As a literacy tutor it is very important to not only teach/reinforce reading and writing skills to your students, but it is also important to spark a love or appreciation of learning and develop a passion for reading. That was always a goal I kept in mind as I worked with my students. In order to be successful at this you must tutor with individualized instruction. You could possibly have two 2nd grade students and three 4th grade students but that doesn’t mean you only need to make two different lesson plans. The first step to individualized instruction is assessing where each student’s skills are and then you can plan specifically for that child. Asking the student’s teach what skills need to be focused on is an useful step to take because not only does it help you build a relationship and connection with him or her, but it also lets them know you are attempting to supplement their teaching and not override it. It also gives you an appropriate idea of where to start with your student. There may be a student who needs to focus on contractions and writing complex sentences, while another student the same age needs to concentrate on spelling and connecting ideas in a story.
The key to being a successful tutor is not cramming as much information into a lesson plan as possible, but to help ingrain two or three specific skills. The way it has worked form my experience is that you most often spend five to seven weeks on the same set of skills, which is okay because your goal is to add a lasting lesson to your students literacy skills and not to expose them to every skill and they master none of them. Individualized instruction requires an immense amount of patience on your part and a true belief that you doing your part to contribute to that child’s education and making a difference.
More from Asia!
As a literacy tutor it is important to find different ways to motivate your students as it will make the tutoring sessions more fun, decrease behavioral issues and also add variety to your time spent together. Some suggestions include:
- Use dry erase boards (mini size usually is more convenient and easy to work with)
- Add a time element to activities as the added pressure can be a fun, adrenaline producing way to improve the activity
- Make certain word study activities a game/competition
- Be enthusiastic, excited and positive
- Celebrate the students success whenever they try not just when they are actually correct
- Incorporate coloring, drawing, cutting, gluing as much as possible
- Shift the lesson plan sections around (as long as it is appropriately planned out and still flows)
- Participate with your students, play the game, make a list, write a story, read a book as this increased interactions between you and your student
- Popcorn read whenever possible, even with older children (popcorn reading is taking turns while reading aloud)
- Make puppets and read aloud
- Stickers and stamps are great prizes
- Use a point system for older students and allow them to redeem them for activities (literacy tutoring appropriate) when they get to a specific amount
Motivating your students in various ways is vital to keeping their attention and ensuring they have enjoyable, stimulating tutoring sessions.
My name is Asia Vianna Mack. I am a UNC graduate and worked with America Reads for four years. I was a literacy tutor for one year at Rashkis Elementary and three years at Carrboro Elementary. SCALE’s tutoring program is specifically designed for one-on-one instruction for students in Pre-K to 5th grade, consisting of 20-40 minute sessions twice a week. The program is lesson plan based and consists of the same three literacy aspects each session, word study, writing and reading. Over my four years of tutoring I have learned many things:
- Children need consistency – from both you as a tutor, in the lesson plan and also in the way the session is conducted
- Repetition is key to children retaining information – use a variety of tactics, once the specific lesson is mastered continue to build upon it
- Each child is different – teach to the individual child, develop relationships with them, educate yourself on varying ways to present a concept, be willing to adapt a plan to a child’s style of learning
- Teaching is a spontaneous process – be willing to adjust if the specific session calls for it
- Set the tone for behavior and expectations immediately – be firm but kind, when making rules, agreements and consequences stick to them
- Gaining the support of teachers, afterschool program directors and counselors, school administration and parents is crucial – develop genuine relationships as these are key to literacy tutors sessions running on-time and without interruptions as well as gives you support and legitimacy as part of the students education
My students were very special to me. They made a lasting imprint on my life. I hope and believe that I made a difference in theirs.
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I have several lists running through my head at this point of the summer: a list of tasks to complete before my last day of service in the NC LiteracyCorps, a list of friends to invite to my twentieth birthday celebration, and a list of textbooks to purchase for my sophomore year of college. I’m currently experiencing some pretty serious ambivalence about all of these lists and the events associated with them. As a remedy, I’m indulging myself in this blog (forgive me) with a list based on something that I am actually happy about: my time spent tutoring with AmeriCorps. So, in the style of David Letterman (but not as funny), I present:
Student Blogger Top 10 List:
The Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Tutoring
10.) Finally somebody thought I was cool. Oftentimes, my peers can smell nerd on me from a mile away. This was not the case with my elementary school students. Being a college kids is way cooler than being a third grader, and these kids knew it.
9.) Direct deposit. Making a difference in the lives of children is great, and so is getting paid for it. Even greater? Not having to walk to the bank.
8.) Children’s books. All preconceived notions aside, earning an undergraduate degree is not all frat parties and sporting events. Sometimes I actually have to pick up a book, and sometimes that book is difficult to read (The Wealth of Nations, anyone?). Every once in a while, it’s nice to curl up with a little Dr. Seuss (for the benefit of my students, of course).
