7 Techniques for High-Impact Tutoring

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Traditionally, tutoring has been thought of as an effective way to help a struggling student improve in a subject area with one-on-one assistance. While this may be true, the benefits of tutoring extend far beyond the traditional model. In addition to improving areas of weakness, tutoring can help a student maintain skills, reinforce previously taught concepts, enrich learning, and much more.

If you are a parent or tutor who wishes to optimize the tutoring experience, follow the seven steps below to ensure that high-impact tutoring takes place:

Before the Tutoring Begins…

1) Clearly articulate expectations.

For parents and tutors:
The parent and tutor need to agree upon the tutoring parameters before any tutoring takes place. First, determine the type of tutoring that will be provided. Will the tutor do test preparation? Homework help? Enrichment? What are the expectations? Obviously, this decision will depend upon the child’s individual needs. For example, if it’s an upcoming test that the child needs to prepare for, then the parent might want the tutor to review class work, assist with relevant homework, and teach test-taking skills.

7 Techniques for High-Impact Tutoring

2) Forge home-school partnerships.

For parents and tutors:
If the child’s teacher is willing, ask him or her to outline the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Many teachers welcome the extra support, and having the tutor and teacher speak directly to one another prevents the communication breakdown that sometimes occurs when the message is passed from teacher to parent to tutor. Some teachers may even want to send related work for the child to complete during each tutoring session.

3) Establish a routine.

For parents:
Make time in the family schedule to allow for consistent tutoring. Believing that one tutoring session a month will make an impact is wishful thinking at best and frustrating at worst; many times, “one-shot deals” may set the child up for failure and cause the child to believe that the tutoring doesn’t work. On the other hand, it is important to be realistic. Don’t attempt to set up a schedule that won’t reasonably work for your child and family, either, or else you may find the routine too demanding to keep up with. One to three sessions a week is optimal for many children, but do keep in mind your child’s needs when making this decision. Take into account your child’s working habits as well. If he or she works best at a particular time of day, try to schedule tutoring for these “peak
performance” periods.

For tutors:
Once the schedule is agreed upon, consider establishing a trial period. This allows all parties involved the chance to reevaluate the tutoring’s effectiveness at a specific future time, such as after 8 weeks, three months, and so on. Also, once the schedule is set, be sure to be punctual and prepared in order to give the student the consistency and quality of instruction that he or she deserves.


During Tutoring

4) Minimize distractions.

For parents:
Find a location in the house for the sessions to take place that won’t be distracting for your child. Kitchens don’t always work because this room tends to be a hub of activity (people preparing meals, snacks, other family member gathering there, etc.). If you can, try to set up a quiet area, away from television, phones, other family members, and/or pets. Give your child an optimal environment in which to concentrate.

5) Be prepared.

For parents:
Have the necessary work and materials ready so that when the tutor arrives, they can begin working right away, instead of wasting precious minutes trying to hunt down textbooks, teacher instructions, paper, erases, and other necessary items. Also, think about how you can prepare your child not only with the materials (see tip #5) but also with the proper mindset. For instance, don’t let your child start a new video game two minutes before the tutoring is about to begin or allow the friend from the play date to stay during the session. Your child’s mind (understandably) will be on other people or activities, and this is especially distracting for your child and the tutor.

For tutors:
As previously mentioned, be on time and be prepared to teach. Know what you plan to work on and have a rough outline of how much time you have to allot for each subject and concept. Of course, if the student struggles, you may need to slow down and re-teach certain topics, yet it is still important to keep the big picture in mind even as you adjust
your plan and remain flexible.

6) Make it fun.

For tutors:
Remember that the child has spent the entire day in school. How can you engage him or her in learning, even after a long day? Some ideas that work well include (but are not limited to): games, flash cards, hands-on activities, high-interest reading selections, allowing student choice in activities and format (when reasonable), and using non-traditional ways of recording information, like using the computer, an iPad, a whiteboard,etc.

For parents:
If you choose a tutor that has a positive rapport with your child, this will be a motivating and enjoyable situation for your son or daughter. But for some children, no matter how much they like the tutor, and no matter how engaging that person is, your child may still lack some of the necessary internal motivation. In these situations, consider a small reward for hard work during the session. Or, you may wish to make a successful session the prerequisite for other activities (e.g., video games, having a friend over, or other privileges). Some children may need this extra “boost” as a jump-start, and over time they may begin to enjoy the tutoring without the external motivators.

After Tutoring

7) Follow up and monitor progress.

For parents:
Ask how the session went by talking to both the tutor and your child, and find out if you need to do anything between sessions (such as reviewing flash cards, asking a clarifying question to the teacher, or making sure the child completes additional work the tutor has assigned).

For tutors:
Follow up at school. If you have already let the teacher know about the tutoring schedule, ask if you can contact him or her periodically for an update to see if the teacher observes any positive changes. This will allow you to know if the transfer of skills is taking place. If the student still struggles, you can use this information to adjust accordingly and maybe even brainstorm ideas with the classroom teacher.

By implementing these tips, we hope you can make the most of individual tutoring sessions. Tutoring can be a terrific experience – one that can help a child improve upon weaknesses, enrich strengths, and ensure academic success.


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Julie Lyons