Incorporating Science and Math at Home


A question that educators often hear from parents is how to integrate content into home life, particularly for math and science. This concept is actually easier than you think! Whether you have toddlers or teens, you can bring math and science right into the home. Here are some simple suggestions to get you started.


Most importantly, use what you are already doing. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to bring math into your everyday outings and conversations. If you are heading to the grocery store, let your toddler grab a cart or basket and ask them to grab a specific number of items. Simply telling them to grab two cans of tomato sauce and one bag of cheese allows you to add up ingredients once they’ve been collected. This simple task means a lot when it is something you do a lot! Bringing your teen to the store? Have them figure out per unit prices based on different sizes of a product to see which is the best deal. Are they into Fortnite? Have them figure out the conversion rate from V-bucks to dollars. Math is everywhere!


You don’t need to take up lots of extra time to make science part of the conversation, either. Just talking about new ideas can bring the discussion into your everyday life. If you have a little one who loves the ocean, discuss all the wonders that exist and how they survive deep in the water. If you have a comic book lover, talk about what it would take for those superheroes to actually exist. If you have an athlete, discuss topics like momentum, force, speed, trajectory, etc. Science is a huge part of everyday life, so you just need to pick out ways to pique children’s interests (just like with fostering a love of reading).


If you want to make something special of it, there are tons of places you can go to work on math and science skills. Baltimore is full of amazing resources, such as Port Discovery, the Aquarium, and the Maryland Science Center. These places really appeal to a variety of ages and can incorporate skills from counting sharks in the water to discussing the gallons in the various tanks at the Aquarium. A short drive from Baltimore can take you to the wonders of the museums in Washington, D.C. – there is truly something for everybody, from dinosaurs to space!

There are also lots of fun science experiments that can be done right at home with our young learners – building volcanos, creating ocean bottles, making rock candy – they are limitless and can fit a variety of budgets.

Just remember that as a facilitator of your child’s education, sometimes all you need to do is talk and listen! Allow wait time and tap into your child’s interests to foster creativity and wonder that will last a lifetime.


Why Your Children Fall Apart After School

little girl pouting.jpg

If it seems like every day your child comes home cranky and irritable after school, you’re not alone. In fact, many parents struggle to understand why their child behaves well during school hours but doesn’t continue this behavior in the evenings. According to experts, this emotional exertion is called “after-school restraint collapse”.  After a long day at school or daycare, many kids can’t seem to hold it together when they get home.

After-school restraint collapse happens in children of all ages. It can be expressed in a multitude of ways such as meltdowns, disrespectful behavior, or even acts of solitude. Laid back children and teenagers’ behaviors may not be as drastic. Nevertheless, they can become anti-social or show signs of moodiness after school, especially when paired with a lack of sleep.

So why does it happen? Well, your child’s school day is filled with expectations, challenges, and disappointments. By the end of the day, he’s simply exhausted. Tantrums, outbursts, and hyperactivity are just some of the ways your child might be coping with these overwhelming emotions.

Many child psychologists agree that these overt acts of defiance and distress toward family members can be attributed to the fact that they are confident you will love them through it. So don’t let them down! Try to find a way to be patient and understanding through their outbursts and remind them that you’re there for them no matter what. Don’t take it personally! While it may seem like they’ve been waiting all day to unload on you, they’re actually navigating emotional maturity.

Aside from your enduring parental patience, psychologists recommend searching for ways to help your child decompress after her day. Establishing fun routines when she gets home every day can often give her a physical and emotional outlet. Try tickle fights, taking a walk, or having a dance party; leave screen time as a last resort. Baltimore and its surrounding areas have so much to do!

Another tip to avoid after-school restraint collapse? Keep the questions to a minimum. When our children get home from school, we often want to bombard them with questions about their day and the evening’s homework. Instead, greet them with a smile and a hug, give them a snack, and allow them to have a mental break. Let your kids know that home is their safe zone and help them learn how to communicate their frustrations.

