Question: A lot of engagement activities seem geared toward younger students. Do you have any ideas for engaging teens and keeping them interested during sessions?
Jackie Romo: While many older students desperately need a tutor, the older age group is sometimes the most difficult to motivate and keep engaged. The following ideas are things I’ve done when tutoring older students:
- Involve technology. Today’s youth is quite comfortable with using technology in their everyday lives. Therefore, incorporating education apps would be a great way to keep students engaged during a tutoring session. Though my specific tutoring site did not have internet access, I would often improvise and bring in my laptop to show my student how to make student flashcards using a PowerPoint presentation. Oftentimes, I would use my phone and download free educational apps to play at the end of our session.
- Let them choose. A couple of years ago, one student always seemed tired when it was time to tutor. One day, I laid out everything (a book, a writing journal, word game, multiplication flash cards and Uno) and allowed him to choose what activity we’d do first. By simply allowing him to choose the order of our activities for the session, he became more motivated to stay focused .
- Be open and available. A while back, I had a 6th grader who I tutored for several years. By the end, we developed a very good relationship partially because we’d always take the first 5 to 10 minutes of our session to “check in” with each other. Sometimes she would give me a quick overview of her day and other times she would ask for my advice. Whatever the case, she and I had very successful tutoring sessions because she knew I cared about her and the things happening in her life.
Pat Bayha: Gear your sessions toward student interests and ask what they want to learn. I’ve worked with a lot of Mexican-American students, and I’ve found they gain great pride when exposed to their Meso-American culture. For example, I use the famous Nuremberg Tenochtitlan map and the indigenous Mendoza map and let them discover the great cultural achievement of the Aztecs in pre-Colombian times. You can get both of these maps off the internet, and if you print them out, students can see them up close and better than in a museum. You will have to do some homework so you know what the maps represent. This can lead to a discussion about geography in general.
The Internet also provides a wonderland of interesting points of view. Talk about politics and bring in a couple of articles to discuss. Don’t think it is too controversial. Students need more exposure to current events in general since these issues can be overlooked in classrooms focused on testing and standards.
About the Tutors: Jackie Romo has been a School in Wheels tutor for nearly 9 years. Aside from tutoring, she teaches first grade in Rowland Heights and recently earned a MS in reading. She is happy to help in any way she can to make your tutoring sessions successful!
Pat Bayha has been tutoring with School on Wheels for over a year, and also tutors at Tuba City Boarding School on the Navajo Reservation. She is a former teacher with the Montebello Unified School District and has many years of experience teaching in inner city high schools, including advanced placement students and bilingual learners.
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