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Prepping to Teach Your First Tutoring Session

Abby Slutsky has a M.Ed., and has substitute taught and tutored for more than 12 years.

Here's how to prepare to teach your student for the first time.

Here's how to prepare to teach your student for the first time.

Plan for Your First Tutoring Session

Congratulations. You have landed a job as a tutor. While there is a good chance you have past tutoring experience, this could also be your first tutoring job. Regardless, it is important to plan ahead by learning about your student so that you can do a competent job.

You want to spend time on the content that is difficult for them. During the school year, challenging topics may become obvious quickly, but many parents want their children to brush up with a tutor before they start the new academic year. Therefore, you may be choosing the content for initial tutoring sessions based on information you learn about their academic level. As the year progresses, you may help reinforce the school’s curriculum.

How do You Determine the Student's Academic Level?

Most likely, you will determine a student's level through a combination of the following:

  • Parent observations and input
  • Student work product
  • Student self-assessment
  • If the parent is comfortable, they may also share information related to past teacher conferences.
Before talking to parents, prepare a skill chart and questions. Create the chart based on the state standards, so you can easily check off whether the child has mastered the skill or needs help.

Before talking to parents, prepare a skill chart and questions. Create the chart based on the state standards, so you can easily check off whether the child has mastered the skill or needs help.

1. Schedule and Prepare for a Phone Call to Discuss the Child's Level

1. Make a List of Skills the Student May Have Mastered

Schedule the phone call in advance and prepare for it, so you can efficiently obtain information that will help you tutor the student. Read the state standards, and make a list of skills the student should have mastered the preceding year. You may also want to list a few skills that are taught at the start of the current year.

While many parents are not familiar with the state standards, if you read specific skills to them, they will probably be able to tell you whether their child can successfully perform them. Make notes during your phone conversation because, in some instances, they may be the only information you get before the tutoring session.

2. Find Out How the Student Learns Best

Some students absorb information best by hearing it. Others retain information well by reading or viewing it visually. Other children like doing hands-on activities or an activity requiring movement. The nice aspect of one-on-one tutoring is that, to some extent, you can tailor learning to suit the child’s needs.

3. Prepare Questions About the Student's Likes and Dislikes

Most students prefer classes that are easy for them or align with their interests. These questions should assist you in organizing your tutoring sessions, especially if you are tutoring more than one subject.

  • Do they have a favorite subject?
  • What subject do they like least?
  • What type of books do they like?
  • What do they do when they do not understand a word?
  • What do they do when they have trouble pronouncing a word?
  • Do they understand what they read?
  • Will they read without being asked?
  • Do they like math? Do they like games?
  • Do they like to write?

4. Parent Observations and Goals

  • Do the parents have any concerns about their children's skills?
  • Is there any subject the parent feels his child excels at?
  • Is there any content the parent feels his child struggles with?
  • Are there any subjects the student is reluctant to do?
  • How long is the child's attention span?
  • What are the parents' goals for the tutoring sessions?

2. Review the Student's Work

Prior to the tutoring session, ask the parents if they have any writing samples or end-of-the-year tests. (Recognize that you may not see them in advance of the session, but they should be available at the beginning of the first session.) Viewing the child's work will give you a better understanding of what skills to teach during the first session.

You can also discuss the work product with the student. For example, if you read a writing sample that does not have details, read the paragraph with the student and ask some questions, so the student can start to figure out how to fully develop what they wrote.

3. Student Evaluation

Students have a sense of what classes they struggle with and what they like. Ask them if there is anything that he wants to learn. Sometimes children can provide insight that can enhance your ability to tutor well.

4. Teacher Conference Information

If the student is struggling with a specific issue, the parent may share information about discussions with past teachers. Some parents may also want you to colloborate with an existing teacher, especially if their child is learning virtually. It is likely that the parent will share information from the teacher. Some teachers may be willing to include you in an occasional conference, but the parent will have to authorize it, and it will depend on the confidentiality policy of the school.

Using Your Information to Tutor

Your notes and initial meeting with your student will set the stage for your tutoring sessions. Take the time to introduce yourself, assess his skills, and encourage his progress.

1. Prepare an Introduction and Decide How You Will Learn About Your Student

Prepare a cute way to introduce yourself if you are tutoring a young student. A blog on Continental Press suggests some innovative ideas for sharing a little bit about yourself to students. Some of the suggested activities will engage the students and help you build a rapport with them.

One example involves creating math equations the student can solve to learn information about you. (For example, the day of your birth, your shoe size, and the year you were born.) Ask your student about activities he enjoys. Remember, you want to take the time to know your student because you need to motivate him, build his confidence, and teach them new material and skills.

2. Plan an Assessment Activity

Prepare a short math, writing, or reading assessment to learn additional information about the student's level. You can find reading and writing rubrics online by grade level. If you are tutoring for several hours at a time, start with the subject that is the hardest. He is likely to be more attentive at the beginning of the tutoring session than at the end. Consider the child's attention span, and plan activities based on it.

Do not try to assess every subject in one sitting. Assess one, and then do one or two activities with the student based on what you have learned. The student will not want to take assessments the entire time you are tutoring.

3. Make sure you are patient and encouraging throughout the session.

Good teachers build a rapport with their students and encourage them. When students want to please their tutors and teachers, they are likely to be attentive and try hard.

A clock can trigger the imagination. Any picture can help a student create a story.

A clock can trigger the imagination. Any picture can help a student create a story.

Additional Tip for Preparing to Tutor Students

Consider ending the session with a short educational activity of the student's choice. Limit the choice to two or three selections, so your student does not spend a lot of time deciding what he wants to do. There are a host of math games you can play with a deck of cards, or you can play a short reading game.

For younger children under six, I have used sequencing cards to let them organize pictures so that they tell a story. First and second graders can look at one or two sequencing pictures as a story starter to create their own story endings. Alternatively, invite students in elementary or middle school to choose a magazine photo or take a picture of their own to use as a story starter. They can use their imagination to add details beyond what the pictures show.

If you prefer to give the student an option to play an online game, Mr. Nussbaum's website offers a large selection of free, educational games. You can also create or find free folder file games for primary students.

Plan to Take Notes After the Session Ends

Keep a log in your car, so you can write notes about the session when it ends. Although not necessarily after every session, parents will want updates on their children's progress. Keeping regular notes will make it easy to give parents a quick status report when they want one.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky


Abby Slutsky (author) from America on September 01, 2020:

Thanks for reading.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on September 01, 2020:

I never even thought of parents using this, but they could. I assumed new tutors would.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on September 01, 2020:

I never realized how much work tutors have to do prior to a tutoring session. It's one of those jobs that required a lot of preparation. Very useful article.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 01, 2020:

The preparation to even begin to teach is very thorough, and your steps sound very logical to me. This is a very good article for parents who are finding themselves in the role of teacher.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on August 31, 2020:

Thank you so much for your kind review.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 31, 2020:

Very useful article. Long back, I did some physical tutoring but same set of guidelines hold online also. You have presented it nicely.