Communicating with Teachers

As a new school year begins, one of the biggest questions on a parent’s mind is how to establish a relationship with their child’s new teacher or teachers. As a teacher myself, it was a whole new experience dropping my son off for his first day of Pre-K! I know that setting a communication foundation is key for moving forward and having a great school year, so here are some tips for starting the year:

·      Introduce yourself! This can be super quick at drop-off or pick-up, or you can shoot the teacher a quick e-mail. Teachers want to know their students – what drives them, where they come from, what are their learning styles – and parents are the key to this at the beginning of the year. Don’t be afraid to share a little about your child to get them started. This also helps ensure everyone is on the same page. Let the teacher know they can reach out to you if there is an issue or a question.

·      Be present! Attend Back to School Night. If for some reason you can’t, reach out to the teacher and see if you can meet with the them separately. Show that you are involved and interested. Respect the teacher’s role by showing up when they are off the clock. If a problem arises, don’t be afraid to request an in-person conference.

·      Figure out your comfort zone! If you feel you are reaching out too much, you are probably right. Figure out what sort of communication best suits you. Do you see the teacher at drop-off or pick-up? Does the teacher send out a newsletter? If you feel you need more communication, ask the teacher about checking in biweekly or something that works for both of you.

·      Be flexible! Teachers are human, too. We all know that they put in a ton of hours. So even if they have the best intentions, sometimes things can slip through the cracks. Trust me – it happens to all of us educators! It happens to all of us parents, too.

·      Show your appreciation! A simple thank you goes a long way. I can’t say this enough. And, if you feel the teacher is doing a great job, show your appreciation with a hand-written note or gift card for a cup of coffee.  

Our team of teacher tutors come from many different districts and areas, including Baltimore, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and Harford County. We deal with parents all the time and we encourage you to try the above ideas! They work!

The Difference Between Tutoring and Academic Coaching

Blog image.jpg

At Maryland Teacher Tutors, we are often asked about the difference between two of the services we offer - tutoring and academic coaching. Parents want to make informed decisions about the needs of their child and we want to make sure they walk away feeling clear on their choices. 

One of the easiest ways to delineate the differences between tutoring and academic coaching is to consider tutoring as subject, or content- based, while coaching's reach extends beyond the subject and the classroom. Tutoring is great for a student who is struggling with how to set up basic math equations. Coaching is great for a student who struggles to understand basic math equations, reading rubrics, staying organized, and/or has little confidence. 

Let's consider the student, James, and see if tutoring or coaching would be best for him. James has separate binders for each of his school subjects. Sometimes he mixes the math with the reading and the reading with the history, but overall, it doesn't affect his ability to complete his required assignments and turn things in per his teacher's expectations. James has a C in science class, despite the fact that he is completing his assignments and turning things in on time. He feels confused about the science concepts he is learning and gets stuck on questions when he takes exams, resulting in poor grades. Does James need tutoring or coaching? James would be an excellent candidate for science tutoring. His issue is content based, not executive functioning skills based. 

Now, let's consider Madison and see if tutoring is a fit, or if coaching might be better. Madison also has separate binders for each school subject, but somehow, she misplaces homework, loses track of what assignments are due, and doesn't seem to understand why this keeps happening. Some days, she blames her teachers. Other days, she ignores that there is even a problem. Still other days, she feels like a failure and has very little confidence. She has a B average in her classes, but she could easily carry an A average if she was more thorough and paid closer attention to rubrics and teacher expectations. Does Madison need tutoring or coaching? Madison would be a great candidate for academic coaching. She's not performing at her highest potential because she needs guidance in identifying barriers to success and could benefit from learning executive functioning skills. In other words, she would do well if she learned how to self regulate by managing tasks, prioritizing, and organizing things. 

Tutoring is usually specific to subjects. If your child struggles with algebra, they need an algebra tutor. Coaching covers subjects, but more than that, it covers the whole child. Academic coaches teach children skills that can be applied across ALL content areas. With algebra tutoring, the algebra grade should go up. With coaching, ALL of the grades should go up. 

As you consider whether or not your child needs a tutor or a coach, we'd be happy to steer you in the right direction. Tutoring is typically a scheduled event that is consistent (i.e. every Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm) and coaching is both scheduled and unscheduled. It goes along with the ebbs and flows of life to allow for on-demand support, check-ins, and progress updates. 

Well Hello!

A couple of weeks ago, a portion of our team got together to hang out, talk about student successes, and get to know one another better! We believe in having a strong culture of community and we value learning from each other. Here's a photo of us from that day. Though only 1/3 of our team was able to make it (the rest of us were out changing student lives of course), we had a great time!



Four Signs Your Child May Need Extra Help


It's not unusual for parents to be unsure about whether or not their child needs extra help.  If you're feeling confused about how to determine if additional support is needed, here are some signs to look for.

Sign #1: The Teacher is Concerned

If your child's teacher is reaching out with concerns about your child's academic progress, that's not something that should be taken lightly. You will want to ask questions and gain some clarity about this, but keep it in the back of your mind - especially if your child is exhibiting more signs.

Sign #2: Poor Grades

If your child is consistently underperforming and you're sure it's not laziness, then this could be another cry for help. As a general rule, people don't fail at things because it's enjoyable - children included. If your student is making a solid effort and still falling way behind, you may want to consider outside help.

Sign #3: Behavior Changes or Negative Attitude Toward School

If you find that your student is unusually frustrated or dreading going to school, this could be a red flag. Especially if the student used to enjoy school and all of a sudden, they've lost interest or hate it. Academics may not be the only reason why your child loathes school out of nowhere. Nowadays, there are many factors that can contribute to a stressful or depressing school experience. But it's worth looking into. 

Sign #4: Unresponsive to Parental Intervention

If your child is not taking academic instruction from you or they've written you off completely, it's okay to reach out for help. Many parents get in touch with private tutors because both parent and child are extremely tense and frustrated during homework time or test preparation. There's no need to pull out your hair. Consider a tutor - and keep all of your hair on your head!

There are two mistakes students make with summer reading--doing it right away to "get it done" and then forgetting the book by the time starts, or throwing it under the bed and scrambling to read it days before school starts. Use these tips to survive and enjoy summer reading. 

First, check your mindset. If you begin believing that summer reading is going to ruin your summer--it will. But if you read the book with an open-mind, you might just find that it has some important lessons or interesting characters. You might even like it (gasp!). 

Second, read with a purpose. If your teacher assigned an essay, then take notes on the essay as you read. If you are looking for a certain theme, write down any quotes and their page numbers that you might want to reference later. Taking these notes as you go will make writing your essay much easier when you are all done. 

When I was in middle school, they did not give us an essay. Instead, we took a test sometime during the first week of school. For this, I recommend taking the following notes: 

Choose 5 major characters and give them each a sheet of paper. Write down any important information about them: their beliefs, their conflicts, their interests, their education level or job, and any other major point about them. This will help you determine each character's role and help you remember the major points of the story. This will also be a helpful study guide if you have to take an in class assessment. 

Third, use online summaries as a guide, not a replacement. When I was in 9th grade, I switched school districts over the summer. My new school had us reading To Kill a Mockingbird, The Old Man and the Sea, and Briar Rose. I'd only ever been asked to read one book before, and it was usually a much easier book than these heavier topics. I was in over my head. I would read a chapter of the text and then check in on a site like SparkNotes to check my comprehension and reinforce my learning. However, reading only the online summaries will leave you out of some of the more major moments that might change your viewpoint or help you complete that assessment. 

Ultimately, if you want to be successful with your summer reading, start about 4 to 6 weeks before you return to school to complete the assignment. Set aside a little bit of quiet time each day--about 30-45 minutes each day in a comfortable spot--mine was always outside on a blanket--and read, ready to take notes on the purpose you chose above. 

Use these tips and enjoy your summer and your reading! 


Have you ever told a student something 10 times, and on the 11th, they ask you to explain it again? Or, if you are a student, have you read something for what feels like the 100th time, but you still have no idea what you are reading? This is a common issue. People often do not know how to study. Here are some ways for you to study or to help your student study. 


