What to expect at a tutoring session

What happens at a typical tutoring session?  This is not an easy question to answer, as it depends on many factors – How old is the student?  Why learning problem needs to be solved?  Or what new topic needs to be learned?  Where does the session take place?  How long will it be?  What learning style works best with this particular student?  Will it be an individual or group session? … and much more.  However, there are some general principles to consider.

Before the session: (about 1/2 hour, often more)

(Tutor’s often spend a lot more time than you’d expect in lesson preparation, and afterwards, in recording notes to help prepare for future lessons.  Your hourly fee may well actually cover a couple hours – or more – of tutor time).

  • The tutor will create a lesson plan for the session, with objectives based on the student’s progress in previous sessions, guidelines from the student’s classroom teacher, and other useful information such as discussion with the parents.
  • If necessary, the tutor will consult with the student’s teacher to see what resource materials and supplemental exercises the teacher may wish the tutor to use; and the tutor will also find or create other resources to be used in the session.
  • The tutor will review his/her notes from the previous session to check on learning needs indicated at that time.
  • The tutor will prepare appropriate homework assignments for the student to take home after the upcoming session.

At the beginning of the session (about 5 minutes):

  • The tutor may chat informally for a few moments with the student about their interests and activities.  This helps the student become more comfortable, and such discussion enhances the tutor-student relationship, as well as providing the tutor with better understanding of the student.
  • The tutor will spend a little time ensuring his/her plans for the session are on track.  Questions may be asked which will help the tutor determine any problems the student may be having.  The tutor may ask review questions from material taught in previous  sessions, in order to ensure the student has understood so far.  If homework has been assigned, the tutor will check it over, and discuss any difficulties.  If the student has brought related work from school classes, the tutor will check that over also, as well as any notes or other information from the student’s classroom teacher.  If the tutor has spoken to the student’s teacher since the last tutoring session, information from that meeting may also be discussed (it is important for tutor and teacher to be on-track with their objectives – and the student as well).  The tutor’s questions will also help to show whether the student has come prepared, and how motivated the student is today.  If necessary, the tutor may have to adjust the lesson plan to fit the circumstances this opening discussion has indicated.
  • The tutor may ask a few questions, or give the student a short “pre-test” of the material to be covered in the current session.  This will help to indicate what the student already knows, and what needs to be covered in detail in the lesson.

The new lesson: (most of the hour)

  • The tutor may briefly review the objectives taught previously, and then discuss the objectives for the current session, explaining the process that will be used.
  • The tutor will involve the student as much as possible in all aspects of the session, listening carefully to the student’s responses, explanations, and questions, and observing the student’s efforts.
  • The tutor will keep the student informed about his or her progress as the session goes on.  If there are unexpected problems, the tutor may adjust the lesson plan.  The tutor will provide positive feedback for successes, and be upbeat and encouraging when the student has difficulty.
  • The tutor will demonstrate and teach new material, and will then give the student pointers and explanations as he/she observes the student’s efforts to do the new work.  But a good tutor will not do the student’s work for them.  The goal is to have the student become able to accomplish the task personally.  The tutor will guide the student through enough examples that the student will reach the point of being able to do it on their own.
  • The tutor will use a variety of learning styles.  Different people learn in different ways.  Some of the learning styles include visual/spatial (learn by seeing), auditory (learn by hearing), kinesthetic/tactile (hands-on), linguistic (learn by communicating through language), logical/mathematical, musical, and more.  Learning styles also differ according to personality types (social, achievement-oriented, creative, etc).
  • There are numerous kinds of learning activities related to the different learning styles.  Your tutor may use many different kinds of activities to help the student learn and retain their learning.  For a list of examples of math, reading, writing and general learning activities you might encounter at a tutoring session – and great activities you can use at home to reinforce the learning at the tutoring sessions – check out this article on learning activities  .  If you are a homeschool family, check out these articles for other ideas.

The end of the lesson: (about 5 minutes)

  • The tutor will assign appropriate homework exercises for the student.  If the parent has arrived to pick up their child, the tutor will include the parent in the discussion (this is very helpful, and parents are generally encouraged to arrive in time for this discussion).
  • If the parent does not wish for the child to have traditional  homework, the tutor will encourage the parent and child to find ways to review the lessons learned in a “non-homework” style.  For example, if the lesson has been on fractions, the tutor might suggest that the parent include the child in some home baking, emphasizing the measurements.  Or if the lesson has been on reading, the tutor may suggest some book titles that would be appropriate for bedtime reads before the next session.
  • The tutor will always try to end the session on a positive, encouraging note, so that the student feels they have had a successful experience, and look forward to future learning.

After the lesson:

  • The student will go home, and if homework has been assigned, will do those activities before the next session.  Repetition, on a regular basis, is important for the short-term learning from the tutoring session to turn into long-term memory.  If possible, the student will actually USE the material he/she has just learned, in some practical ways.
  • The tutor will make notes about the session – about the student’s progress, and about the interactions between tutor and student.  He/she will note what learning activities were most successful and which were least successful; what objectives were met, and which need more work, and so on.  The tutor will enter this information in their tutoring notebook, and use it to prepare for future sessions.
  • If there is information that is important for the student’s teacher, the tutor may send an email or phone.  If the parent did not arrive in time to discuss the session with the tutor, or if someone else had to pick up the child, the tutor may phone or email the parent with important information or with homework instructions.

Discussion:  What else would you like to know about tutoring sessions?  How does the description above compare with your past experiences?  What other kinds of tutoring sessions have you experienced?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Penticton tutor: If you live in the Penticton area, and are looking for a tutor, be sure to check out my Penticton tutor information page!

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