As teachers, we often have an assigned curriculum—or at least some expectations of curriculum to follow. Something that surprised me when I first started to tutor was that I often have to create a plan from scratch for that student to follow. Parents know they want their son to improve in a subject area, or they know their daughter needs help in reading or in math. Parents can usually tell that their child is struggling, but because they don’t have a background in education, deciding a specific plan to help their child improve can prove daunting. This post will give you specific steps to follow in order to set goals and create a plan to help your new tutee improve.
Assess the tutee’s starting point
It is important to have an idea of your starting point. If you can access recent assessment data on the student, then you can discuss the results with the student and the parent to determine the accuracy of the results and what they mean for the student. If the student feels that they are not accurate, or if you don’t believe they are relevant, you can assess again.
As the content area expert, you can choose which assessment to give students. Over the years as a reading teacher, I have amassed certain assessments that I like to keep with me, particularly when I am beginning work with a new student.
Knowing a student’s beginning levels of performance will help you determine the best plan and help you set goals for that student.
Determine the tutee’s learning style and interests
Because you get to tailor the learning plan to the student’s specific needs, it is also really useful to find out how the student likes to learn and what the student is interested in. This will help you set the best learning plan for the student.
Things to consider:
Does the student prefer to work on paper with pen? On a white board? On a computer?
Does the student prefer to sit for the whole session? Or does the student need to move around?
Would the student rather read fiction or non-fiction? Can you relate what you are doing to their favorite sport? To their personal hobbies?
The more personal you can make the tutoring sessions, and the more enjoyable the sessions are for the student, the more growth and success you will have as you set the plan.
Work with the tutee and his family to set the goal
Once you know the student’s starting point and understand the student’s learning style and interests, you should work as a team with the student and his family to set a goal that is appropriate. Consider using the SMART goal format: make it specific, measurable, agreed-upon, realistic and time-bound.
Specific: What exactly are you looking for? One grade-level of growth in reading? To master a specific math skill? To improve a point on the writing rubric?
Measurable: What assessment will you use to ensure that this growth is met?
Agreed-upon: Does the student and the family agree to the goal being set? It is important that everyone has buy-in.
Realistic: Is the goal ambitious but achievable?
Time-bound: When will you re-assess?
These goals can help create a sense of urgency and purpose for each tutoring session.
Create the plan
Once you know your starting data and you understand your student and her interests, you can create a plan.
How often will you meet?
What will you accomplish in each session?
What materials will you need to prepare?
Will the student need to do work in between sessions?
Having a clear plan can help ensure that each session moves efficiently toward to goal that you are working towards achieving.
Re-assess for growth
Check that all of your hard-work is paying off. On the agreed upon date, re-assess the student to ensure you are making progress. Discuss the results with the student and her family. Celebrate any growth that has occurred, and reflect on what the student has done well to have those results. If the goal was not met, work to determine what student and tutor actions could have created the lack of growth. Either way, work together to re-visit the plan and decide if or how instruction for the tutee should change to ensure that growth continues.