A Review of How to Teach English Online

(Disclaimer: This post was originally about VIPKid, but after working for a few other online ESL companies, it became apparent that this information could apply to almost any online ESL company you could work for. I hope you find this information useful if you are just starting work as an online ESL teacher. )

If you have signed your contract with an Online ESL Company, congratulations!!! This post is about the things you need to be doing and thinking about the first couple of weeks after you sign the contract. There will be sometime between the signing of the contract and your first booking. So, in this post we will explore topics such as setting up your schedule, getting ready for classes, getting bookings, getting more certifications, and making or acquiring props and classroom resources.

Tips for Success

The time between signing the contract and getting your first booking is very difficult, in fact it may be the most difficult part of working as an online ESL teacher. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are at this stage with online ESL companies.

1. Stay positive. This can be difficult if you are eager to start making money. It is important to remember that all online teachers went through this stage and now many of them are fully booked and making good money. So, instead of looking at this stage as a low point, look at this stage as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to prepare and train. Once you start getting bookings, you will not have much time for these types of activities.

2. Learn all you can. As mentioned in the previous tip, you won’t have much time for this once the bookings start. Many online ESL companies have teacher portals with a library or training section in which you can watch videos and sign up for workshops. You should be visiting to see if there is Certification Center is added more certifications to your profile. You should check to see if the company you work for as an internal community section to connect with other teachers.

You should sign up for some Facebook groups and start talking with other teachers. You should subscribe to some YouTube channels for more information that will be helpful to you as you are beginning your journey with the online ESL company your work for. Use websites such as this one to gain more information as well.

3. Work on Your Profile. Remember you can always improve your profile. Follow tip #2 and find out what you need to know to do this.

4. Make your schedule attractive for bookings. This means having 3 to 4 weeks of slots opened to potential students. Open as many slots as possible during the Peak Times. Open slots that are available for short notice. Get certified for a variety of  classes and be available for those. Look for opportunities to teach.  If your ESL company has a substitute teacher program seek to be added to that program. Communicate with your referring teacher if you have one for other potential ideas.

5. Prepare for your first class. Your first class will be very important, and this is the time to prepare.

The 3 Ps

Stay Positive, Be Patient. Prepare. Follow these three Ps as you wait for your first booking.

Stay Positive. I have said it twice in this post and I can’t say it enough. The bookings will come look for opportunities to improve yourself until they do.

Be Patient. It usually takes a little time to get your first booking and a couple of months to get a full schedule (90% of your slots filled).

Prepare. This is the time to watch videos, go to workshops, read blogs and articles such as you will find on this website, add more certifications, and make sure you have everything you need to have successful online classes with potential students. Use the time you have. It will be difficult to do these things when you have bookings.

Get More Certifications

After you sign your contract, you should be certified for as much as possible. While you are waiting on your first booking(s), you just be looking into getting more certifications.

**(The certification information below refers to VIPKid, but I have found that other ESL companies have similar setups, I would encourage you to inquire about the possibilityof increasing certifications with the company you work for.)***

First know what you are certified in, you can check it on the VIPKid teacher app, click on your profile and then ‘certifications’ Now you are a certified VIPKid teacher, you can start adding more.

Types of Certifications:

Trial class– the trial class certification covers all levels and there are many trial students so you want to be certified for trial classes.

Major Course (MC) classes- you should be certified to teach some levels, but you want to certify for other levels as well. The Levels go from 1 to 7 and they are explained in more detail below,

Supplemental classes – VIPKid has a number of supplement classes that focus on specific student weaknesses (such as grammar, phonics, reading, and more). If you are able to get certified on some of these supplemental classes you will increase your opportunity for more bookings.

Major Course (MC) Levels

There are 7 students levels at VIPKid for major course study. All the levels (1-7) cover all age groups between 4 and 13.

Students are placed in a MC based on their skill level and maturity. You can have a 7 year old or a 10 year old in a level 3 class because the MC is primarily based on skill level, however, you tend to see the same age groups on each level depending on the level. For example, Level 1 students will be between 4 and 6 and Level 7 will be at least 12 years old.

Level 1 has 12 units of study with 8 lessons each for a total of 96 lessons per unit. Levels 2-7 have 12 units of study with 12 lessons each for a total of 144 lessons per unit.

