT in front of your face! The student needs to see you at all times. This sounds simple, but it takes practice! Also, use the camera as an engagement strategy. Move your body, props, and visuals close to the camera and back from the camera to create a fun and exciting environment for your students!
- Successful Prop Use and Placement
In additional to TPR, another way online ESL teachers help students to understand key vocabulary and lesson concepts is through the use of props. For example, if you are teaching the vocabulary word “cat” you may hold up a picture of a cat or use a stuffed animal. You may quickly sketch a cat on a whiteboard and point to it while you say the word. And even more powerful strategy would be to have your cat (if you have one) make a cameo on screen! Props are very important tool in developing English language acquisition development. I recommend the use of at least 3-4 props in every lesson. Remember, your ultimate goal is to have the prop give meaning to the new vocabulary word. Do not go overboard bringing in props that do nothing to help the student meet the lesson objectives! Ensure you are carefully selecting props and have a clear plan of how you will present them during the lesson. Also, ensure your props are easily within reach. Often times, especially with the younger children, parents will sit in on the lesson. There is nothing more embarrassing than having to scramble to find a prop! This results in the loss of precious instructional time and decreases the chances that you will be re-booked. Be prepared and have your props in easy accessible places through your lesson!
- Understand The Virtual Classroom
Technology is what makes the world of online teaching possible! You need to make sure you have a good understanding of how to navigate the online classroom before teaching your first lesson. This means taking online professional development workshops offered through VIPKID to help support you in this area. Also, ensure you internet connection is stable, you have a working pair of headphones, and automatic updates are TURNED OFF on your computer. You do not want your computer shutting down in the middle of a session! This would result in a “Teacher IT”, which means you would not be paid for this class and it most cases, it would be cancelled. Also prepare for potential problems- what will you do if your internet goes down? My recommendation is to learn how to use your hotspot on your phone. This is seriously a life saver and will prevent you from having to cancel your classes and lose out on income! Keep an additional pair of headphones close by just in case yours die during your sessions. Also learn how to call for help during a lesson by utilizing the “firemen”. This is a technology related support that VIPKID has put together to assist you with all technology related problems that occur during your teaching session!
- Provide Wait Time
Each VIPKID teaching session is 25 minutes long. Within the session, your goal is to cover the lesson content and ensure the student meets the learning objectives. This makes it tempting to rush through the lesson- DON’T!!! It is very important that you give your student the appropriate amount of “wait time” to respond to a question or repeat a vocabulary word. I suggest giving them a full 3-5 seconds before you try to elicit a second response from them. Remember, this student is learning English for the first time! They are trying to remember how to say the word, create a visual representation of it, use proper pronunciation, mouth formation- you get the idea! Help your student by giving them the time they need to successfully participate in the lesson. This is a very important part of your Mock class- you will be marked down if you do not give your student a sufficient amount of wait time during the lesson!
- Give Rewards and Praise
In order for an English language learner to be successful in the classroom, research is shown they must be comfortable in the classroom. If they are fearful or have the belief they will fail, they will not learn, despite your best efforts. You need to think of yourself as your student’s coach and biggest cheerleader! This means providing encouragement, words of affirmation, and smiling throughout the lesson. We praise students when they put in the extra effort, not only when they get the answer correct. This is how online teachers create a happy environment for their students that maximizes the amount of learning that happens in the session. VIPKID requires that every teacher use a reward system (in addition to the five stars you can award them in class). This is your opportunity to be creative! You can use cutouts of ice cream, balloons, animals and award them to your students throughout the lesson for amazing effort, participation, and engagement. The goal of the reward system is to motivate your student to participate in the lesson and feel comfortable in the classroom. Not the creative type? No worries. VIPKID has many pre-made supplementary reward systems for you to choose from!
- Limit Incidental Language
These is a key strategy, especially for the lower level students. There is a strong temptation for many new online ESL teachers to get very wordy when they are explaining the lesson activities to the student. For example, a teacher may say, “Okay, Johnny in this activity you will circle the picture that begins with the /s/ sound.” This is WAY too many extra words for a beginning level student to decipher! Instead, simply say “circle /s/” as you point to each picture and name it. You may even model the first example to give the student a good idea of what you are asking them to do. Less is ALWAYS more when it comes to explaining the directions to a beginning student! In the upper levels, you can use a bit more language but I still recommend keeping your sentences simple, to the point, and provide LOTS of modeling! Don’t expect a student do know how to complete a task until you have clearly shown them what do (possibly many times!).
- Know Your Lesson Objectives
I think this goes without saying, but it’s so important I’m going to say it anyways! BE PREPARED AND KNOW THE LESSON OBJECTIVES. What should the student know, understand, and be able to do by the end of your time together? How will you help the student to achieve the lesson objectives? What will you do if they need remediation or enrichment? These are all questions you should have answers to before you start your class session. During your mock class and regular sessions, you must be familiar with the target sentence patterns and vocabulary words. These are the concepts and specific language your student must apply and use during the lesson. DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE SENTENCE PATTERNS! Consistent repetition of the sentence patterns is a very important part of the VIPKID program. Students practice these same sentence patterns at home for homework. It’s important to stay consistent with the learning plan VIPKID has carefully and sequentially created for their students. Ensure you know the sentence patterns and vocabulary words well. A helpful hint is to post them on sticky notes and place them on your computer if you need a reminder of what they are!
- Remember the quote, “If you always dowhat you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always” As you prepare for your mock class and beyond, remember this quote at all times. It is so important and will help you to take your teaching to the next level. Many times, you will be teaching and the student is simply not understanding the concept, repeating the word, or refuses to engage with you. What do you do? Remember- if you always do what’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. You MUST try something new when the student is not giving you’re the desired responses or level of understanding needed to master the lesson objectives. Is the TPR not working for the student? Grab a puppet and try to elicit a response from your student. Still getting a blank stare from your student? Try grabbing a whiteboard and creating a visual representation of the concept? The point is, you cannot keep using the same strategy to teach the skill over and over if the child isn’t responding to it or understanding the lesson objective. You must adapt, and this is where you need to have a “toolbox” of ESL strategies on hand at all times! I hope this article has given you a little insight regarding how to successfully pass your Mock 1 and deliver successful class sessions as a VIPKID teacher!
*Ready to apply to become a VIPKID teacher? Click the banner to the right to get started! Have more questions, no worries! Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have about a teaching position with VIPKID or the application process.