You could probably talk to thousands of different online teachers, and everyone will have their ways of what works for them and what doesn’t. This is my current setup for working on Cambly Kids and so far I’m happy with how I have everything! Companies may have slightly different requirements too, such as wearing a certain colour t-shirt, display the company logo in the background or have an endless supply of props. For the most part, Cambly Kids is quite relaxed.
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My Work From Home Classroom For Online Teaching
Background & Basic Setup
The space where I teach is actually in my bedroom. It’s the only place in the house were I can shut myself away and not annoy others TOO much while I’m teaching. However I also didn’t want to feel like I was sleeping in a classroom. My setup is completely collapsable and takes me less than 5 minutes to set up every day. I also don’t want a big ole desk sitting in the middle of the room.
Cambly Kids recommends having a ‘child friendly, clean background’. I actually have a giant world map that I use to track my travels. So I just sit in front of that. It’s so big that it pretty much takes up the whole of what the camera sees, perfect! I’ve had various students comment about it, so they seem to like it. It’s not too crazy or distracting, but it’s light enough to make my classroom look bright and it’s educational!
Just visible in the camera frame, I have a cuddly monkey toy. This is the same monkey that I use in my profile picture. I feel that it’s another connection that the student can make. If they only see my profile picture before we speak, it’s just something that they might then recognise once in the classroom! Like the map they do often point out the monkey! It’s then in grabbing distance if I need it for the ‘5 Little Monkeys’ song and sometimes I use it if I need to show an example of the colour ‘brown’!
Stand Up Desk
I also teach standing up! I bought a projector stand for my laptop which can be raised to make my laptop eye height (I’m not very tall). Plus I use a laptop stand which lifts my laptop up slightly. This also helps stop it overheating These can all my packed away at the end of my teaching day.
I have a planner next to my laptop. This allows me to quickly see what student I have next, the lesson they are on and when my breaks are. The projector tripod that I found on Amazon has a little adjustable shelf attached to it. Here, I keep some of my most used props so they are in easy reach. Most of my props are on my iPad and digital though (see below!).
For a chair, I found an adjustable bar stool on Amazon. At its highest, it puts me at almost the same height as when I stand. It just gives me an option if I choose to sit down between lessons, or even if I feel like ‘perching’ for a couple of minutes.
I did change the lightbulb in my room to an extra bright bulb. I find that’s enough to brighten everything up. It’s on all the time, regardless of the time of day. That’s the only additional lighting that I use.
Let’s talk about headsets! Some people use them, some people don’t. Some companies prefer you to use them, but Cambly doesn’t have a requirement, it’s just personal preference. I use a headset that is meant for gaming and I love it. It is ridiculously comfortable and has a mic that folds up into the ‘ear’ for storage. I find it helps me to hear the student better and it improves the sound for the student too.
When I recorded a couple of videos with and without the headset and was so surprised by how much of a difference that the mic made! I have a second headset which I’ve started using more. It only covers one ear so I tend not to shout as much! It’s all down to preference and what you fit works best for you!
WiFi Extender or Ethernet Cable
For a while I used a WiFi extender. Working online can often feel like a constant ‘connection’ battle, especially when you are dealing with people from all around the world. Just think of the amount of times you’ve been away and tried to connect to a poor WiFi signal. If I can make ‘my end’ as strong as it can be then that’s one less problem. A WiFi extender wouldn’t necessarily help you if you were teaching on the road as you have to connect it to the main router.
As I am teaching full time I ended up running an Ethernet cable all the way around my house. It connects me directly to the router and works brilliantly.
I always make sure I have a water bottle in reach. When doing back to back lessons it’s important to keep drinking! I usually take a sip during moments when the student is completing an activity!
I keep my phone close by too. This is in case I need to hot spot the 4G phone signal, if my WiFi suddenly drops out!
Props For Teaching Online
OK so my ‘basic’ set up was over 800 words, whoops! Another thing that I SWEAR BY, but it partly falls into the ‘props’ section, is my iPad and its tripod. I use it for every. single. lesson. Many of my students are on the young end, between 4 and 6 years old. My background is Pre-Kindergarten so I’m not surprised and I love that age group. With the real young learners it just makes things so much easier if you have visuals for things that you are asking. Obviously I don’t give away the answers straight away if I think they can do it without the visual aid but it really does help.
I use the free website Canva to create all of my own ‘flashcards’. I download them in JPEG format to my laptop and then airdrop them to my iPad (the joys of having all Apple products!). Once on my iPad I then organise them into various folders in the camera roll. I have ABCs, numbers to 30, colours, shapes, sight words, word families, photos for ‘free talk’ etc. If I come across a slide where I think I could really do with having a ‘visual’, it takes me 3 seconds to make up a new one ready for the next time it comes up. Things like: hot/cold, boy/girl, stripes/spots. I downloaded a ‘sketch pad’ app that I use as a ‘whiteboard’ to write words and pictures on and it works BRILLIANTLY.
Sometimes the lessons finish really quickly so it’s good to have some sort of filler activity ready for these cases, even if it’s just to review alphabet sounds. Having an iPad means I can bookmark other online resources to use if I need something. It’s not ideal as it’s then only in the small video screen but it works if you really need a ‘time waster’! Cambly has a feature where you can share your screen. It’s a good idea to collect a bunch of websites and resources.
I do like having all my props as ‘digital’ images, if I decide to teach while travelling it means I will have a good chunk of my resources with me (as long as I have my iPad)!
On top of the iPad, I do have a basket of other props. These are mainly just old stuffed animals that I dug out from my childhood! I have: a cuddly monkey, frog, dog, cat, cow, sheep and pig (these come up a lot in the early lessons), a picture of an elephant, a train and a bus, a pen in the shape of an ice cream (the kids LOVE it) and a pen with a back flipping frog on it. I spent a grand total of ZERO on my props.
Then I have an ice lolly stick that I stuck a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. I use it a lot with the younger students when I ask them how they are at the start of the lesson how they are.
I did however buy a little double sided whiteboard and some markers. I mainly use it my secondary reward system. Cambly Kids has built in ‘stars’. But I cut out and laminated some coloured stars and then put velcro circles on the backs of them and the other sides onto my board. I use them for the younger kids, but not so much with the older ones. Some teachers don’t even use the stars but I find it helps with encouragement.
Some teachers don’t use any props, others swear by ManyCam which is like a virtual webcam that you can use effects on and ‘stickers’. Apparently it’s temperamental with MacBook users and it doesn’t always work in Cambly, so I don’t really want to chance using it.
These are similar products available on the US Amazon store (I used the UK store)
Gaming Headset with Mic LED Light On Ear Gaming Headphone (My exact headset)
Projector stand with shelf (- This is the exact projector stand I use…I’m not sure why Amazon US list it as a guitar stand!)
Cambly Kids Dress Code
Cambly doesn’t really have a dress code, unlike some of the other ESL companies that require you to wear a certain colour t-shirt. They do however ask you do be dressed ‘responsibly’. Consider some of the cultures that you mean be teaching, so no low cut tops and making sure shoulders are covered.
When teaching kids make sure whatever you’re wearing is appropriate, such as not wearing a t-shirt for a beer brand or swear words! I just wear normal t-shirts and hoodies. I try to pick brighter colours over wearing darker ones (although I have worn dark things on occasions). My camera cuts off most of my t-shirts anyway, so if I do wear one with a ‘graphic’, it’s not often seen (I wear a lot of 5k race t-shirts etc!).
Any questions? Let me know!