Hello! My name is Laura and I am a VIPKID teacher, since November 2017. I teach English to Chinese students! I am eight months into this fun, crazy job.
I have an 8 year old daughter, Kayla, who thinks it is crazy that I teach kids on the other side of the world. But, if she’s honest, I think she would say that it’s a pretty cool “mom job.”
We heard about Lingobus, the company that does the opposite of VIPKID, meaning that Chinese teachers teach American students the Mandarin language. We heard that VIPKID teachers get a discount and everyone gets a free demo class. So we went for it!
We signed up for a free demo, watched the preview video, and got all ready. We actually watched a couple really informative YouTube videos about basic Chinese greetings to get her a little more confident. They were helpful and fun!
She actually set up in my VIPKID classroom for her demo class. She thought that was fun, since she has been watching me teach for months now. The roles were reversed!
We got started and I have to say, I was fascinated! I have been doing the same job, different language, for so long now that you forget how cool it is that you can communicate with someone on the other side of the world, in real time.
First impressions were:
-Wow! This teacher is good. I’m watching a veteran teacher.
-Wow! Chinese is a hard language. Seriously.
-Wow! Kayla is LOVING this.
-Wow! I better take notes.
Until that moment, I hadn’t really thought about myself learning from this experience, I just wanted to expose Kayla to some new experiences. But right away, I realized that I needed to make the most of this opportunity. I started taking notes.
Here are my observations and lessons learned.
One of the first things she said about her teacher, Teacher Steve, was, “He’s so funny!” Humor is one of those qualities that really does transcend the language barrier. He definitely kept a big smile on his face, but you could tell that he was actually a funny guy. He was quick on his feet and made her laugh out loud. At one point, he was asking her to say “hello” to all the characters on the screen, and even the dog. When she said hello “ni-hao!” to the dog, he looked at her like she did something wrong, as if he was going to correct her. She gave him a confused look. He cracked a smile and joked in Chinese “Dogs don’t say hello, they say “RUFF!” It was funny and made Kayla relax.
My take away as a VIPKID teacher: Don’t be afraid of being a little silly and try to get them to laugh!
I instantly noticed was how simple Teacher Steve kept his words. He used almost zero incidental language, right from the start. Incidental language is “filler words” in English, words that have not yet been taught to the student. This is one of my goals for my own teaching. I noticed his wait time. He paused for what you would think would feel like an awkward amount of time. But it was perfect for Kayla, who was processing and translating in her head.
My take away as a VIPKID teacher: Pretend that you only are “allowed” to speak words that you have taught the child. No extras. So simple.
The lesson did not cover that many concepts. It was pretty basic, as I expected. But the few concepts that it did cover, it repeated over and over. Kayla could confidently say hello and goodbye by the end, as well as sing a song about family. He went slowly, calmly, thoroughly. The slow repetition made all the difference.
My take away as a VIPKID teacher: Don’t worry about finishing all the slides in trial classes. Focus on making the child feel confident in speaking a few English words.
Kayla finished the lesson and instantly wanted to sign up for me (which we haven’t yet!). She felt successful and wanted to learn more! She walked around the house singing the Chinese song to anyone who would listen. The teacher was so encouraging when she spoke clearly that she knew she did well. He was exuberant with his praise. He did a simple star reward with magnets, and used them often. He did high-fives a lot. He said Kayla’s name a lot.
My take away as a VIPKID teacher: Use your reward more specifically. This is one change I’ve made since watching him. I still give out the stars regularly (usually at 5 minutes intervals), but now I give my reward to the child more strategically, whenever they do something especially great. I use it more carefully, and it has been more powerful, I think.
He was a master at TPR (total physical response) in teaching. He moved a ton. He acted out words. Every new word had an action attached to it. The song had a new action for each line. He waited until Kayla repeated the actions. He used depth perception, coming close and far from the camera. Each sound he taught had a hand gesture. It was all very purposeful and thought out.
My take away as a VIPKID teacher: This is one area I think I can grow in. I do the typical TPR that many teachers do, like cup my hand by my ear when I want the child to speak or count the words on my fingers. But there is so much more to do. I do more “acting out” to help the students remember. I want to make up more actions to songs. I’m definitely inspired!
Those are my take aways from watching a Lingobus lesson! Here are a few other thoughts:
-Use voices for the different characters, even if it seems silly!
-Get a computer mouse, even if you don’t use it, to show the kids when to draw on the screen.
-Move on to the next screen if they’re not getting it within a minute. Don’t belabor it.
-Whisper the answer, like telling a secret, if they’re not getting it.
-Use a name card with your name every time you talk about yourself.
-Have their name already written out on something (whiteboard, paper, etc) to show that you’re ready for them!
Parents, give it a try! Great experience for my daughter!
VIPKID teachers, recruit a kid and give it a try! You’ll learn a lot from watching the process in reverse!