7.) Chauffer service. My school was about a mile away from the nearest bus stop. Usually this made for a pleasant walk in beautiful Chapel Hill (another reason to love tutoring—exercise!). However, every once in a while my mentor from SCALE would be waiting in his SUV to pick us up and chauffer us down the road. Is there anything that makes a girl feel more special than a ride in a ’95 Nissan Pathfinder? No, absolutely not.
6.) Tutor training. Rather than throwing us out on our own with no clue how to tutor students, the kind folks at SCALE provided us with a couple of highly valuable trainings throughout the year. Best part? Seeing my fellow tutors imitate children in role-play activities. Diet Coke and Starbursts sweetened the deal.
5.) Kids say the darndest things. Bill Cosby was right on. All six of the students I worked this year have careers ahead of them in comedy if they keep it up. They were also highly creative, making it highly enjoyable to coach them in narrative development.
4.) Sometimes when my students couldn’t think of a response to something, I told them it was okay to skip it. I will practice what I preach.
3.) Staying hip and with it. One day, I complimented a students on her Jonas Brothers t-shirt. She corrected me with an eye-roll, informing me that the pop group on her shirt was actually One Direction. Thank God I have these kids to set me straight and keep me current.
2.) Spelling words. This is a shameful thing for a literacy tutor to admit, but I seriously cannot spell. It’s amazing what spell-check can do for a person. Sometimes when I helped my students with their spelling homework, I was learning as much as they were.
1.) Being involved. All jokes aside, my time serving with AmeriCorps has been incredibly valuable and transformative. I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve the community that I live and learn in. I gained so much more from my experience as an America Reads tutor than I ever could have from any other work-study position, and my involvement with AmeriCorps provided even further enrichment. A complete list of the reasons to love tutoring would be infinite.
Another great post from our summer student blogger, Claire!
Earlier this year, I asked the students I tutored to write and illustrate a short story on the theme of social justice. As many of you can probably imagine, my third, fourth, and fifth graders struggled to capture the complexities associated with that topic. To translate social justice into the terms of an elementary school student, I boiled it down to the Golden Rule, a familiar proverb I knew the kids would identify and understand: treat others the way you would like to be treated.
Social justice clicked with the kids immediately once I related it to the Golden Rule, and the brainstorming began. I was not at all surprised that three of my five students, a third grader, a fourth grader, and a fifth grader, chose to write based on their own experiences at school with their friends. I was, however, surprised by their stories content. Rather than citing examples of when they had stepped up to do the right thing with their friends, my students chose to write about instances when they had been the victims of bullying by their friends.
As we worked together to create the short stories, I hope that the kids viewed me more as their friend and confidante than their tutor. A school must feel like a safe and supportive environment in order for students to learn effectively. Nothing is more distracting during school than the feelings of fear and vulnerability associated with being bullied.
Bullying in schools is a huge challenge to educators and policymakers alike. My experience as a tutor taught me that everyone who works with children, not just teachers or principals, has the opportunity to support children by combating bullying. Tutors can help students by taking a break from schoolwork once in a while to check in with their students and offer an ear. As a college age tutor, I recognize that I am old enough to be a role model, but still young enough for kids to confide in and trust. Tutors also have opportunities to ask questions and to notify teachers if the bullying is especially serious or violent.
Another post from Claire!
A couple weeks ago, I took my boyfriend on his first ever visit to the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh. After wandering through the galleries and the extensive Rodin collection (my favorite), we visited the other section of the museum, a separate building housing the visiting exhibitions.
In one gallery, I was surprised and delighted to find Rhythms of the Heart: The Illustration of Ashley Bryan. Ashley Bryan is a renowned writer and illustrator of children’s books, many of which are based on African American folktales, spirituals, and poetry. Bryan has won a number of prestigious awards for his books, which are viewed as a priceless contribution to American culture. His illustrations employ a number of creative techniques, including watercolor, collage, and woodblock press. They are absolutely worthy of display in any art museum, and NCMA is lucky to host the collection.
Bryan’s art has special significance for me personally, as I had the pleasure of meeting him through my AmeriCorps service earlier this year. On Global Youth Service Day, members of the NC LiteracyCorps serving in Orange County had the pleasure of hosting Read Together Children, an event featuring face painting, bookmark making, and a variety of fun literacy-centered activities for the kids in attendance. The star of the day, however, was Ashley Bryan, who made a special appearance as our guest speaker. Bryan shared stories of his passion for books and sang a selection of spirituals with a roomful of schoolchildren from Chapel Hill and Carrboro. After Bryan spoke, several of the students we tutored through America Reads had the opportunity to read their own writing for their peers and the famous author. For these children, it was surely an unforgettable day.
As I strolled through the museum in the company of Bryan’s illustrations, I realized it was a pretty unforgettable day for me too.
Rhythms of the Heart: The Illustration of Ashley Bryan runs at the North Carolina Museum of Art through August 19. Admission is free.