Individualized tutoring sessions

This is part 3 of the five-part series:  How tutors plan individualized programs for their students.


Part 3:  Individualized tutoring sessions

Getting to know each other:

The first tutoring session may involve mostly a “get-to-know-each-other” time.  The tutor will introduce him/herself.  Then the tutor will chat with the student, listening to the responses, and observing the student’s body language and other behaviours.  The tutor may have the student do a variety of short exercises to determine learning levels and needs.   The tutor’s goal is to find out the student’s likes and dislikes, personality, learning styles, and strengths and weaknesses.  The tutor seeks to build trust, and a rapport in which the student will feel safe to give more than just “yes” or “no” answers. 

Starting off easy:

The tutor will start the lessons at a level at which the student is comfortable and successful.  This may concern the parent who has perhaps provided a book they want the student to read with the tutor, or a math textbook at a certain level that they think the student should be able to do.  The tutor may instead start with something more basic, and then work up through the levels, helping the student to build self-confidence and motivation.  At the same time, starting at an easier level helps the tutor spot any basic concepts the student struggles with, and those missing concepts can be addressed.  It is quite amazing how one simple concept that has been missed earlier in a student’s learning can have a huge cascading effect on all further learning in that subject.  So the tutor will be looking for those “gaps” and deal with them.

Constant monitoring:

As the tutoring sessions progress, the tutor will be constantly monitoring the student’s progress and understanding of the topic and the skills necessary to learn, succeed with, and apply the subject.  Learning is not just a bunch of facts to memorize; it involves many underlying skills, and is only worthwhile if the student can see, and participate in, “real life” activities that make use of the subject matter.

The tutor may also have the student “back-teach,” demonstrating the newly learned material by teaching/demonstrating it to the tutor right in the tutoring sessions (and through homework lessons, family activities, teaching younger siblings, etc).  Again, the parent may wonder if this is a waste of time, and think the tutor should be doing all the teaching, and earning his/her pay!  But the fact is that one of the most effective and efficient ways to truly learn is to immediately teach others.  It is also an excellent way for the tutor to determine if the learning goals are actually being achieved. 

Along the same line, the tutor will likely ask the student to explain and/or demonstrate what he/she already knows about the “next step” in the tutoring plan.  If the student shows mastery, the tutor and student can move on to yet a higher level, rather than boring the student with something they already know and find easy.

Student involvement:

Good tutoring sessions involve the student as much, if not more, than the tutor.  A parent observing a tutoring session may wish the tutor would just “teach the student” – but true education is learning – and learning is behavior, that is, ACTION, on the part of the learner.  The more the student is involved in the learning activity, with the tutor there as more of a guide or facilitator or mentor (rather than a teacher/lecturer), the more likely the student’s motivation and interest in the subject will increase, and the more he/she will learn – and apply that learning.  This is one of the great advantages of one-on-one tutoring over classroom educational methods! 

A good tutor will use creative and imaginative methods, motivating and involving the student.  This also encourages the student to use his or her own creativity, imagination, reasoning, and other intellectual powers, to become a life-long self-learner, and teacher of others.  This is always the ultimate goal of true education.

A variety of learning activities:

The tutoring sessions will also almost always involve a variety of learning activities.  A lesson on arithmetic, for example, will not just include the tutor “teaching” a concept from a textbook or on the blackboard, and the child practicing it on a worksheet or in a notebook.  During the lesson, the child might use “hands-on” learning tools, like counting real objects, using numbers on a ruler to add or subtract, finger-counting, and so on.  The lesson might also include a card game or a game like snakes-and-ladders that involves using numbers; or an interesting conversation about real activities in the child’s life that involve arithmetic (shopping, baking, and so on).  If the arithmetic lesson involves geometry, the child might design and build a lego item. 

And if the lesson is a full hour or more, and especially if the child is younger, or is obviously becoming fidgety, the tutor may well call a time-out, in which the student can get a drink, take a short walk, play an active game, chat about any topic of the student’s choice, or simply sit back and relax.  Five minutes of “brain break” and “body activity” will ensure that the child will learn twice as much in the next half hour of learning time!

Other aspects of individualized tutoring sessions may include giving supportive and constructive feedback, encouraging a deeper understanding of the subject, correcting misunderstandings from previous learning, practice of weaker skills, and lighter moments of laughter and fun.

At the end of the lesson:

At the end of a session the tutor will not only give the student a homework assignment, but will ask the student what he/she has learned in this lesson, if and why they think it is important to them, any questions they still have or things they still don’t understand, and anything they’d like to focus on in upcoming sessions.

Be sure to read the other posts in this series:

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.

This entry was posted in tutoring. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply