Teaching a VIPKID Class

I’m now into my seventh month of teaching English online with Chinese company, VIPKID. It’s been one of the most rewarding, convenient and unique jobs I’ve ever had. So far, I’ve taught 460 students, 991 classes, and completed 24,775 minutes (which the VIPKID Teacher app keeps track of)! If you are unfamiliar with VIPKID, read my Online Teaching With VIPKID post first. 🙂 

In this post, I’ll go over some of the habits I’ve developed over the past 225 days with VIPKID and what works best for me to have a productive, engaging, and fun class! 

Before Class

The day before I teach, I always double and triple check my upcoming schedule. For heavy sleepers such as myself, I need to set multiple alarms with sufficient time before the first class starts. After learning the hard way and sleeping through a couple of alarms, I now set my phone across the room on the highest volume so I’m forced to get out of bed.

Some teachers review all the slides of every class before teaching them. I don’t find this entirely necessary, but I do look at the class level and topic. Once you’re with VIPKID for a while, you’ll be exhaustingly familiar with a handful of classes. During my first contract, I probably taught trial classes Level 2 Unit 1 and Level 2 Unit 4 a hundred times… 

I wake up with enough time to change my clothes, freshen up, make a cup of tea, and grab something small to eat. You need energy to be a VIPKID teacher, so even if you don’t like eating in the morning, at least have some water and a piece of fruit handy in case you need them between classes. 

I’ve taught VIPKID classes in three different locations since beginning in May. This means I’ve had three different “classrooms.” The classroom setup I’m currently using requires me to set everything up the night before: the background map, box of props, table, rewards, etc. I make sure everything is organized so I don’t have to worry about it as a zombie in the morning.

During Class

Introductions: When you and your student meet each other for the first time, introduce yourself! Start with a smile and a friendly hello so they feel more at ease right off the bat. With new students, I often “shake hands” and try to have them copy my actions as if we were meeting in person.

Reward System: After you’ve stated your name, welcome the student to your class and underline the title of the lesson you will be teaching that day (one of my mock class evaluators suggested to do this). In many of the lower level classes, the “rewards” slide will appear next in the presentation. I slowly tell the student, “Okay ______, when you do a good job today, you will get a _____!” and show it in the camera. I have one basic reward system: a small baking pan with a cute background and magnets. I found a couple of backgrounds with stickers at the Dollar Tree and added magnets to the back of each sticker so I can reuse them. I have farm animals, butterflies, cats and dogs and the all-time-greatest-hit, dinosaurs!

Some of my regulars ask for specific dinosaurs when they get a reward because they know them so well!

In my classes, I tend to give out one reward every 5 minutes. Since each class is only 25 minutes minutes long, I give the first reward at the 5 minute mark, the second at 10, etc. This allows them to get at least 5 dinosaurs or animals, in addition to the VIPKID stars at the top of the screen. I’ve also found that allowing your student to choose between two rewards allows them to talk more and allows them to feel more included. For example, “Okay Cindy, would you like a red dinosaur, or a blue dinosaur?” 

TPR: As you’ll learn during the application process, TPR (total physical response) is essential. Some VIPKID students have never heard English nor have they seen an American in such an intimate setting. Use your hands and arms to signify big versus small, fast versus slow, parts of the face, etc. Facial expressions are also important! 

Letter-blending trick: Say one syllable holding up your left hand and the other syllable with the right before weaving your fingers together with the whole word. This has helped my students immensely! They’ve begun to copy my movements and can blend the letters themselves (c-op, cop! h-op, hop! r-at, rat! c-at, cat!). Clapping out syllables, especially for long words, is an absolute life-saver as well. My older students can easily say words like parallelogram using this trick.

General rule of thumb: the sillier you are and the more you let yourself go, the better you will be able to communicate with your student.

Props: Props are your best friends! Puppets are fantastic for the younger students and helps break the ice a bit. I have one prop box sitting next to me so I can grab what I need. Here’s a list of props I can’t live without: 

  • small ball
  • hand fan
  • fake flower
  • plastic egg
  • inflatable globe
  • white board
  • clock with moveable hands
  • plastic animals: cow, pig, fish, horse, giraffe, elephant, tiger

If you end class a couple minutes early, I’d also suggest having a few books available for them to listen to. Some students love stories while others would rather play Tic-Tac-Toe on the blank slide.

Both the Dollar Tree and Target are great places to find affordable, cute props! I’ve also added little toys and objects from my childhood to the mix since visiting home. 

After Class

A 25 minute class often flies by once you’ve developed your own habits and get to know your students better. After I’ve said goodbye/see you next time, I write the parent feedback right away while the class is fresh in my mind. VIPKID requires feedback, or else you won’t be paid for the class. This is more or less the format I use:

Cindy did a great job in class today! She completed Level __ Unit __. Cindy and I talked about different modes of transportation such as cars, trains, bicycles, and airplanes. She was enthusiastic to share how she goes to school each day and thoughtfully considered what modes of transportation one can take when traveling between different countries. The hardest word for her to pronounce today was ‘subway.’ We practiced saying this word slowly and carefully, clapping out each syllable. We will continue to practice this word in her upcoming lessons. Cindy is also learning place value with different numbers. She was able to fill in a place value chart with one, two, and three digit numbers! 🙂 The ones place is on the right, the tens place is in the middle, and the hundreds place is on the left. At the end of class, Cindy read a story about Mike and Meg visiting the USA. She was able to read the text confidently, but she had a couple of minor pronunciation mistakes that I corrected her on. I am so proud of Cindy’s hard work over the past week. I can see her improve with each lesson and it is obvious that she enjoys learning English. Thank you so much for choosing my class again today! I’d appreciate your kind review. I hope to see Cindy again soon! ~Teacher Hilary 

Try to start your feedback by saying something positive about their child. Go over the things they did well before giving constructive criticism. I always end my feedback by thanking the parents for choosing my class and asking politely if they would leave an ‘apple’ review (parents can give you a 1-5 apple rating which contributes to your overall average. 5.00 is the highest). Apple reviews are visible on your teacher profile and therefore visible to other parents. After a few months with thorough parent feedback, timely classes and engaging lessons, you will begin to receive more feedback which should help with your booking numbers.

It took me a while to get in the rhythm of online teaching, but now I feel more confident and have a number of regular students who make waking up at 2:45am totally worth it! 

If you are interested in applying to VIPKID, use my referral link and I will get in touch with you about the application process! 

Thanks for stopping by! 

~Teacher Hilary

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *