Categories
Online ESL Teaching Teacher Resources

Using Reward Stars in Your Classroom

Giving star rewards is something that has caught on with online ESL classes and distance learning.  There are multiple ways of using these reward stars in your classroom.  I’m going to give you several tips and tricks for using our reward stars.  I have seen these successfully used with teachers from many different online ESL platforms including VIPKid, Magic Ears, PalFish, GoGoKid, and more.

Before we start, I suggest that you cut out the individual stars.  You might decide how you would like to store them.  I store mine in ziplock bags separated by theme.

If you are using them in a regular classroom, I highly suggest that you laminate them.  If you are using them in an online classroom, I find that laminating them will often cause a glare in the camera.  They could potentially not hold up as long (but you are welcome to print my products as often as you like after purchase).

One way to use the reward stars is to attach them to a clothespin either with glue or tape.  Then you can simply clip the stars to a string you hang in your online classroom.  I have even seen teachers clip them to their headphone cord.

I like to have the reward stars attached to something so I can show the whole star to my students.  I attach them to a pencil, a skewer stick, a chopstick, a straw, or a popsicle stick (whatever I can get cheap).  Then I can store the stars I am using in a coffee mug.

I also really like to use my stars with magnets attached.  Here I used magnetic “dots” glued to the back of the star.

I do not have a larger magnetic background (great idea, but I can’t attach anything big to the walls of my house).  I use a dollar store cookie pan to hold my awards and I display it in my background during class.

In-Person Classroom Use

The idea of the stars is to give a visible award to a student who is doing well.  I have also used these in my classroom in public school when I have a class award that we are working toward.  I can use the themed stars to track their progress.  I could use the different stars for different guided reading groups.  For in-person classroom use, I laminate the stars and usually use the magnet backing.

You could also use them like brag tags by punching a hole in them and adding them to your brag tag rings.  You might print them on paper and make them into larger stickers.

What else can I do with reward stars?

I love to use reward stars to extend learning in my online ESL classes.  Depending on the student’s ability, I can ask about the pictures.  I can ask about colors, types of animals, clothing, etc.  Don’t neglect the opportunity to count the stars as well.  Using these rewards as a natural extension of the language is a wonderful use and engages the students in “real” conversation.  At the end, make sure to ask what star is their favorite and why.

Reward stars are a very versatile tool that you can use in your classroom whether online or in person.  I enjoy making the different sets and use them personally in my own classes.  You can see the sets of reward stars we have available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Categories
Chinese Culture Research Resources

Año Nuevo Chino

Durante los últimos años, he estado enseñando a estudiantes en China a hablar inglés. Como resultado, he aprendido más sobre su cultura. Una de las celebraciones más importantes es el Año Nuevo. A veces lo llamamos el Año Nuevo chino, pero el Año Nuevo Lunar es más exacto ya que se celebra en más lugares aparte de China. Además, muchas personas en China llaman a esta celebración Festival de Primavera, ya que celebra el final del invierno y la llegada de la primavera.

 

Una de las preguntas que siempre he tenido era porque los chinos celebran el Año Nuevo en un momento diferente que nosotros?. Dejame explicar. Aquí en los Estados Unidos (y en gran parte del mundo), basamos nuestro calendario en cuántos días le toma a la Tierra girar alrededor del sol. A esto lo llamamos Calendario Solar o Calendario Gregoriano. Nuestro año tiene una duración de 365 días (con un día adicional cada cuatro años en el ano bisiesto). El calendario tradicional chino (y varios otros países asiáticos) sigue el ciclo lunar. Su nuevo año comienza al final de cada 12 ciclos lunares (que es aproximadamente cada 354 días). Para mantener los calendarios más o menos iguales, las personas que usan un ciclo lunar agregan un mes para mantenerlo similar (más o menos como nuestro día extra en febrero en año bisiesto). Por lo tanto, la mayoría de China funciona con el mismo calendario que nosotros, pero sus días festivos se basan en los calendarios lunares tradicionales. Esto significa que la “fecha” en nuestro calendario no será la misma cada año. La mayoría de las veces, el año nuevo chino o lunar cae en enero o febrero. Además, cada año está dedicado a un animal específico del zodíaco chino. 2020 fue el año de la rata y 2021 es el año del toro. se ven estos animales en las decoraciones.

 

El Festival de Primavera o la celebración del Año Nuevo Lunar dura 15 días completos. Durante estos días es una de las pocas ocasiones en que la mayoría de los chinos obtienen unas vacaciones completas de 7 días. Los padres no tienen que presentarse a trabajar y los estudiantes tienen un descanso de sus estudios. Por tanto, muchas familias viajan durante este tiempo. Estos son algunos de los días de viaje más ocupados del año en China. Hay tradiciones específicas para cada día de la festividad, pero solo voy a cubrir algunas de ellas.

 

El primer día del festival, la familia normalmente se reúne para una gran fiesta. A menudo, la comida incluirá pescado y bolas de masa, entre otras cosas, ya que se consideran buena suerte. La familia normalmente vestirá y decorará la casa de rojo para traer suerte a la familia. Hay una celebración nacional transmitida por televisión (está registrada como el evento más visto en el mundo) que termina con fuegos artificiales a la medianoche.

 

Durante toda la celebración, hay danzas de leones o danzas de dragones. Se trata de grandes desfiles con un disfraz que lleva un equipo de personas que representan a un dragón o un león. A menudo “alimentan” a los animales hongbao (les contaré más sobre esto en un minuto) para que tengan buena suerte. Los fuegos artificiales se utilizan durante todo el festival para alejar a los monstruos.

 

Hongbao es otra tradición durante la celebración del Año Nuevo chino. Hongbao significa sobres rojos. Estos sobres generalmente se llenan con dinero (incluso se prefieren cantidades pares) y se entregan a miembros de la familia que no están casados, especialmente a los niños. Ahora, los Hongbao incluso están disponibles virtualmente para enviar sobres de la suerte a los amigos y familiares que viven lejos.

 

El último día de la celebración es el festival de los faroles. Durante este día, todo está decorado con lindos faroles y velas. Esta es una excelente manera de terminar la celebración.

 

Los principales valores que se celebran en el Año Nuevo Lunar son la buena suerte, la felicidad y la salud. Por supuesto, hay muchas tradiciones (como comer bolas de masa, vestirse de rojo y disparar fuegos artificiales) que se cree que traen cosas buenas a la familia o alejan las cosas malas. Este es un momento en que las familias se reúnen. Muchas familias regresarán a su ciudad natal durante estas vacaciones y pasarán tiempo con la familia extendida.

Para mas informacion haz click aqui.

Categories
Chinese Culture Research Resources

Chinese New Year

For the last few years, I have been teaching students in China to speak English.  As a result, I have learned more about their culture.  One of the most important celebrations is the New Year.  We often call it the Chinese New Year, but the Lunar New Year is more accurate as it is celebrated in more places than just China.  Also, many people in mainland China call this celebration Spring Festival as it celebrates the end of winter and the coming of spring.

 

One of the questions I have always had was how could the Chinese celebrate the New Year at a different time than we do.  Let me explain.  Here in the United States (and much of the world), we base our calendar on how many days it takes Earth to rotate around the sun.  We call this the Solar Calendar or the Gregorian Calendar.  Our year is 365 days long (with an extra day every four years on our leap year).  The traditional Chinese calendar (and several other Asian countries) follows the lunar cycle.  Their new year starts at the end of every 12 lunar cycles (which is just about every 354 days).  To keep the calendars more or less the same, the people who use a lunar cycle add a month on occasion to keep it similar (more or less like our extra day in February on leap year).  So, most of China functions using the same calendar as we do, but their holidays are based upon the traditional lunar calendars.  This means the “date” on our calendar will not be the same each year.  Most often the Chinese or Lunar New Year falls in either January or February.  Also, each year is dedicated to a specific animal of the Chinese zodiac.  2020 was the year of the rat, and 2021 is the year of the ox.  You will see these animals in the decorations.

 

Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year celebration lasts a full 15 days.  During these days is one of the few times that most Chinese get a full 7-day vacation.  Parents do not have to report to work and students get a break from their studies.  Therefore, many families travel during this time.  These are some of the busiest travel days of the year in China.  There are specific traditions for each day of the holiday, but I am just going to cover some of them.

 

On the first day of the festival, the family will typically get together for a huge feast.  Often, the meal will include fish and dumplings among other things as they are considered good luck.  The family will typically dress and decorate the house in red to bring luck to the family.  There is a national celebration broadcast on TV (it holds many records as the most-watched event) that ends with fireworks at midnight.

 

Throughout the celebration, there are lion dances or dragon dances.  These are huge parades with a costume worn by a team of people representing a dragon or a lion.  They often “feed” the animals hongbao (I’ll tell you more about this is in just a minute) for good luck.  Fireworks are used throughout the festival to scare off the monsters.

 

Hongbao is another tradition during the Chinese New Year celebration.  Hongbao means red envelopes.  These envelopes are usually filled with money (even amounts are preferred) and given to unmarried members of the family – especially the children.  Now, Hongbao are even available virtually to send lucky envelopes to your friends and family that live far away.

 

The final day of the celebration is the lantern festival.  During this day, everything is decorated with beautiful lanterns and candles.  This is a great way to end the celebration.

 

The main values celebrated in the Lunar New Year are good luck, happiness, and health.  Of course, there are many traditions (such as eating dumplings, wearing red, and shooting fireworks) that are thought to either bring good things to the family or keep bad things away.  This is a time when families gather.  Many families will return to their hometown during this vacation and spend time with the extended family. 

For more information click here.

Categories
Chinese Culture Chinese Holidays Holidays

What is Chinese New Year?

After teaching Chinese students for almost two years, I have learned a little bit about their culture.  Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival) is a major part of their traditions.  This celebration lasts a whole 15 days and is one of the few times that most Chinese people get a vacation.

 

Read the article in English.

Read the article in Spanish.

Watch this video to learn more about Chinese New Year.

If you’d like an extra challenge, watch it in Spanish:

 

 

Categories
Teaching at VIPKid Teaching on Outschool

Transition from VIPKid to Outschool

I’ve noticed a lot of my VIPKid friends are starting to do Outschool which is very exciting for me. I love that you don’t have to choose one or the other.  You can do both at the same time.  Let me give you some reasons why you might want to think about Outschool.  

The number one reason for me was the daytime schedule. You can actually teach Outschool classes pretty much at any time because there are students enrolled around the globe, but the majority of the kids are here in the United States and share our same schedule. Another benefit of Outschool is the flexibility.  You can choose your curriculum, you can choose your age, you can choose your own schedule, you can choose the length of your class, and you can choose your class size.   That’s a lot of variables and a lot of things that you have to think about. 

With Outschool you can have more than one student in the class.  You get paid for each student that comes to your class, so the more students you have in class obviously the more you get paid.  This is a little bit different than VIPKid and it does take a little getting used to.   

Since you can choose what it is that you want to teach, if you get bored with one lesson then you just don’t have to teach it. I have a couple of classes that are not really my favorite at this point and I’ve kind of left them off my schedule.  If I have a parent request one, I’ll be happy to put it back on but for right now they’re not really my favorites so I’ve kind of set those to the side.   I started with just a couple of basic classes and as I taught those classes parents gave me ideas for other classes. You have that flexibility on Outschool.  

 That being said, it does take you a little while to get that prepared,  It’s not like VIPKid where everything is already prepared for you.  You just have to show up to teach.  You can get to that point on Outschool after you have your lessons prepared and get your students.  Then you can just pretty much show up and teach, but you do have to spend a little bit of time developing what it is that you are going to teach.  I have some classes that are very simple I have absolutely zero preparation time, but then I have a few more that require a little bit more preparation.  

If you’re interested in teaching children, you don’t have to have teaching credentials to teach on Outschool.  Outschool was originally created for homeschool kids, and they’re open to a variety of people that have a variety of backgrounds.   So if you have expertise in an area, but not necessarily a teaching degree you could have success teaching on Outschool.  

Outschool is a great opportunity, but it is quite different from teaching ESL classes.  Check it out and if you need any support, please leave a comment.  

Watch the video here:

 

 

Categories
VIPKid China Field Trip

Extra Budget Items for VIPKid Field Trip

While the tour price of the VIPKid is actually quite reasonable, it is only a portion of the budget you need for this trip.  First, you must book your own flights.  Also, my son and I added a few days in Shanghai as well as a quick jaunt to Hong Kong so that I could work on my bucket list of seeing all the Disneylands in the world.  But here is a rundown of some of the “extra” budget items you may have.

Evening shows –  We did two different evening shows which cost 380 and 580 CNY so plan on about another $150 if you plan on seeing the shows.  (Of course, we had to have popcorn at one!)

Evening meals – You have many options for evening meals.  We were able to find a great restaurant just down the street that both my son and I could eat for under $10.  However, there were other places that were not as economical.  I would budget at least $20 per person per meal for each evening.  Add more if you plan to hit the nightlife and do a little drinking.  If you are going farther from the hotel, you may need to add in some transportation costs.

Dino Swag – We were offered quite a bit of Dino swag that is not available in the store at one of the meetups.  I spent quite a bit more than I had originally planned, but hey, it’s Dino!

Souvenirs – You will want to buy some souvenirs.  You may need to add an extra suitcase if you go too crazy.  This part of your budget will vary quite a bit.  There are so many opportunities to buy some very unique items.  You will want to plan on taking enough so that you don’t regret not buying that special item.

Bullet Train Upgrade:  I believe it was an extra $55 to upgrade to first class on the bullet train.  I will say, I really enjoyed the nice, big, comfortable seats.

Free day – This was a place that I spent a bit more than expected since we spent our free day at Shanghai Disneyland.  The tickets to Disneyland are quite reasonable, about $60 a day and the metro tickets were VERY cheap, less than $2 round trip.  Also, consider the meals and souvenirs at Disney are not as cheap as eating outside the park, but there are few options nearby.  We had a great meal inside the park, but it was more than we had paid for any single meal.  Obviously, you can choose a much less expensive option for your free day, but what can I say, I’m a Disney Nut!

Bund River Night Cruise –  You can pay for an upgrade on the Night Cruise that will get you a little snack, a drink (beer or juice) and a nice seat on the upper floor.  (I’m sorry I can’t remember the price, but it was actually not very expensive.  I know it was less than $20 each.

Massage – We also had a chance to get a massage done in our room for 200 CNY ($28) for 90 minutes.  I will say it was absolutely amazing!  This price included the tip and it sure helped the sore muscles from walking so much.

I will say that I had planned on spending $500 extra on the trip, and that went very quickly.  I would have liked to have a bit more for souvenirs (I really wanted a nice piece of jade, but that was definitely out of my budget), but I still was able to bring some many things that I really wanted.  We did end up buying an extra suitcase mostly because my son really wanted it (Avengers suitcase from Disneyland) not because we necessarily needed it.  Just be prepared that you do have more expenses than just the tour package.

Categories
VIPKid China Field Trip

Spending Money in China

One of the questions I have been asked several times is how did I pay for things in China?  For the most part, I paid in cash.  This meant I had to order Chinese currency at my bank.  If you are going to order currency, you will more than likely need to give your bank a few days to get it.  Also, my bank charged quite a bit more than my son’s bank.  You might shop around a bit.  Currency exchange may also be available at the airport, but I didn’t want to wait and take a chance (and I have heard that they don’t give as good of a rate).  Once in China, there were ATMs available that you could use to get cash.  Our hotel in Beijing (The Penta Hotel) had an ATM which could even take your US dollars and give you Chines Yuan.  I used the ATM several times at Shanghai Disneyland with no issue.

You can also use your credit card.  I was very hesitant about this because I had my bank debit card with me.  I did feel safe using the credit card to make purchases at Disneyland and at the airport.  I preferred instead of making several small purchases with my credit card, I withdrew cash at the ATM instead.  Others on the trip used credit cards more liberally, and I haven’t heard of any issues at all.