When it comes to studying, writing the information is more effective than reading. If you write something multiple times, a definition for example, you are practicing the memorization that you need.

To increase the effectiveness further, try writing the information in your own words. This will allow the information to process through multiple parts of your brain. 

Games and Drills

Our brains our competitive, even if we are competing against ourselves. If we get something wrong, the next time we quiz ourselves, our brain wants to get it right.

Quiz yourself, and time yourself completing the quiz. Then once you are done, see if you can beat your time. Your brain will focus and the information will move faster and faster through your brain. 

Easy ways to set up drills or timed activities: make flashcards, create a blank test on the computer, or do practice problems in your book. There is also an app: on the Quizlet app and website, you can set up study sets which will turn itself into timed games, challenges, and practice tests. 

Teach Yourself or Someone Else

You are more likely to remember information if you study it like you have to teach it. I have often looked like a crazy person while studying: I would read something I needed to study, then would look up and start mouthing what I would say if someone else was there. This kind of engagement with the material you are studying will make it stick in your brain. 

Make Connections

When new information enters your brain, it looks for something to latch onto. If you can find a way to connect what you are studying to what you already know, then the information will connect to the information you already know. 

Ultimately, the more you can engage and interest your brain, the less time you will waste reading the same information on repeat! 


Most schools take a break about this time. It is important that we find ways to keep our students' minds engaged while we are on break. And there are plenty of ways to do this without simply printing math problems off the computer and making your child bored to tears. Although something is certainly better than nothing!

Visit a Museum

There are countless museums in the Maryland area. Think about the activities and history your child is interested in, and take them on a trip to find out more about it. Plan questions in advance to give your trip purpose, and then go and see how many questions you can answer. 

Read a Book and Watch the Movie Version Together

Pairing a book and a movie can help turn an ordinary reading assignment for your student into something more exciting. Choose a book that has a recent movie version (see me list of favorites below) and read the book together. Talk about what you picture and how you imagine the movie would be. Then, watch the movie version and discuss how it meets your expectations. 

My favorites include:

Elementary School: 

The Lorax

Charlotte's Web

Diary of a Wimpy Kid  

Middle School: 

The Harry Potter Series

The Hunger Games Series

Ender's Game 

High School: 

To Kill a Mockingbird

Pride and Prejudice

Wuthering Heights


Visit a Park

Spring Break is the perfect weather to go outside and take a walk. It is not too hot, the sun isn't too strong, and you can usually find some rainless days. Leave technology behind to outside and observe nature or engage in imaginative play. 

Children who play outside are more likely to be active and healthy as adults, and studies show that children are more likely to have better concentration in school if they spend some time playing in the sun. 

This is also a great time to talk to your children about being green. Have conversations about how we treat our planet and how we hope to make it last. look with your child for some signs of pollution and think critically together about how we could change it. 

If you know a lot about trees, birds, plants, and other common animals found outside, help your child identify them. If you don't, look up facts about the park you are visiting before hand to give you specific things to find in advance. 

Check out these guides for more nature play ideas:’s-guide-nature-play


How will you engage your child's brains this break? 

Reading on the Computer

In the current world of testing, many of the assessments our students have to take are on the computer. Students read and answer questions almost exclusively online with a piece of scrap paper in front of them. From my experience, students know how to annotate a text, but when they have to do it on a computer, they aren't sure of what to do with that piece of paper or how to track what they are doing. Going over these tips with your student can help increase their confidence during testing. 

Talk about Your Student's Current Reading Strategies

If your student is really comfortable reading and annotating on paper, talk together about what they are currently doing and why it works. Then, work together to transition their strategy to the scrap paper. I have seen students who normally annotate paper like crazy leave a scrap paper blank during a computer test because they never thought before about what to do with it. Having the confidence that you know what you are going to do before you test will remove a lot of unnecessary worry during the test. 

