Tutoring Tips

Confidence

The tutee’s confidence is the most important factor in achieving academic success and promoting efficient sessions.

 Tips for bolstering confidence:

  • Praise the student! When they do something well, let them know with enthusiastic compliments.

  • Be patient. It’s easy to get bogged down by repeated mistakes, but you mustn’t get frustrated. The student WILL notice, and that can be detrimental to their confidence. 

  • Approach incorrect answers positively. When a student makes a mistake, on a math problem, for example, let them know what they did right and then tell them what they did wrong. In almost every situation there is some part they did correctly. 

  • Let them know when you make similar mistakes. With certain incorrect answers, you may have had trouble with that in the past or still make that mistake sometimes. Tell that to the tutee. For example, if a student pronounces the “b” in “numb,” inform them you used to make that mistake as well. Be sincere, and don’t overuse this tactic.

Healthy Relationships

The nature of the relationship between you and the tutee is complicated. The tutee may view you as a teacher and may try to simply impress you by holding back their frustration and refraining from asking questions. They may also be embarrassed they need outside help, especially from somebody who’s just a student. (The latter pertains more to older tutees who are close in age to their tutors.) Or simply, they’re more reserved when engaging with you, somebody they’ve never truly met.

Tips for building a healthy relationship:

  • Be excited at the start of each session. It’s really important you make them feel that you want to be there. 

  • Don't jump into learning right away. Ask the tutee what they’ve done since your last session or something fun they did. Let them know anything interesting that’s been going on with you. Set aside a minute or more each session to simply chat in this way. By doing this, the tutee will begin to feel more comfortable and perceive you not as a teacher, but more like a helpful friend. In turn, this will prevent them from seeing themself in a negative light. All of this will boost their confidence!

  • End the session off by sharing something new you learned. This can be done in an active, transparent way where you explain that each session you both will share a bit of new knowledge you’ll exit the session with. Or, in a passive way, you may point out at the end “I actually learned something new today. I didn't know how to draw 4’s the way you do.” This does not have to be during every meeting, and you should be honest about it. This pleases the student because they feel by engaging with you, they’re helping you gain something as well.

  • Stay on task. Don’t be on your phone or be doing other things during the sessions. It makes the student feel you don’t want to be there.

Asking Questions

Question guidelines:

  • Refrain from asking yes or no questions when possible. This forces the tutee to really think about possible answers. With a yes or no question, they have a 50% chance of being right even if they did not know the answer. And, when you tell them that they’re wrong, they know the correct answer without actually understanding why it’s correct. 

  • Ask how they arrived at an answer. Whether or not they were correct, this let’s you see their thought process and how well they understood something. Additionally, it makes the student think about their answer more and sometimes see on their own that it was incorrect before you let them know. 

  • Pay attention to your tone. Be careful not to sound condescending. Also, you can give away too much with how you asked the question. Even a young student can decipher the answer from your question through your framing and tone. So, you’re left not knowing whether they really knew the answer. 

  • Come on time! This demonstrates your desire to be present at the session.

The types of questions you ask, and the way you ask them is critical to furthering the tutee’s understanding and encouraging them.

Measuring Success

Everybody struggles with focusing during class, especially when it’s over the computer.

Ways to keep tutee focused:

  • Pay attention to where they’re looking. If they are not paying attention to the screen, it likely means they are not listening. Instruct them to keep their eyes on the screen 

  • Frequently ask questions. By asking the student questions, You keep them engaged and know whether or not they’re listening. 

  • Don’t talk for too long. The longer you talk whether you’re giving an explanation or setting up a question, the greater the chance the student zones out. If you find yourself talking about one thing straight for more than a minute without using any visuals (whiteboards, worksheets etc.), fix that!

  • Keep the sessions short if need be. People get tired in class, especially working one on one. It’s mentally exhausting. If you notice the student having trouble focusing or the sessions slowing down towards the end, shorten your session time. You can often schedule more sessions during the week. So, try two ½ hour sessions instead of one hour-long session. This is especially important for younger students.

Miscellaneous

  • If the student’s teacher has instructed them to work a certain way, use that same method. You can give small tips and tricks but don’t divert from the teacher’s methods 

  • If you are not confident in certain areas and your ability to explain them, seek out help from others or online to learn them better before helping the student. 

  • Don’t give them answers! Think about how your favorite teacher would help you and help the student in that way. 

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