One of the first things that you will notice about all of the VIPKid teaching pros is that they are comfortable on camera. This is probably the hardest thing to overcome as a new VIPKid teacher or any other type of online teacher. Without practice we all look just plain awkward on the screen.
It’s quite different from taking a selfie because you don’t have the luxury of 43 practice shots before you find the perfect image. When interacting with a screen, you are LIVE and have to be able to roll with the punches.
As a veteran VIPKid teacher, I’ve discovered some tricks that you can implement from DAY ONE that will have you looking like a VIPKid teaching pro in every class you teach!
How to Look Like a VIPKid Teaching Pro
Stay Within the Frame
This may sound utterly ridiculous, but it is one of the most important aspects of looking like a VIPKid teaching pro. When you first start teaching online, there is an obvious learning curve. And one of the things that is essential is finding the “sweet spot” within the camera lens.
You want to position your camera so that it’s eye level or just above because this is the most flattering way for you to appear on camera.
To achieve this, you can purchase an adjustable sitting or standing desk (but they are expensive!), a laptop stand like I have, or you can simply prop your computer up on a box.
When I first started, I just propped my computer up on a plastic container. The only downside was that I had to sit during my classes. So, I eventually purchased this adjustable laptop stand to accommodate me sitting or standing!
Be sure that you have extra space around the perimeter of your head for movement.
You don’t want to take up so much of the space that every time you move, you go out of the frame. There should be space above the top of your head and at least the tops of your shoulders within the frame. This will guarantee that you are giving yourself moving room (especially for those PreVIP classes) and that your mouth can easily be seen.
Create a 3D Environment
This one is what the VIPKid teaching pros consistently succeed at doing. But, it can be difficult to achieve if you don’t really know what you are doing.
Since our lessons take place via a computer, we only appear as 2D images on the screen. While it may seem impossible, there are a few ways you can create a three dimensional classroom experience.
The easiest way to achieve this is by moving your body closer and farther away from the screen.
This creates instant depth to your space. But, be mindful of the fact that you can only move back and forth so many times before your student becomes seasick from all of the motion.
So, the trick is to incorporate these motions and movements strategically throughout the lesson.
There are 3 easy ways to do this in every lesson.
- Move your props and flashcards closer to the screen and farther away.
- Incorporate TPR into every lesson.
- Bring your reward system toward the camera while your student looks for stars, chooses a number, or gains another item.
By using the position of your body as well as the props and reward system, you will create a much more interactive VIPKid teaching environment.
Obviously this tip is a bit more gender specific, but if you want to help your students focus on your mouth then wear lipstick. Even if you don’t typically wear makeup this is something I recommend. No, it isn’t a requirement, but it’s just another way for you to help your students and to look more polished.
Think about it like this.
Many students take VIPKid lessons via mobile device, and therefore, the screen is smaller than a normal computer screen. Now, consider how much of the screen is occupied by the slides, and then divide the rest of the space by the student’s image and the teacher’s image.
In reality, when we’re teaching, we appear more like a thumbnail image. Therefore, accentuating your mouth with lipstick is super-helpful for your learners. This is even more important when teaching nuances of the English language like the subtle difference between the short /i/ sound and the short /e/ sound.
Vary the Volume and Pitch of Your Voice
The best way to help keep your student focused is by varying the volume and pitch of your voice. Now, I say that with some hesitation because you don’t want to sound like a ridiculous cartoon character. But you don’t want to sound like a monotone robot either.
One of the easiest way to achieve this is by making your voice match the size of the objects.
If there is a large object, speak in a loud voice, and if there’s a small object, speak in a whisper. This will create an interesting dynamic for your student. It will also provide an auditory cue that will distinguish the two sizes.
If you notice your student is getting off task, vary the volume of your voice.
When I teach some of the PreVIP students, they tend to get distracted by things around them and events happening in their own environment. And, since they are 3, 4, and 5 years old, this is to be expected. However, to draw them back into the lesson, I will move myself close the camera and whisper.
When they realize that you are talking, but they can’t hear you, they become interested in what you are saying. This is an old classroom management technique that works with anyone and everyone regardless of age!
Keep Your Background Simple
This last technique is all about your background. If you are making sure that you are aligned within the camera frame, you should be able to see your background. I keep my background simple in order to help my students focus on me during the lesson and not all of the things behind me.
Obviously, this is completely your choice, but a busy background can be distracting to your learners. That is one of the reasons that VIPKid asks us to wear solid colored shirts as opposed to a print. By having solid colored shirts on, we minimize the visual distractions.
Understanding how to teach ESL online effectively is not something we just automatically know. However, by implementing these five tips, you can begin looking like a VIPKid teaching pro today! And, professional looking teacher = more bookings!
If you want to read more about VIPKid, you can check out these posts.