Read the Questions First

In the same way that you should read the questions first on a paper assessment, a computer based assessment will give you all the reasons you are reading. I like to write down paragraph or line numbers that require specific attention on my scrap paper so that when I go through my first read, I can keep track of all the places to pay special attention. Then, I can predict the answer before I even toggle over to the question. Otherwise, students will waste a lot of time clicking back and forth looking for the questions and re-reading for the answers. 

Set Up Graphic Organizers

Students can set up really simple t-charts when they have to read multiple passages: the PARCC and the SATs often ask students to compare two or more passages, either in writing or in multiple choice questions.  If students know in advance what kinds of questions they will have to answer, they can name their t-chart after the question. Then, as they read, they have a really clear purpose for reading and note-taking, and then they will have an easy outline for their essay. It is a huge way to save time and keep all their thoughts organized. 


What are your computer based testing tips? 

Helping Students Battle Anxiety and Stress


There seems to be an enormous amount of pressure put on students these days--state testing, school admission requirements, taking rigorous and challenging classes to compete, staying on top of school work, volunteering and extra curricular activities--it can really add up. And we do our students a huge disservice if we don't teach them how to cope with it now. 


Help Students Learn to Identify Their Triggers

I have personally always loved to be busy. Unlike most people, my stress has always come when I was not busy--I felt like a windfall was coming and I wouldn't be prepared. For other people, having a huge test or too many different things to do can stress them out. Help your student identify the times they become stressed out and help them identify patterns--this way they can be proactive. Do they tend to get stressed as a deadline approaches? Perhaps working ahead will help alleviate stress and anxiety. Do they worry about tests? Studying in small chunks can help guarantee they will better retain the information. A solution, however, cannot be determined until triggers are identified. 

Help Students Face Failure

Many students put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect. However, most growth happens when we struggle. For students who fear failure, talking about what happens when we fail, what we can learn from a failure, and how to pick themselves back up after a failure will help alleviate some of that stress. It is best that we teach students how to work from a failure then to continue to encourage them to push into each task for perfection. Failure at some point is inevitable, and is actually a good thing for what it can teach us. Help students deal with it when they are young so that they are prepared when they are independent adults. 

Teach Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been receiving a lot of attention recently, and for good reason. Spending a few minutes each day focusing on being present can slow down the mind and relieve a lot of anxiety. To practice mindfulness, find a space in each day for your student to get quiet, slow down his breathing, and really focus on how he is feeling. There are many websites and apps that will assist in this process. My favorite is the Headspace App, which includes a daily 10 minute guided mediation. Find out more here:


This tried and true stress relief plan is still a great coping mechanism. Going for a walk outside, for a run, lifting weights, taking a dance class or learning martial arts are all great ways to release endorphins and relieve stress. They are also great ways to make friends, find a hobby, and create balance in your student's life. Help your student find an exercise fit for her and encourage her to regularly practice or participate. 


Teens need more sleep than most other age groups, but they usually get the least amount of sleep. Students will stay up late studying, talking on their cell phones, and using the internet. Remind your student about the importance of sleep and how getting enough sleep helps you feel calmer and more focused, and encourage your student to turn off the technology and get some shut eye. The next day will prove to be more productive if your student gets the full benefit of a great night's sleep. 


Help your student identify the hobby or calming exercise that she most enjoys and finds calming. It could be something as common place as taking a bubble bath, painting, listening to music, or playing a game. It could also be reading something not for school, spending time with family, friends, or other people who fill their spirit with positivity, or cooking or baking. Whatever it is, help your student carve out the time to complete the activities that bring her joy. 

Helping Students Distinguish Between Real and Fake News


It seems these days, the words “fake news” are everywhere. Social Media allows for fake news to spread everywhere, and some news articles are highly partisan with skewed facts. As a result, kids are coming to school and stating “facts” and “events” that aren’t really true. Some news articles even state at the top that they are satire, but kids don’t realize or recognize what satire is, and then share it like it is fact.

Some sites get paid for the number of clicks on their website, so the catchier the title, the better. As a result, unsuspecting readers will click in and then share the information. As adults, we have to help students discern what information is real and what information is fake.