The Major Course (MC) Levels

Level 1 – The Beginners, ages 4 to 6: You will be teaching lots of vocabulary with the use of songs and games.

Level 2 – Beginners with some ability, ages 3 to 7; You will continue to focus on vocabulary,as well as phonics and grammar. Students really grow with English proficiency at this level.

Level 3 – Lower level, ages 6 to 8; you still have a focus on vocabulary but a greater emphasis on grammar. Students will be using English to discuss other topics such as math and science.

Level 4- Lower intermediate, ages 7 to 12: the students are transitioning to more reading aloud, free talk, and conversations in English.

Level 5 – Intermediate, ages 8 to 12; The students should be able to have basic conversations in English and handle more complex grammar

Level 6 – Upper intermediate, ages 9 to 12; Students should become more fluent in all aspects of English

Level 7-  Fluent with more complexity, ages 10 and up; These students are getting ready for their exams in English in their regular schooling, They should becoming more fluent and proficient in English.

If you are just starting with VIPKid, you should already be certified levels 2 & 3 or 4&5. You should have one set of these levels and the Trial class certifications. After you have been teaching, you will want to take some workshops and add more certifications. Most certifications require a study of material about the course work, a quiz, and a few require a short mock lesson (10 minutes) on the topic.

Teaching Your First Class

The day will come when you will have your first class. Remember. Don’t Panic!

If you prepare, you will be ready!! …and remember these points also

  • If the slides are different from what you prepared for, you can use your training and still teach a good lesson.
  • If you forget, circle something on the slide and ask the student “What do you see?” I used this so many times and it will save you every time
  • If there are IT or any other problems outside of your control, don’t hesitate to contact the fireman.
  • If the student cries or leaves the classroom, stay positive, smile, do the best you can, and remember it happens to all of us.
  • If you get bad feedback, learn from it (if it is 3 apples or fewer- appeal it) and remember it happens to all of us as well.

Before your first booking

1. Make sure you are familiar with the your company’s teacher portal and learn where everything is.

2. Make sure you have your company’s app downloaded to your teaching computer and your smartphone, you will use both if those are available. 

3. Make sure you have your bank information submitted so you can get paid.

4. Make sure you have at least 3 to 4 weeks of slots opened for booking.

Before your actual first class

1. Look at the class code. If it says “T” it is a trial class and if it says “MC” it is a major course class.

2. Look at the slides and determine what props you will need. Read the student information and the previous teacher tips to get additional insights to prepare properly.

3. If the materials or student information doesn’t show within 24 hours of the class, submit a ticket.

4. Check your computer and internet speed.

5. Make sure your mic and camera are working. You can go into class early to check them on the VIPKid platform.

6. Have your props ready and within reach, and don’t forget to have a reward system.

During your first class

1. Go into the class early, I recommend that since it is your first class go in 30 minutes early. Check your mic and camera. Double check to see if you have all the props you are going to use. You can start the lesson 5 minutes before the class starts (hit the orange start button).

2. You will see the count down in the upper right-hand corner, open the camera 30 seconds before the class begins and if the student is there, get started.

3. Every 2 to 3 minutes reward the student with your reward system or the stars. Make sure the student has 5 stars before the class is completed.

4. Watch your time. You should be teaching about 1 slide per minute and the class should be completed between 25 to 28 minutes. Don’t finish early and try not to go over. If there are IT issues, contact the fireman and the class should go at least 28 minutes.

5. When saying good-bye, wave and smile until the camera is turned off. Make sure you turn your mic completely off at the end as well, you can be heard.

After your first class is completed

1. Write the student feedback. Tell the parents what the student did, what they did well, and what they need to improve on.

2. Thank them and let them know you look forward to seeing them again. Ask the parents for positive feedback as well.

3. Try to open the same slots each week as much as possible so you have a better chance of getting regular students.

4. If the class goes well, it is likely your first student will become a regular.

Props and TPR

Props – Try to use at least two or more for every lesson. Some props that you become comfortable with; you will use almost every lesson. Check out this post on resources and props and watch the video for more information on this topic.

TPR – You should be using TPR (Total Physical Response) for almost every slide.

Final Thought

I hope the information on this post can help bridge the gap between signing your contract and your first booking and class. I wish you the best of luck as you start your teaching journey as an online ESL teacher.

Interested in Teaching English Online

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VIPKid Link


Magic Ears Link

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