October Tips For Tutors

October 2012 Tips for Tutors


This month our tips will focus on getting students to be self reliant. Many of the students you work with do a great job when you are working with them 1:1, but they struggle in the classroom with focus or organization. As you work with these students 1:1 you have the perfect opportunity to help them become more independent and self reliant so that they can be as successful in the classroom as they are with you. Marin member, Gail Perin teaches what she calls, “Executive Skills”. She has kindly shared her strategies, and I have added a few words at the end.


Executive Skills from Gail Perin


First of all, at one of our first sessions I always ask them why they think they are meeting with me, and what do they think will happen in the tutor sessions over the year.  It helps us to all be on the same page! Then I reinforce what they said that matches my objectives and
give them a brief sketch of what I plan to provide.


(EX SKILL #1 PLANNING)  If you are going on a trip you need to know where you are going to effectively plan for getting to your destination. That same session I make a contract with them for what I feel is needed for all of to be successful. This is where I introduce “Executive SKILLS” and briefly what they are and why they are important.  Then a lot of it is role modeling.

(Ex Skill #2 ORGANIZING)
   Come to each session scheduled (I role model by not missing sessions ) I explain that being present is crucial to learning any skill. Even if you are tired or don’t feel terrific it is important to come, often you feel better once you are engaged in learning, because it takes your mind off how you feel.  “Showing up is half the job!!”

Bring vocabulary books, folder I give them with their book log, any book they borrowed from me.  I tell them these are the tools for our task to be good readers. We talk about why being organized is important in remembering, what are things you can do to remember the right day for tutoring, always putting things in you backpack the night before, etc.  There is always one session they forget to bring my book or their folder and this is the perfect time to process this skill.  We all talk about how you can be more successful next time. They come up with great suggestions!! A “RED” note on the door handle at home, a ribbon on their wrist, write the word book on their hand.  I am always surprised they think I will be mad and punish them when they forget!  But it does make for a great brain storming session when I tell them I’m not mad but they have to come up with a solution to this problem.  It is very empowering for them to think of their own solution and it usually works best for them.

Learning this skill is done by how we conduct the tutor session.  Summarizing content of each page after they read it, figuring out the definition of an unknown word by using the context for it’s use, detailing what we learn about a story by viewing illustrations in the book, or key emphasis words, making associations with what we read to their life experience, talking about ideas they got from the reading, evaluating if they like a certain reading, why and why not.
All of this means you have to “tune” in to what your are doing, BE PRESENT.

There is no shortage of material to work on here!!  When they forget the tutor session or tutor materials or forget the name of a book they read, or how to pronounce a word or name, or find a location on the map, they need to figure out how to work with that deficit, and to figure it out (with help from me at first, but they do get good at it).  Again it is very empowering to know you can get good at solving your own problems, even being able to ask for help in the process.


Thanks to Gail for those great tips! Here are a few more.


  • Teach students the steps necessary to reach goals. Let them know that if they take small steps they can reach a larger goal.


  • Encourage students to accomplish difficult tasks by themselves. Let them know you are there to support them, but encourage them to try, and let them know that mistakes are a great way to learn.


  • Praise students when they become increasingly independent. When they remember materials without being reminded, or when they try something that is hard without depending on you.


  • Work with students to set goals for becoming more self-reliant. Talk to students about what they need to be responsible for during your sessions, in the classroom, or at home. Maybe this is as simple as bringing materials to your sessions such as a pencil or a book. In the classroom they may be working to be responsible for listening to directions. At home they may be working on completing homework.


Remember that you have the ability to influence your students even beyond your sessions.

About Experience Corps Bay Area

Experience Corps Bay Area recruits and trains adults 50+ to tutor and mentor elementary school children, with a focus on K-3 literacy.
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1 Response to October Tips For Tutors

  1. Vivian Hirshen says:

    Thanks Tara, Good reminders!! Vivian
    Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2012 19:10:44 +0000
    To: vhirshen@hotmail.com

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