Check the Editing

A credible source that wants to keep and maintain their status of credibility will work diligently to ensure that their site is properly edited. A low quality, unreliable article might contain grammatical errors or words in caps where it is inappropriate. Teach students to notice these things and to question whether or not a credible source would make these mistakes.  

Consider the Source of your Source

Also, a credible website will ensure that they provide the source for their information. If there are claims with no support, then they are likely not to be true. Students need to consider who or what provided the information that the article is claiming. Teach the children you work with to identify the source of information that they are claiming as “truth.”  

Cross Reference Other Sources

I tell students to check the information on another site. A quick google search, particularly that lead them to other sites they have heard of, can tell students efficiently if the article is accurate.

Also, if something is a huge story, it seems likely that other news outlets would be reported. If there is no other mention of this story, it seems unlikely that the story is true.

Give your students the space and time to explore what other sources say about the issues about which they are talking.  

Pictures and Advertisements

We need to teach students that if the websites they are on include advertisements that have women in bikinis—that might not be as credible a source as a website that includes pictures that are only relevant to the topic. Help your students evaluate the images on the screen and determine whether or not a credible source would include those images.  

Check Your Gut

We must teach students that if there first reaction is extreme shock or extreme anger, then it seems likely that some of the information is inflated in order to get a reaction out of them.



Ultimately, it is important that students are able to consider whether or not a source is true. In this era, there is tons of information available online, and we need to teach our children how to be discerning when looking at this information. We must teach our students to break the cycle of fake news so that they can make informed decisions. 

Tutoring Online (Some tips to get you started)


I have been tutoring since 2005, and it has always been face-to-face. When I first considered the idea of online tutoring, I was extremely worried. I asked myself, how can you establish rapport? How can you provide feedback? How can you see what the student is doing? How can you help students improve if you are not sitting right there (admittedly, hovering)?


After doing some research and trying a couple of sessions online, I am now a firm believer in online tutoring. It prevents me from hovering (lucky students), but I still have the opportunity and the space to provide feedback and see my students.


Here, I am going to provide you with some tips to support students online. If you are a tutor, use these tips to help you get set-up. If you are a parent, use these tips to get your student ready for online tutoring.


Getting Started

First, consider how you will connect for your session. My favorite way is using GoogleHangouts and GoogleDocs; however, Skype is also a great way to connect. The tutor and the family should determine the best platform for connecting that will meet your needs and that all are comfortable with.


Sharing Documents

If you are working on an assignment or reading something together, make sure you each have a copy before you begin. If it is a document, many phones have apps now to send and scan a document so that you can both have access to it.

On Google, you can share screens or share documents. I love GoogleDocs when helping a student with writing because we can talk to each other over GoogleTalk and work on the document simultaneously using the GoogleDoc feature.


Building a Rapport

Building a rapport is still possible, even when in separate locations. In the same way that you would begin a tutoring session by checking in with each other, setting goals, and getting focused, you can still begin your session with this communication.


Other Ways of Sharing Work

Because you can video chat using online tutoring, it is very easy to still use whiteboards to explain concepts, show text annotations as you are reading, or use any other kind of visual key to help build understanding.

Skype and GoogleHangout both have the option to share your screen. Which means if you are working in another program or reading something online, you can very easily share the resource with each other.


Ultimately, online tutoring might take some getting used to. But the benefits for the environment, the ease with which you can meet, and the ability to maintain support and rapport are great reasons for considering the online platform.


Growth Mindset: Providing Academic Feedback for Growth (Part 3)

“You’re so smart!” or “That is genius!” are things we all love to hear. However, these phrases, and others that praise inherent ability, encourage a fixed mindset. If I did something well because I am smart, then if I do something poorly, then it must be because I am dumb.

In order to promote a growth mindset through your feedback, it is important to provide praise around effort and how the problem was solved, rather than the innate ability to solve problems. For example, if a student writes a really well-developed paragraph, notice that they put a lot of effort into writing it, that they thought through what they wanted to write, and that they followed the steps for writing a good paragraph. This way, when they are writing a paragraph in the future, and they struggle, they can remember the feedback you provided to make the steps repeatable.

