Summer Money for Teachers

Summer is right around the corner and it's that time of year when some of us start to think about how we are going to earn some "alternative to summer school" side money during the summer months. A few months back I was thinking that I needed something to supplement my income and came across VIPKID.

At first, I wasn't sure if this company was for real, however, I was sold when I learned that VIPKID is Forbes' #1 online company to work for (really!). I have been so pleased that I took the plunge ever since!

  • Students in China sign up for English lessons through the VIPKid platform- it is highly desirable to have students learn from native English speakers as it produces a more American accent when speaking. 
  • Teachers sign up to teach these students. You will set your schedule entirely. There's basically a grid of times 7 days a week and you open 30 minute time slots when you are interested in teaching. You will teach only 1 student at a time. If a student books a slot, you have committed to teach them. If no student has booked a slot, you have the flexibility to open and close that slot or adjust that timing as much as you would like. **It does take some time to be hired and to get your bookings going. If you are looking to do this in the summer, you will want to sign up now so you can get the ball rolling.** 
  • VIPKIDs provides the interface, coordinates all of these sign-ups, provides teachers with as much or as little training as you are comfortable with AND PROVIDES ALL OF THE LESSONS. Yes. You do not have to lesson plan at all! 
  • The interface basically looks like a PowerPoint on the left side of the screen, Skype in the middle with video feeds for teacher and student, and old school AIM to the far right where you can send text messages if needed. 
  • The Fireman handle any and all IT issues. If I sign into a class and can't hear the student I just hit a button to "contact fireman" and the fireman will quickly show up and troubleshoot the issue. 
That's pretty much it. Student's sign up, teachers teach them with the provided materials, VIPKID takes care of all of the details and the fireman will be sure that IT issues are not even on your radar. 

The company will tell you that you will make $14-22 per hour. That range seems large but here's how it works: 
  • When you have your interview you will be offered a base pay of $7-9 per class. Classes are each only 30 minutes so that puts us at $14-18 right off the bat. 
  • If you show up to your class on time (which seems like a given... right??) you will get an extra $1 per class. So, if you are able to turn your computer on on time, you will be earning $15-19 per hour. 
  • If you teach 30 classes in a month, you earn an extra $0.50 per class. (So now we're up to $16-$20 per hour) 
  • If you teach 45 classes in a month, you earn an extra $1.00 per class. So, if your base pay is $9, you show up on time and you teach 45 classes in a month, you will earn (9x2)+(1x2)+(1x2)= $22 per hour. 
I personally have a base pay of $8 per hour, always show up on time, and generally teach about 30-40 classes per month. This leaves me making $19/hour. I accomplish 30 classes per month by teaching 1 class before school on Monday, 1 class before school on Friday and 2-4 classes per day each on Saturday and Sunday morning. This is about $150-190 per week for a very minimal commitment. My personal plan is to open more slots during the summer but, for the school year, this is enough to keep me busy and satisfied on the side! 

Yes, but it is incredibly minimal. In order to get started you need a computer, a headphone with attached microphone, a classroom background and minimal prompts. I, personally, bought a set of headphones that cost about $10 and then went to the dollar store for everything else. 
At the dollar store I bought: 
  • An alphabet border for $1 that I taped together so it looks like a poster and hung that in the corner of the room where I would be sitting. 
  • A pack of bows that I could hang up as rewards.
  • 2 stuffed animals that I could use as puppets (that I really don't use anymore). 
  • A pack of alphabet flashcards with cute animals on them. 
  • A pack of foam letters
  • A whiteboard with an attached marker. 
$10 for headphones. $7 at the dollar store. I was all set to go. This is a very low risk online business to try out! 

Pretty much! Could you spend way more? Oh, certainly, just check out Pinterest pictures of VIPKID classrooms. Some people go crazy in their space! In fact, if you jump on any VIPKID forum you will find that there is a whole range of people in terms of how much time, enthusiasm and investment that they want to put into this business. I am definitely on the minimalist side of the scale. 
  • I invest exactly 0 minutes in Chinese social media. 
  • I do not wear an orange shirt every (or any?) time that I teach. 
  • I do not decorate my "classroom" for holidays and events. 
  • I do not wear a crazy headband that I can add bows and stars to as students earn rewards. 
Why? That's just not me or my personality! I have found that by being myself and teaching in a way that I feel comfortable I am able to fill all 8-10 slots that I would like to teach per week. I have regular students who come back to me lesson after lesson. Because I don't put on a show I attract the older students who I really enjoy teaching, talking to, and connecting with! I am NOT putting down teachers who put more into it than I do! I encourage everyone to find their style, find what they are comfortable with and enjoying and pursue that avenue fully! The same way that I have attracted my "ideal student" you will attract the students that you fit with best by being yourself as well! 

