Question: “I tutor my student at a shelter with a bunch of other kids, and tutoring takes place in the play room so often other children come in and out and distract my student. She is seven and in the second grade. How do I deal with this?”
Jackie Romo: As tutors, we always need to be flexible in where we are able to work with our students. At one point, my student and I met in the shelter’s dining area where there were always adults and children coming in and out of the room. Below are some things that I found successful when tutoring in a busy area:
- Move around. One way to avoid distraction is to get up and move. If you are working on math, have your student hop, jump or clap out addition/subtraction equations. If you’re reading, act out a part of the book. In one session, my student and I would take turns reading aloud. One of us would read and the other would act out the scene. It helped my student be able to retell the story, and it required good listening skills.
- Be more hands-on. Whenever other children or adults would come in to the room where my student and I were working, WE would often be the distraction. Try to make your activities more hands-on so that your student is completely engaged in some kind of task. Use math manipulatives, flashcards, magnetic letters, colorful pens or markers for writing or learning games that require a game board or game pieces. There are lots of free resources on the internet that allow you to print out pre-made game boards in various subjects areas. These are always a big hit with students!
- Set expectations. Though not all activities can be active or hands-on, setting clear expectations with your student can help avoid distractions. With one of my students, I used to set aside the last 15 minutes of tutoring time to play a game. (His personal favorite was Uno!) If we got all of the work done and stayed focused, we’d have time to play. More often than not, my student worked hard to finish and avoided talking to his friends that walked into our session.
Tutors Jennifer No and Pat Bayha add: You need to get out of the playroom. Maybe either ask for a different space to work in from the tutoring location or give your student an incentive for concentrating for periods of time. For example, every 8 minutes the child concentrates on his assignment, he can have 4 minutes of free time, or maybe a small reward.
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!
Jennifer No has been tutoring with School on Wheels for about a year. She is interested in pursuing a career in psychology and neuroscience in the future.
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.
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