Similarly, it is important to avoid phrases of encouragement that rely on a student’s ability. For example, if a student is struggling and you want to be encouraging, you might find yourself saying something like, “You can do this! You’re so bright.” While it is helpful to encourage your student’s confidence, if they can’t do whatever you are asking them to do, then they will feel that maybe they aren’t as bright as you claim.

Again, it is helpful to focus on process when a student is struggling. If a student gets something wrong or is struggling to complete a process, go back to what they can do, not who or what they are. Focus first on what they’ve done correctly. For example, if a student solves a math problem wrong, before providing correction, first celebrate the way she set up the problem or remembered the order of operations. Then, show her the correct way to solve the problem and reinforce that the more she practices this problem type, the more likely she will be to get it correct in the future.


The really important thing to remember when you ae teaching a growth mindset to a child is that you provide feedback that focuses on the process, on the effort, and on what he or she is doing right. If you provide feedback on who the child is—smart, slow, quick, intelligent—and if that is the only feedback that you provide, then replicating success is much harder when the student struggles. 


Growth Mindset: Helping Students Realize Their Own Potential (Part 2)



Last time I wrote about the importance of teaching a growth mindset and the impact it can have on a child's confidence, willingness to take academic risks, and increase the likeliness of success. Now, I want to explore specific strategies to help your student unlock the growth mindset. 

Use failures from others as a lesson

There are many examples of famous people who failed. Michael Jordan, one of the most famous examples, was cut from the basketball team in high school. Steve Jobs was removed from Apple, the company he helped found, at the age of 30.  The Beatles were rejected from the first recording studio they applied to because the studio didn't like their sound. Check out a helpful youtube video here.

Watch this video with your student, and discuss how these people struggled and failed, but did not give up. Ask your student what might have happened if they had given up.

You can also identify something your student is interested in, and then identify someone who initially struggled in that area, and explore their story of growth. Ask your student to apply it to their own learning, or reflect on the ways that they got good at their passion. They didn't wake up one day able to shoot a lay up, hit a home run, or do a perfect routine. They had to practice in order to do well--and they can do this subject well with the same amount of practice. 

Another way is to share your own personal stories of struggles. As an English teacher, my students are often shocked to discover that I struggled to learn how to read and spent many years reading below grade level. I tell them that this is the reason why I became an English teacher. Students who have failed English in the past are excited to work with me because I promise them that I can unlock their love of reading and learning, just like someone unlocked mine.


Identify the student’s learning style

There are so many different ways that people learn. Some of us learn by hearing, by doing, by seeing, or by a combination of these. Once a student identifies how he or she learns, then you as their tutor can help them overcome their struggles by using that type of strategy. A great resource for determining learning style can be found here


Explore the brain science

Students don't understand how complex the brain is, but teachers and other professionals who work with students understand that there are millions of things at play inside someone's brain, especially when you are learning something new. Read accessible articles and watch short videos that describe how the brain works, how we learn, and why something might be challenging at first. Then, when your student is struggling, remind him that struggling equals learning, that learning equals growing, and the more growth that occurs, the less likely we are to struggle in the future. 


What are your favorite ways to teach growth mindset? 

Next time, we will explore ways to give feedback so that you encourage growth mindset and not "smartness". 

Growth Mindset: Helping Students Realize Their Own Potential (Part 1)


                If you have followed any education blogs or trends over the past few years, then you have heard of a growth mindset. Teaching students about a growth mindset early on can have a huge impact on their learning. Chances are if a student is struggling in a content area, then they will need these growth mindset lessons. In this week’s instillation, we will explore what exactly a growth mindset is. Next time, we will explore some of the ways to teach it, and we will share our favorite resources to reach student and adult learners alike.  

What is a growth mindset?

                Someone who has a growth mindset believes that if you work hard, you can improve at something. This could be in any area: if you are not good in math, but you practice, you can improve; playing basketball might not be easy at first, but if you show up and practice regularly, you may become a starter; someone doesn’t understand how to knit when she first tries, but after some help and repeated tries, she can knit a whole blanket.  