So, long story short.  I tried to pay almost everything with Chinese currency.  We did, however, go over our budget and I took money out of the ATM a few times.

Categories
Teaching at VIPKid VIPKid China Field Trip

Should I use WeChat?

WeChat is an app available for your phone that is more or less a Chinese government allowed combination of Facebook, Facebook Messenger, YouTube, Instagram, and Whatsapp all rolled up in one.  You can message people as well as call or video chat with them. This is the one service that we found words very well while traveling in China.

If you are planning on going on the VIPKid Field Trip to China, you will be highly encouraged to get on WeChat.   Our tour guide would use it to find us if we got lost and post updates on meeting times and places.  It was very important that at least one person in every room had a working WeChat account.

That being said, there are some issues with WeChat.  It often decides that you are an unauthorized user and you have to get someone to scan in your QR code and verify you.  The problem is that it can’t be just anyone.  They have to have had their account for more than 6 months and they can only help one person per six month period.  My first account was blocked and I was never able to get back in.  I had to “borrow” a phone number from a friend in order to open a new account.  (This person will never have a need to use WeChat).  I’m not sure why it worked the second time, but I have a good theory.  The first time, I downloaded the app and opened an account, but didn’t do anything more.  The second time, I did the same, but set up my profile, added a few friends, and had a short chat with one of them.  I highly suspect that WeChat freezes any account that doesn’t complete the profile or add users.  So set up your account when you have enough time to add a couple of friends and add a profile picture.  (I can’t guarantee that this will work, but that is my guess why my first account got frozen).

Also, you need to start arranging with your students in order to meet them.  We had a very small window between when we found out about the trip and the actual trip, that I was only able to arrange one meetup.  I suggest even if you aren’t planning a trip, start adding your students’ parents to WeChat.  It’s fun to get to know their personal lives a bit more and they will appreciate learning more about you.  I struggled a bit with this as many of my students are lower levels and we had a hard time understanding each other.  However, holding up your QR code and saying WeChat usually does the trick.  I also add my WeChat name in feedback (although I haven’t had any additions from doing this yet).  I highly recommend adding a nickname to the WeChat as the request comes through so you can match the student with the parent (and most of my names have come through in Chinese characters).

WeChat is not like Facebook in the fact that you can go back and look at posts from years ago.  The “moments” only last a few days.  I usually get on WeChat a couple of times a week to check up new moments and I usually only post about once a week.  I don’t have a huge following.  I have a few students’ families and some of the new friends I met on the trip (although we tend to use Facebook more now that we are home and away from the Great Firewall).

Some teachers choose not to use WeChat.  I was on that side of the debate until I traveled to China.  Since then, it has helped me develop more of a relationship with the few students moms who have added me.  I love seeing pictures of my students on their trips and doing things with their families, and they always “like” the pictures that I post as well.  As always, keep your WeChat super professional and don’t post anything that would be against the Chinese government’s policies so you don’t cause any issues to your students.  Also, keep your professional standards when talking with parents and always be respectful of your work with VIPKid.  This is not the place to air your dirty laundry.

I still don’t think of WeChat as essential for my teaching.  Nevertheless, it was essential on the trip.  I do feel that it has helped develop a deeper relationship with the families that I am connected with.

Categories
VIPKid China Field Trip

Traveling in a Group

The VIPKid Field Trip was basically a group tour with some VIPKid activities mixed in.  The travel agency we used was great and our tour guide was amazing.  However, if you have never traveled in a group tour setting, there are some things that you may need to consider.  I do recommend that the first time you travel to an unfamiliar place, a group tour is a great way to go as you know a bit more what to expect and your tour guide can assist you if you have any issues.  This is especially important if you are traveling somewhere that you do not speak the language.  After you are a bit more familiar with the area, you might feel more confident to take a trip by yourself.  When I visit China again, I will more than likely not do another group trip.  I got a taste of how things work in China and I feel that I could make my own arrangements next time.

