Need some help setting up your VIPKid classroom? I got you covered.
When I was first starting out as a VIPKid candidate, I wasn’t sure how many supplies to buy. It’s especially tough because you need to prepare your classroom before you even know if you got the job!
Setting up your VIPKid classroom doesn’t have to be a stressful process, however. Over time, I’ve narrowed down the props I use to a few staples that come up recurrently throughout the lessons.
You don’t need to invest hundreds of dollars to have a state-of-the-art classroom. In the end, stick figures on a piece of paper can get the job done so long as the student is engaged and learning.
In fact, I recommend that you get most of your supplies at The Dollar Store. If you’re feeling fancy, try Walmart. Don’t even think about stepping foot into Target. That’s unnecessary, especially in the early stages!
Here is my master list of everything you need to get started teaching and build a fabulous VIPKid classroom. As a bonus, scroll down to the bottom to find a downloadable PDF checklist featuring all the essentials.
1) Good lighting
A successful lesson starts with the student being able to clearly see and hear you. Lighting is crucial, especially if you’re teaching at night. The more natural light you can fill the room with, the better (so long as it’s not washing you out from behind and making you look like a dark silhouette).
If you don’t have natural light, you need to ensure you have adequate artificial light both above and around you. Buy an extra floor lamp if you need it.
2) Steady internet connection
Internet connection delays are inevitable, but you can do your part to make sure the problem isn’t on your end. Make sure you have a strong enough router to reach you wherever you’re set up. Make sure your bandwidth can stream without issue and that your internet browser has the necessary plugins to connect to the VIPKid teaching platform.
Do a test run if possible. You can enter a classroom a few days ahead of time just to familiarize yourself with the setup. Classes usually book 2 weeks out.
3) An appropriate background
You can get away with a blank wall, especially when you’re traveling and giving lessons from a hotel room or AirBnB, but generally it’s nice to have a background that looks like you’re in a legitimate classroom. I have cutouts with class rules that I hung up behind me, so there’s a fox that says “follow directions” and a bear holding the phrase “pay attention.” It looks fun but also educational.
You can easily find cutouts like this in the education section of any store. Other options include a chalkboard if you have them, world map or bookshelves.
Headphones are a requirement for all VIPKid teachers. I got mine from Walmart for like $13. They have a regular headphone jack at the end and plug into my laptop with ease. They also have a bendable microphone so that I look like a telemarketer.
Aim to get a pair of headphones with adequate cushioning because your ears can start to hurt after wearing them for hours on end, kind of like when you wear the same sunglasses all day and you start to crave freedom for your face.
5) Cutouts of Meg, Mike and Dino
These are the three main characters in the lessons. Most students know them well, but for beginner students it helps to have a visual aid when referring to them since they don’t always recognize what’s happening when you circle the characters on the screen. They are available for download in the Hutong portal now. I got mine in exchange for tokens.
You can also get a PDF download of the VIPKid slides and just print and cut the characters out from there as well, for free.
Not the brass kind, rather sports balls of all shapes and sizes. If you can only get one, go with a plain white baseball, the plastic ones that usually come attached to a toy bat — that way you get 2 toys for your buck, literally.
Other balls that come in handy include a football. I’ve often had to use this to distinguish between football and soccer. Otherwise, I’ve used soccer ball and basketball cutouts that double as rewards. They’re 2-inch color clipart printed from my home computer but they get the job done. If you want to get fancy, badminton is a term that comes up a lot so you could equip yourself with a birdie.
7) Stuffed animals
This is a slippery slope because you don’t want your office space to look creepy when you’re not teaching. I would recommend a half dozen or so max, but certain animals like a frog, duck, rabbit, dog, cat, horse, shark, bird, bear, and reptile (lizard, crocodile) tend to come up across several units. I have a kangaroo from a past trip to Australia that’s surprisingly gotten a lot of use in some of the more advanced lessons.
Again, you can find these for a dollar or in the discount bin at Walmart. Valentine’s Day and Easter are a good time to stock up.
