The reward system is an integral part of the VIPKID classroom. It rewards the student for doing a good job, acts as a behavior incentive, helps maintain control in a virtual classroom (where you are thousands of miles from your student), and adds some fun to a sometimes stressful situation (for the student).
VIPKID has created a star program that is used during each lesson in which a student can earn five stars, to be spent at the VIPKID student store. Stars are to be given out for following the classroom rules and can, in turn, be taken away for bad behavior (although I’ve, thankfully, not had to do this often. Students are taught in Level 2 that the classroom rules are as follows, although many students start above Level 2. Either way, the rules are a helpful starting place for new teachers:
- I will listen to the teacher.
- I will speak English.
- I will ask for help.
With that said, common sense rules. What behavior would be expected in a brick and mortar classroom and what would be frowned upon. For me, as long as my student is participating and putting forth a good effort, they earn their stars. This is what I generally tell my students.
“Today, when you do a good job (overemphasis on the thumbs up here), you will earn a smiley face (or fish, sea animal, cupcake, Christmas ornament, bee, pumpkin, etc., which I hold up to the camera so it looks big and silly). For every TWO, one- two (while holding reward up to the camera and emphasizing the count), you will get a STAR!!!! (tap camera with star wand).”
This is generally for my younger students, new students, or students I know will get a kick out of the star wand. I can assure you, older students often look at you like you have lost your mind if you try this approach.
The classroom itself has five empty stars across the top of the screen. When you click on the star with your mouse, a big yellow star shoots across the screen making a nice “bling” sound and lands in an empty star. If you click on the star again, the star will disappear, leaving it blank again.
Many lessons, between Level 2 and 5 (I can’t speak to Level 6), have approximately 25 to 30 slides. I use the number of slides as a basis for issuing rewards. For every 5 or 6 slides, a student will receive 2 rewards (i.e. smiley faces). When they earn 2 rewards, they receive a star.
I give stars with a lot of excitement (yes, even for my older kids). I have found that goofiness and playfulness go a long way in my classroom. I’m excited about the first star, but I’m REALLY excited about the fifth star. I’ve noticed the even my shy students start to come around when I’m willing to be goofy.
Here is an example. One of my regulars, Grace, was so quiet our first class I could barely hear her. She sat very still and was extremely focused. It was obvious that she was very shy and uncertain of her English. But I just kept smiling and really celebrating the small victories. After a bit, I saw a small smile. I’ve had Grace for numerous classes and she is still very quiet, but definitely smiles more often and is, as expected, getting more confident in her English abilities. Yesterday, I caught her dancing with me! When I said something to her about it, she giggled and moved a little more. I love it!
Teaching online is all about being fluid. You have to know your audience – or better yet, be able to read your audience – and respond accordingly. I have learned over time that trial students seem to really like my emoji (smiley face) rewards (I think they can relate and understand that – a happy face means “good job.”), while my girls love flowers and hearts (like, actually get really excited about it). I have regulars that like to choose their reward and some older students who just want stars. They really don’t want all the hubbub. They just want to get through their lesson. But older students also respond better to verbal encouragement and recognition because they understand it.
Again, it is all about reading your audience. With older students, I often say, “Today I’m giving cupcakes to my younger students as a reward. Would you like to earn cupcakes too are you more of a star only kind of guy/girl?” This often elicits a smile and is a great icebreaker as many older students are very serious about their work, especially with a teacher they have not worked with before. Addressing their age really goes a long way.
Each teacher has unique reward systems, some making their own, others printing the reward pages from the lessons, and even others using green screens. It’s all about where you are comfortable and what works for your students.
As an additional, and important, point, you were not able to make the stars bling during your interview or mock classes. This will be addressed in your mock class workshops and in the preparation materials. This does not change the reward system much, you just have to find a way to give a star without actually clicking on one. Once you have students in front of you though, the star reward system will be fully active.
For more information on rewards, as well as a more visual presentation, please visit my video here. I always find it easier to show how to be actively involved in your class in a medium you can actually view.
If you have specific questions about VIPKID, please feel free to email me through the contact form on this site.
If you are interested in becoming a teaching with VIPKID, you can apply here.
The content of this blog is the opinion and experience of the blogger and is not endorsed by VIPKID or any of its subsidiaries.