Becoming an excellent tutor as a teacher is not a given. Tutees need more than traditional classroom teaching methods to be successful. Here are a few tips for becoming a highly effective teacher-tutor.
It would be easy for teachers to go into their tutoring sessions and do what they know best—teach their subject like they are in school. However, student 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, not just tolerate.
Understanding your student’s unique needs
Chances are that students’ parents sign them up for sessions because they struggle in a class or want their children to feel challenged. It could be that some students don’t enjoy being in the classroom and thrive in an atmosphere that is different from the norm. Still, many students need their tutor’s help in finding new and exciting ways to explore a new topic. Listed here are some strategies to help tutors make sessions feel like an exciting, challenging time that student tutees will enjoy.
The first step to learning your student’s unique needs is to build rapport. Get to know your student. This point may seem obvious but it’s not as simple as it looks at first glance. One of the benefits of building rapport is being able to make the sessions personal.
Here are some guiding questions to learn more about your student:
- What is your favorite subject in school? Why?
- If you didn’t have to go to school every day, what would you do with your time?
- Which subjects frustrate you?
- Do you prefer when your teacher tells you how to do something, shows you how to do something, or does it with you?
Make Lessons Personal
Practically, this looks like using the student’s name in a math problem, creating questions that reflect their interests, and challenging them at an appropriate level with reading and writing topics that excite them. Similarly, whenever possible, give the student choice on what to read or write so that they have the opportunity to feel invested.
Be a tutor, not a teacher
Let your student learn about you. Being a tutor gives teachers a unique opportunity to connect with their students in a way that is dissimilar to a classroom teacher. Share some appropriate details about yourself so the student is able to see you not as a teacher, but as a tutor.
Further Use Rapport Building a Teaching Tool
Like creating personalized lessons reflecting the student, students can create problems that reflect you. This is an easy way for teachers to gauge retention and gives students something to look forward to in creating.
Become a Student with Your Student
In writing sessions, you can choose to write along with your student. This provides the student the opportunity to employ the skills gained during sessions. A tutor can model what it looks like to find [intentional] mistakes to enforce proofreading and other grammatical skills. Students really enjoy getting the opportunity to learn more about their tutors, and by working alongside them, they don’t even realize they’re learning!
Create an alternative to the classroom atmosphere
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 learning off the page and put it in the student’s hands.
Ditch the Notebooks
One really low-prep way to get students involved in the learning is to use a personal whiteboard and dry erase markers to complete assignments. The simple movement from the paper to the whiteboard 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.
Make Lessons More Interactive
One way to make learning interactive is to give students manipulatives that they can move around to demonstrate learning. For example, flashcards can be arranged throughout the teaching location 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, try cutting 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. Some science tutors will have students use all sorts of objects, such as beans and candy, to represent topics learned in science.
Computers, particularly the internet, contain 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 creates games for you to challenge your tutee, making learning competitive. Other websites include:
- DuoLingo for language learning
- Google Docs for writing together
- Cool Math for Math problems
- Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids for all sorts of tested subject areas
- Grammaropolis for grammar practice and much, much more
Teachers make the best tutors
At Maryland Teacher Tutors we hold the firm belief that teachers make the best tutors. This is why we employ over 150 of the best teachers in Maryland. Our teacher tutors have experienced incredible success throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and virtually throughout the nation. We’ve found these strategies to be very effective and we hope you also find them useful!
Click the link to Learn about becoming a MTT teacher tutor or academic coach!
Natalie Mangrum is the founder and CEO of Maryland Teacher Tutors. She is a reading specialist with a bachelors in elementary education and masters in education. As a parent to two young adults, and prior teacher, Natalie knows all too well the benefits of one-on-one tutoring and coaching for students. Her mission is to ensure that every aspect of MTT is done in a spirit of excellence! She enjoys alleviating the concerns of parents so they can breathe easy knowing their children are in good hands!
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