If you are interested in learning more, click HERE to use my link to the VIPKID website. If you like what you see and are interested in applying, please reach out to me and I will support you in your application and interview process. By using my link I become your referral and am invested in seeing you be successful- so take advantage of that fact and reach out!! I have sincerely loved teaching for VIPKID and I would love to see others have the same opportunity that I have had! 

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Why Teaching Line Plots is Harder Than it Looks

Much of the "data and graphing" instruction comes quite easily to students. A bar graph or pictograph is really quite intuitive to read- the difficulty in instruction comes in when students are asked to solve comparison word problems based on the data in the charts. And we KNOW that comparison word problems are notoriously difficult for students to solve as word problem types go.

Why then are line plots... which are really just a combination of a bar graph and a pictograph... so difficult for students to read and answer questions about? If we really drill down, creating a line plot and answering questions about a line plot in 4th and 5th grade requires so many components. Understanding which of these components are strengths and areas of need for your students can help you to narrow in on the reason they might be having difficulty. To build and interpret a line plot, students need:

  1. An understanding of the conventions of putting the chart together.
  2. A thorough understanding of what each part of the line plot represents for interpretation.
  3. Last of all, but certainly not least of all, an extensive understanding of fractions on a number line.

In creating a line plot students first need to create a number line. When looking at the data set, helpful questions to ask students would include:

  • What is the smallest fraction in the data set? How can this help us decide where to start the number line?
  • What is the largest fraction in the data set? How can this data point help us to decide where to end the number line? 
  • Where would 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 be place on the number line. Where do the 1/4 and 1/2 marks overlap? Where do the 1/8 marks overlap with the other fractions. If 2/4 and 1/2 are at the same point, what does that tell us about these fractions? 
So what can you do to help? Give students a hands on opportunity to build a line plot. Give them a set of pencils or clip art pictures all measured to different lengths. Have students place these items out on a life-sized line plot so that they can see where it would make sense to start a number line, end a number line and how the number line could be best labeled. 

 The conventions of creating a line plot aren't all that different from creating a bar graph, pictograph, or any other type of graphing representation. Students need to be sure to include a title, a number line, a label for the number line, they need to mark out a scale on the number line, and finally to represent their data points.

So what can you do to help? It may be helpful to students to link the conventions of a line plot to the conventions of other types of graphs that they already know about. We know that research tells us that whenever we can make links and connections information will stick more easily. Could students look at a bar graph of similar information and find each of these components on both the bar graph and the line plot? 

  • Where on the graphs do we learn what the graph is all about? 
  • Where on the graphs do we find out, for example, the height of the smallest plant?
  • Where on the graphs do we find out if they are measuring, for example, in inches or centimeters? 
  • Where on the graphs can we find out how many plants, for example, are 3 1/2 inches tall? 

A number of difficulties are presented when students are asked to interpret the information on a line plot.

  • If students are creating a number line about the height of a variety of plants- do they really recognize that each "X" on the line plot stands for it's own plant? If they don't, they are going to have a very difficult time in answering a question that asks, for example, "What is the total height of all of the plants measured?" You will know if students aren't understanding the meaning of the "X" if students add up all of the fractions listed on the scale rather than adding up the total of all data points. 
  • Students may need to add fractions with different denominators. If a set of data has pieces measured to the nearest 1/4 inch there is a good chance some pieces of data will be listed as 1/2. The same situation may occur if data points are measured to the nearest 1/8th. Students may have more difficulty performing operations on fractions with different denominators. 
  • Students may have difficulty understanding that each piece of data has multiple labels. For example, consider the story Mike road his bike every day for a week. On each day he wrote down the number of miles he traveled. In his journal his list said: 2 1/4, 3, 5 1/2, 3 1/4, 3 1/4, 5, 2. In this example story, each of these pieces of data really has 2 labels. The first piece of data, 2 1/4, really represents that on day 1, Mike traveled 2 1/4 miles. Each of the pieces of data is a separate day and each of those days has been measured in miles. 
So what can you do to help? I stand by my suggestions in the first two paragraphs. If students are not making these connections when they are looking at a line plot on paper you can either take the line plot off of the paper and bring it into real, hands on life so students can understand the significance and meaning of each "x" on the line plot. You can also relate the line plot to other graphs and representations you use in the classroom to help students to build connections! 

If you are looking for further line plot resources, I have two resources that might be helpful. First is a hands-on line plots exploration. Students work to measure the plants of a fictional kindergarten classroom and help them to best organize their information. Next is a set of differentiated worksheets for students to use in the classroom and for homework. An "easy" "medium" and "hard level" have been created for classwork and homework in both the areas of reading and creating line plots. Plus, I have included task cards perfect for math centers or small group instruction. 

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