8) Pack of alphabet cards
This is an absolute must. You can write the letters yourself, or make your own alphabet cards using carsick paper and a magic marker like I did in the beginning, but the cards are $1 and look professional. They use the type font that the student will be used to seeing and they make great props during the beginner trial lesson, which you will do time and time again.
I cannot stress this enough — get you some alphabet cards.
9) Pack of number/color/shape cards
These cards are optional, but I’ve gotten good use out of my shape cards, especially when I’m describing something more complex like a parallelogram or distinguishing between “square” and “diamond.” You can always make your own.
I’m sure other people have fancier rewards, but I have success with a clipboard, piece of paper with a big picture of the reward on it (i.e. a trophy about 5 inches tall) and then multiple small cutouts of the same trophy (only 2 inches big) that I add to the piece of paper as the lesson progresses every time I want to praise the student.
This is what I use to attach the smaller reward cutouts onto the piece of paper held in place by my clipboard. I’ve also used it to affix a cutout of Meg to a pencil and make a makeshift puppet. Finally, tape comes in handy when you break something. Just good ol’ scotch tape, you gotta love it.
12) Dry erase board
When all else fails, you may have to start playing Pictionary with your student (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve drawn a simple house or airplane) or underlining a letter in a word that they’re not pronouncing. This is where the dry erase board comes in.
Fair warning: the dollar store ones don’t last that long. Either the marker dries out or it gets harder and harder to wipe fully clean the more you use it. This is one item worth investing in.
13) Markers/colored pencils/crayons
You want something to show colors, so any of the above will help. You can also have colors on cards but I find that the students relate better when you always make the drawing motion or even show them coloring with the color. For me, markers are preferred since they’re darker and easy to see on screen.
You’re going to need a box for several things. You’ll need it to demonstrate edges and faces. You’ll need it to mimic the action of giving someone a present during the birthday-themed lessons. You’ll want one to show the concepts of “on” versus “in.” Really, it’s a simple thing that makes a big difference. Any box, a tissue box will do if you have nothing else.
This is not handy but helpful when you have more advanced students that are differentiating between 2D and 3D shapes. It’ll also be great to point out the vertex and lines. You can do this on a box too if need be, but a cube just adds a little something extra, don’t you think?
Besides the obvious use of your phone to demonstrate the verb “call,” you will need the stopwatch feature on your phone to do times exercises. The students like to see their time afterwards so make sure your screen is properly lit. I also use the phone as a catch all when I need to pull up a miscellaneous picture, from a rake to French fries.
Not the animal kind — that wasn’t on the list I gave you above. The kind you click. You’re going to need a mouse to demonstrate the act of clicking and circling items on screen to younger children. You’ll also need it to demonstrate the verb “click.” I know, no one uses a mouse anymore, but it’s helpful in getting this somewhat challenging point across.
I have two girl dolls that are almost identical. I use them to show same/different. I also use them to show “student” or “kid” and differentiate between a girl and a boy. One looks like Meg, so I’ve definitely passed her off as somewhat differently attired version of VIPKid’s main character at times. I’ve also used them to demonstrate a dialogue, holding one at arm’s length and talking to it like a ventriloquist. These aren’t essential, but they come in handy.
You will need instruments for the lessons on hobbies, sound and occasionally throughout random stories. The most commonly references instruments are a guitar, violin and piano. I have a tiny guitar that I use. It also helps to indicate to small children that you’re about to sing when it comes time for the hello and goodbye song. Some people use a toy microphone to achieve the same result. Even if you have no props, you can just start singing.
Make sure you sing, even if the student continues to speak in response. The parents will appreciate this.
A hat comes in handy when you’re talking about clothing items, when you’re reading and blending short “a” words, and when you’re reading stories about different people. If you don’t have a hat, you can fold your hands over your head to mimic a hat. Bonus if you have a baseball cap and a hat since at one point you may need to distinguish between the two. I do not, so I’ve had to mimic a motion over my forehead to portray a brim.
Candles are helpful when discussing birthday parties, how old a child is, the concept of fire and lighting and the verb “blow.” You can get a pack of several candles and use them for counting and distinguishing colors as well.
I hope you found this post useful! Before you go running to the stores, click to download your free VIPKid Classroom Checklist.
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