                Conversely, someone with a fixed mindset believes that if you aren’t good at something, well then, you will never be good at it. People with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence and skills are innate, and that whatever strengths or deficits you are born with, stay with you for life.

                People who have a growth mindset know and understand that every individual’s brain works differently. They understand that how each individual learns is different, and that, while some things may come easier to others, it does not mean that all people can’t learn it. Sometimes, the way we practice needs to change in order for us to get something, and other times, the amount we practice needs to increase in order for us to achieve mastery. However, no matter the case, mastery is possible.

Why teach a growth mindset?

                Many struggling students have low self-confidence about the areas they struggle in, and often compare themselves to their peers who appear to have to work less hard. Students will shut down in order to prevent themselves from feeling dumb or feeling bad about themselves. It is easier not to try then it is to look dumb in front of my peers who get it the first time.

                Teaching children and adults about the growth mindset helps them understand that their deficits are not permanent, that the way they learn isn’t bad or lesser, it just might be different, and that they can learn the challenging information, they just may need more or different practice. The more students understand their brains and the ways they work, the more students will feel empowered to take their learning and their challenges with confidence and tenacity.


Supporting Reading in Your Content Area

No matter your area expertise, chances are you are going to read with a student to help her improve. Here are some strategies to help students become better readers in your content area. 

Activate Prior Knowledge

Students are more likely to remember new information when they are able to make connections to old information. You can ask students what they already know about a topic or what they think the text will be about. Once these predictions are made, your student's brain will be more ready to receive the new information because there will be more for the new information to latch onto. 

Preview the Text: 

First, look at the text features with your student. Help him predict what they will be reading about, and have him create questions that will guide their reading based on the headings the text provides. This is a good strategy to help students prepare for reading that day, but it is also a good skill for students to develop as they are progressing through their careers as learners and educated adults. 

Chunk the Text: 

Depending on the level of independence of your students, you can ask students how they want to chunk the text (by heading? by page? by paragraph?) to check understanding and learning, or you can suggest how they should chunk it. 

Then, at the end of each chunked section, ask students checks for understanding. Can they repeat back basic information? Do they have new questions? Have they identified a new vocabulary word? 

Create a Graphic Organizer

I tend to love Cornell Notes to help students understanding comprehension. These combine the first two strategies here--students will create questions and then write down answers as they read. It also provides a great study tool later when students go to study as students will already have questions to use to quiz themselves and will have the answers ready to check their progress. 

However, there are many other great tools that can be used to support student reading comprehension and tutors should choose the organizers that they are most comfortable with. 


A different strategy to use with students while they read is annotation--having students mark the text while they read. I always caution against this with struggling readers, however. Unless you have a really clear purpose for reading, students tend to make meaningless marks all over the paper in an attempt to complete a task, instead of increasing comprehension. Be very intentional about using annotation while you read, and be sure to regularly check for understanding to ensure that it is working. 

Determining the Meaning of New Words

When a student crosses a word she does not know, it is really important that you stop and first ensure that the student can pronounce it. This will help her remember it in the long run. 

Then, do not just provide the student with the definition. Help the student identify information around the word that will help her to identify its meaning. Then, work together to infer the meaning of the unknown word. 

Writing for Learning

When students have read something new, it is really important to give students the opportunity to write about it in their own words. This gives students the opportunity to practice the new information in a way that is safe and comfortable, while processing it in their natural voice, which will make it more likely that students will remember and understand it later on. 

Because this is a tutorial session, I encourage you to be creative in the writing for learning assignments. Try to make connections to the subjects and styles your student is interested in. For example, if your student loves theater, and you are working in science, think about how your student can make a short play to demonstrate learning. 



Don't worry if reading is not your specialty! These simple steps can turn an overwhelming process into something much more manageable. Just remember to chunk the reading with your student to make it accessible, to frequently check for his understanding, and to make sure that you build in parts that he enjoys! Reading in sessions can be something that you both enjoy!