It would be really easy for teachers to go into their tutorial sessions and do what they know best—teach their subject like they are in school. However, tutees need something special from their tutors. Thus, it is crucial that we change up what we do to make sure that our sessions are something our students look forward to. Chances are, students sign up for sessions because they are struggling in a class or seeking extension for something they already do well. In the first case, it is likely that those students already don’t enjoy being in that class and need something different to help them learn to love their subject. In the second, students probably already love what they are good at, and they need their tutor’s help in finding new and exciting ways to explore the topic.
Listed here are some strategies to help a tutoring session feel like an exciting, challenging time that our tutees will look forward to.
1.) Build Rapport
Know Your Student
You probably already know that it is really important to get to know your student on a personal level. But have you thought about ways to use what you know in your lesson?
When going over Math problems, use your student’s name in word problems, create questions that reflect their interests, and challenge them at an appropriate level.
Similarly, when reading or writing, make sure you choose topics that excite the student. Whenever possible, give the student choice on what to read or write so that they have the opportunity to feel invested.
Let Your Student Know You
Tutoring gives teachers a unique opportunity to know the students they work with really well, but it also allows you the opportunity to connect with your students. Just like you can create problems that reflect your students’ interests, you can have your students create problems that reflect you. This is an easy way for you to see what they understand about the problem and gives students something fun to look forward to creating.
In writing sessions, I love to write along with my student. When the time for writing is over, instead of just looking at me while I read a student’s essay, he or she is busy reading my essay and giving feedback. I intentionally make the mistakes we have been working on so that the student can apply the knowledge we have been using while making a connection with me.
Students really enjoy getting the opportunity to know more about you incorporated into the lesson.
2.) Make It Different
When in school, students are often asked to complete worksheets or read texts. They find themselves writing for much of class in the same notebook. But there are literally thousands of ways to take the learning off the page and put it in the student’s hands.
One way to make learning interactive is to give students manipulatives that they can move around to demonstrate learning. For example, number cards can be arranged to solve problems, letter cards can be arranged to create words, or actual items can be arranged to demonstrate learning in a science. When tutoring in writing, I like to cut sentences out of a paragraph and give students the opportunity to move the sentences around to talk about how a paragraph is structured and why the arrangement is logical. I have seen science tutors have students use all sorts of beans and candy to make representative models of topics learned in science.
The computer, particularly the internet, contains a wealth of ways to engage students in learning. My favorite website to use with tutees is Quizlet. There already exists a huge library of materials on Quizlet, but tutors can go onto the website and create a Quizlet for literally any subject. Quizlet then makes memory games and matching games that you can race your tutee on to make learning competitive. (I have a really hard time sometimes making it an even playing field and not just showing off because I really hate losing.) Other websites include DuoLingo for language learning, GoogleDocs for writing together, CoolMath for Math problems, Kahn Academy for all sorts of tested subject areas, Grammaropolis for grammar practice and much, much more.
One really low-prep way to get students involved in the learning is to use a personal white board and dry erase markers to complete assignments. The simple movement from the paper to the white board makes learners feel excited about writing or solving the math problem. It’s low cost and does not waste a lot of resources because you can wipe it clean after each practice and start again.
These ideas may seem overly simple because they get a lot of the same outcomes as those pen and paper lessons, but allowing students to access the information through a different means can really increase a student’s engagement and joy in the learning process.
We enjoy working with students in the Baltimore area, including Howard, Anne Arundel, and Harford counties. We’ve found these strategies to be very effective and we hope you also find them useful!