When you are on a group trip, it almost has the feeling of a school field trip.  You are more or less expected to stay together.  While it is perfectly acceptable for you to make other arrangements or skip a particular activity, that is your own choice and you will be on your own for that.  (Our tour guide would help us figure things out even beyond our tour, but that is not always the case.)  There will be people who walk faster or slower than others.  There will be people that are louder or quieter than others.  Basically, you will be getting very familiar with your group because you will be in tight quarters on the bus and in some of the venues.  Obviously, there are personalities that you will enjoy being with, and others that you would rather avoid.

Breakfast was served buffet-style at the hotels.  Lunch (on this particular trip) was always served family-style at several round tables with a huge lazy susan.  We did not order our particular meals, rather a variety of dishes were brought out and we could each serve ourselves a portion.  If you have particular dietary restrictions, this seemed to be quite a bit of a problem.  The restaurants cater mostly to the group, not to individual preferences and due to the language issues, it was sometimes hard to get extra service when needed.  (Also, they almost always ran out of forks.  So, be ready to use chopsticks!).

In a group setting, we were occasionally given a bit of free exploration time.  Almost every time that happened, someone in the group ended up being late to our meeting point.  This of course made the rest of the group have to wait until all members are accounted for.  Also, be prepared to line up two-by-two and be counted about 25 times a day (I will say it helped me learn some of the Chinese numbers a little better hearing our tour guide count over and over again).  There is a certain challenge to seeing the beautiful sights you are visiting while keeping up with the group.

The final issue is that after several days of strenuous walking, many of us were not as pleasant as we could have been.  I know that I was pretty cranky on a couple of the days when I didn’t think I could possibly walk another step.  However, I try not to let my exhaustion wear off on anyone else, but there will inevitably be some people in the group who are not as pleasant.  This can cause some unnecessary tension.  This group was especially challenging as most of us did not know each other at all before the trip and we are all independent contractors who work from home, so we all have our own particular ways of doing things.  This just means that we are usually all accustomed to doing things in our own way and not necessarily conforming to a group.  (Honestly, this brought back nightmares of some of my elementary school field trips!)

With all of these things taken into consideration, I will also say that I highly value the friendships I made on this trip!  I met some amazing people who share the same passion as I do (and the crazy, early morning work schedule).  While we may not be in contact often, I consider them now my friends and hope that our paths cross again soon.  So, traveling in a group definitely has benefits that outweigh the challenges.

Categories
VIPKid China Field Trip

The Realities of Jet Lag

I had always heard of jet lag and had experienced it when I traveled to Europe, but the jet lag I experienced on this trip to China was extreme.  I’m not sure if this had to do with my age, the shorter travel stay while I was away, or the different direction I was flying, but I experienced extreme jet lag after this trip.  I spent two days pretty much only sleeping and waking up to eat and use the restroom, but it took almost 3 weeks for me to get back to a more or less normal feeling.

The jet lag when we got to China did not seem as bad.  This may have been in part due to the excitement of seeing such new and interesting places.  I do highly recommend that you sleep as much as possible on the plane (I even took melatonin to make sure I slept) so that you can get on the Chinese schedule as quickly as possible.  We did, however, experience waking up wide awake at crazy hours and difficulty going back to sleep.  To combat this, we continued using melatonin for a few days and even if we couldn’t sleep, we did not get up and do anything.  This got better after the first three or four days (probably due to the fact that we were walking so much and we exhausted).

I have read some tips to help with jet lag.  First, make sure you are well hydrated both on the plane and as soon as you arrive at your destination.  This may have been part of my problem.  I took advantage of the free wine offered on the flight, and that, of course, can make your body not be well hydrated.  I did try to stay up a bit longer on the flight home so that I would be closer to the US schedule when we landed, but I was not very successful.  Thankfully, we had a couple of days of recuperation after the trip before we were expected to return to our “normal” routine.   If you are a VIPKid teacher, give yourself a few days of rest before you open your schedule.  If you are wide awake and can’t sleep, you can always open up some short notice classes.

Just be aware that you will experience jet lag to some degree.  Be prepared and take care of yourself.  Give yourself the time you need to recuperate so that you aren’t miserable.