If you teach VIPKid level 4 or higher (or any online ESL), chances are your students are pre-teens and teenagers who will not be impressed if you try to reward them with pictures of teddy bears or plastic ice cream. But don’t worry, some of the best VIPKid rewards for older students can actually be less prep and more fun than the rewards for younger students.
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Do I really need to give a 14-year-old a reward?
According to VIPKid yes, you do, although I know many teachers do not.
What is certain is that rewards for teenagers will look a lot different than rewards for lower level students.
When I give older students rewards, I do not usually give them spaced out equally throughout the class. Often I’ll tell the student that we’ll play a game or talk about something special at the end of the class. This is logical, because part of the reason for rewards with lower levels is to keep the student engaged and on their best behavior. Stars will have no affect on the way a 14-year-old behaves, so the reward doesn’t need to be given out every five minutes.
If I do give 5 spaced-out rewards, it is usually something cultural. For example, for the Christmas unit in level 6, I show the student some of my favorite Christmas ornaments.
Four in a row
Find a free printable four in a row board like this one with short CVC words. The student says a word and you color in the circle. Use a different color for each player. Taking turns, the teacher and student try to be the first to get four circles in a row. You can also find versions with numbers or math problems.
I highly recommend that you laminate your rewards. It will save you a lot of work so you can use rewards like this one again. This is the laminator I’ve been using for years, and for $35 it is worth every penny!
Dots and boxes
Start by drawing a 6 x 6 grid of dots (more or less depending on how much time you have). When it’s their turn, a player draws a single line between two dots. The goal is to draw four lines to make a box. When a player has made a box they get to color it in or write their initial in it. The play with the most completed boxes wins. There is definitely some strategy involved in this game. The game ends when time runs out or when all the dots have been connected.
Money from around the world
While we are not supposed to use Chinese money in class, showing a student coins from other countries can be fun for older students. You can show some coins and ask the student to compare them to Chinese or American money.
Flip a coin
Have the student call heads or tails as you flip a coin. Play best out of five and see who wins! If you want a fun prop you can get this 3″ jumbo coin that the student will actually be able to see you flip.
Word guessing games
Draw the letters of a word on a whiteboard but scramble them up so the student has to guess the word. Alternatively, you could scramble up 10+ letters on a magnetic board and see how many words the student could make out of those letters.
I like have a tabletop magnetic board instead of having to reach to the wall behind me. I’ve heard many other teachers suggest using a cookie sheet. You can grab a nice-looking magnetic board for about $12.
Variations on “hangman”
Please don’t play hangman with your students. It’s morbid and has racist undertones. There are tons of alternatives, like drawing a person with a parachute. Each time the student guesses a letter wrong the teacher erases one of the five straps to the parachute. Game over when there are no more lines to the parachute. This is also kind of morbid, but I like to draw clouds or marshmallows below to pretend the person will land on something soft.
Alternatively, you can draw something instead of erasing it. Draw body parts of a monster or a snowman and the student has to guess the word before you finish.
You can also draw out blanks for each letter of the word. Put a number below each blank. The student chooses a number and you write the letter that corresponds to that blank as the student tries to guess the word. This way, the student will automatically get a letter and the word may be a bit easier to guess.
Drawing and images
Guess the picture
Print out a colorful or funny picture that is related to your unit. Cover it with post-it notes and on each post-it write a vocabulary word from the unit. Students have to say the word to have you remove the post-it. After each one is removed see if they can guess what the picture is.
Draw a monster
Have the student draw a monster or animal by telling them how many body parts it has. Imagine this monster: “The monster has a long, thin body with three legs. On each leg there are two feet. The monster has two heads. One head has hair and the other doesn’t.” The crazier, the better! Later, have the student describe a monster to you to draw.
Draw with your eyes closed
Having a student describe something simple while you draw it can make for some pretty funny pictures!
Learning about body parts, animals or machines? Find free printables online and have the student tell you where to put them on the model. Using easily removable painter’s tape for these is a good idea.
Tell the student you are thinking of a number between one and one thousand. Have the student guess a number. Tell them if your number is higher or lower. Give them 10 guesses to try to reach your number. If they do, they win. If they don’t, the teacher wins. It helps to draw the numbers that have been guessed on a whiteboard so the student remembers and understands the game, at least the first few times you play.
Random number generator
Using a blank slide, have both you and the student start by drawing a ladder-like grid of 10 vertical spaces.
The teacher uses a random number generator (Google has this tool) to generate a random number between 1-100. The goal is to put all the numbers in order vertically. The catch is that you must write the number down when it is called, so you don’t know what is coming before or after.
For example, in the picture below the player has the numbers 17, 23, 66 and 91 already called. If they get any number between 1 and 16 they will put it before the 17. When they get a number between 24 and 65 they have three possible slots to put it in. However, if they get a number between 18 and 22 they will lose because there is no room for numbers between 18 and 22. If you get the same number twice just skip it and generate a new number.
The ultimate goal is to get all 10 numbers in order, but this doesn’t happen very often so you can play the last person still in “wins”.
Videos are fun for older students and they can be good for practicing listening skills.
Guess the sound – 20 distinct sounds for students to guess. The answer is shown with a picture, which is helpful for lower levels who may not know the vocabulary
Teddy bears riding a roller coaster – Because teddy bears are cute.
Fire fighters career video – When talking about careers or public safety watching a short video like this can be a good extension for advanced students.
Looking for other games you can play with multi-student online classes? Read about the best online language games here.