Tutoring Tips

When in a tutoring situation, a tutor tends to adopt six roles.  It is a good idea to try to work these six modes into your lesson planning (but not all at once).  These are:



Tutor Support Session

AUG 22

4:00 pm - Main Library







Since the tutor is the teacher, a perceived “expert,” he or she is a model for proper use of the English language.  You don’t have to have a perfect grasp of the language.  Errors are a great way to show that everyone makes mistakes and a wonderful starting point to teach them something new about the language.  As you show your learner how something works, whether it is adding endings to words (“stop” to “stopping”) or how to figure out a math problem, think out loud.  This helps your learner begin to understand the thought processes behind what you are doing.  This is also an opportunity to inject enthusiasm and show your interest in the subject.



Just like the coach of a sports team, the tutor motivates the learner.  Your role is to prompt, push, encourage, and support.  You also provide feedback as to how the learner is doing.  You are also responsible for creating the best environment in which learning can occur.  A good coach is authentically concerned with the learner’s progress and with the learner, and it shows.  When your learner is doing well, encourage him or her to do better.  When your learner is frustrated or having difficulty, provide support to keep him or her going.  Usually, correcting the learner is not as productive as providing guidance through questions that lead him or her to the correct response or outcome.



Scaffolding is the building of experience and knowledge upon prior experience and knowledge, like constructing a building.  When we interact with another person, we bring all of who we are to that conversation.  We have to listen to the other person and who he or she is and we have to explain who we are.  When the learner has to explain, elaborate, or defend statements, understanding is more quickly achieved.  This happens so much more quickly than with just reading.  Having to explain his or herself pushes the learner to incorporate knowledge in new ways.  They have to learn to evaluate and elaborate on the information, especially when the tutor questions them.  Then, the learner has to answer back, providing explanations and more details.  This leads to better understanding.  When the learner has to listen, he or she has to interpret the meaning of what is being said.  Questions may have to be asked to get at the meaning of the tutor’s statements.  When scaffolding, you can use hints and prompts to provide clues to help the learner solve his or her own problems.  You can rephrase something or show something in a different way that may help him or her understand more easily.  Please keep in mind, as the learner progresses and becomes more confident, the amount and type of guidance needed changes as well.  Eventually, the goal is to have the learner on their own without need of assistance.


Articulation is when the explanation is taken to the next level, when the learner shares his or her ideas with others.  It can also be when the learners expresses his or her needs to the tutor or another person.  Anything from preparing a poster for a community issue or school to speaking in front of a group of people about the important of literacy programs requires the learner to explain his or herself in a greater capacity.  In Literacy Plus, we have a page on our website for posting learner writings, so their feelings, experiences, and ideas can be expressed.


Reflection involves taking a step back and looking at how you got to where you are.  The tutor and learner should take time to reflect on the progress of the learner in different areas, such as writing or spelling, to see how far the learner has come.  This is the reason we stress keeping a portfolio of the learner’s work.


Exploration is having the learner investigate a subject on his or her own.  In other words, homework.  This is the best way a learner can illustrate that they understand how something works.  Homework reinforces material and requires the learner to apply what they have learned.  In doing the homework, the learner has to draw on their knowledge and resources in new ways.  This can help in producing knowledge, in seeing how knowledge in one area is applicable to another area.  Where possible, try to incorporate opportunities for the learner to apply their new knowledge in experiential situations.  For example, if you’ve been discussing the post office, how it works and all the forms, plan a trip to the post office for one of your tutoring sessions and actually do the things you have been discussing.