Category: Ask A Tutor

Feb 16

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 2/16/2016

Question: I am a new volunteer tutor at a group home in Monrovia. The location currently only has 2 tutors to 8 students who go in only once a week. My questions are:

1) How to manage time better to help as much as I can when there are potentially 7-8 students who may need homework help? I have had at each session 1-3 students who need help during the entire time I am there.

2) How to establish a more structured tutoring session? I’ve had difficulty trying to balance 2-3 students at the same time asking for help on very different subjects (math and history for example). We end up doing the homework together, but it’s not really helping them learn to do it on their own. I am afraid they will become dependent on waiting for us to do their homework and not do it in advance on their own.

Whenever I have to tutor multiple students simultaneously, I always have the students work on the problems that they could complete independently without my help. If a student says they can’t complete any of the homework on their own, encourage them to choose one problem and just try their best to solve it. I always tell my students that it’s better to try and get the incorrect answer rather than not try at all.

Once all the students start working on their homework, first help the student that seems to be struggling the most. Work with them to solve only one of the problems and see if they have any questions. If they don’t, then have them solve the rest of the problems on their own. After working with the first student, find another student who is struggling. Continue the pattern of showing students how to solve one problem until you have visited everyone.

Remind students that you will try to meet up with each of them for a few minutes, but let them know that they should be working on their homework so you can see their thought process and best figure out what they need to work on. I also tell them that if they just wait and don’t try to complete their homework, then it’ll be harder for me to help them; it’s easier for me to help if I see their work when they solve problems.

If students have similar kinds of homework or are learning similar concepts, then you can teach them simultaneously. Students can also work together in pairs or small groups. The goal is to encourage students to try and solve the problem on their own even if they are unsure about how to approach the problem. It’s definitely a challenging situation to tutor multiple students, but it’ll be easier for you to identify their academic strengths and weaknesses as you continue to tutor them. The better you know their academic skills, the easier it’ll be for you to manage your time and help out more students.

About the Tutor: Natalie Platon has over seven years of experience working with K-12th grade students in different capacities and possesses a multiple subjects teaching credential. She has a deep passion for working in diverse and underserved communities and has worked in after-school programs, tutoring organizations, shelters, and schools. She currently works at KIPP Iluminar Academy in East LA as a full-time substitute teacher.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Feb 10

Ask A Tutor Tuesday 2/9/2016

My 6th grade student is severely behind and working at a 1st grade level.  Could it be a learning disorder?  What can I do to help him get assessed?”

Before you assume that a child has a learning disability, it’s important to talk to your regional coordinator about the behaviors you are noticing. It’s possible that your student is very far behind because he has moved schools and missed a lot of material. Parents can be alarmed if you outright propose that their child has a disability, so it is best to broach the topic carefully, and ask the parent if their child has ever been given a personal assessment. They may not know that this is even a possibility, and they may ask for more information. You can help provide support for parents if they decide they are interested in having their child assessed.

If your student’s parent wants to go forward with the assessment, they may give you permission to contact your student’s teacher (always ensure you have this permission before reaching out on your own). Usually, teachers are very happy to hear that the student has additional tutoring outside of school. You can also collect work samples such as a writing piece or document behaviors you might notice when your student is reading. Does your student stop frequently at every other word? When he/she does stop, what kinds of things does he/she do to try and figure out words? Additionally, keep track of what your student does when he/she gets stuck in any academic area you might be studying. Does he/she give up easily, does he/she try a strategy? Your observations from tutoring one on one will be help support the classroom teacher should he/she choose to recommend your student for assessment.

In the meantime, you can be a great benefit to your student by focusing on a foundational reading, writing or math skills during your tutoring sessions. While in school your student may be struggling to get through sixth grade curriculum, during tutoring sessions, you can focus on reading lower level books, creating complete sentences and spelling, or increasing addition/subtraction/multiplication fluency.

Whether your student gets tested or not, your role as a tutor is incredibly important and beneficial. If you are able to begin to fill in some of the academic gaps during your weekly tutoring sessions, your student will get closer and closer to feeling more successful in the classroom.

About the tutor: 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!

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

 

Feb 2

Ask A Tutor – 2/1/2016

Question: “There have been a lot of good suggestions about keeping your student motivated, but sometimes I find myself unmotivated and not seeing a difference in my student.”

We’ve all been there. It can be difficult to sustain motivation when you feel like you’re not seeing changes in your student, but rest assured, your consistent presence is making an impact. Mentoring and tutoring go hand in hand, so taking an interest in your student and modeling good educational practices are invaluable lessons. Teaching your student basic skills for school survival (organization, note-taking techniques, planning ahead, the importance of being on time) will aid them in their academics long after your sessions have ended.

However, if you are concerned that your student is not progressing academically, you can think about how you’re structuring your sessions. Are you only working on homework or have you done an assessment with your student to discover the ‘gaps’ in their education? While it is sometimes more convenient to rely on homework as a session activity, sometimes the work is beyond the student’s level, and the student would benefit more from reviewing material he/she has missed along the way.

Once you’ve done an assessment and have some idea of the main topics your student needs help with, you can set goals with your student. This will motivate both of you. If you’re working on random assignments from week to week, on many different subjects, it can be difficult to track changes, but if you plan strategically, you will begin to see progress. Set short and long-term goals. A short term goal might be to have your student compose a complex sentence. A long-term goal would be to have your student construct a unified paragraph.

Last, don’t forget to make your sessions fun! End every session with a short, 5 or 10 minute game as a reward for the hard work you and your student have done. Taking some time to bond with your student will make sessions more worthwhile for both of you.

Amanda Carr joined School on Wheels in early 2015. Before moving to California, she taught English and writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and worked as a volunteer manager at the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Jan 19

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 1/19/2016

Question: “I have been working with my student for a month and she’s getting her report card next week. I want to review it with her but I’m not sure how to go about doing this, especially considering her low grades. I’m concerned about embarrassing her. Do you have any tips?

Report cards are a great way to track student progress throughout the school year. They include useful feedback from teachers, and grades (or points) are assigned to show whether or not students are reaching grade level standards. On the other hand, grades can easily decrease a student’s confidence if he or she is performing below grade level and receives low grades. As tutors, we can help our students by using report cards (or any other evaluations) as a way to reflect on academic performance. When reviewing a report card, we can ask our students the following questions to help them learn how to reflect, rather than dwell, on grades they earn:

  • How do you feel about this semester?
  • What are your strengths?  Why do you think you were so successful? Think about specific things you did this semester.
  • What are some things we can work on? What skill can we develop during our tutoring sessions to improve this grade?
  • What are three realistic goals you can make to sustain or improve your grades?
  • Finish these sentences: 1. I am proud of myself because…  2. I would like to improve in….  3. I will commit to… to achieve my personal goal next semester.

All in all, we should remind students that in life, evaluations (like report cards) are necessary, but we must remember to take the time to reflect on our performance and strive for personal growth.     

About the tutor: 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!

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Jan 12

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 1/12/2016

Question: My student stopped doing his homework completely. He waits for me to do it together. I need some ideas how to encourage him. Other than that he is very capable.

There are several different reasons why students might not want to complete homework independently. The most common reason is because they perceive the homework as too difficult or challenging. Similarly, the homework may be too advanced for their academic abilities.

The mentality of some students is that when the homework is too difficult, they do not trust themselves to get the correct answer. In order to avoid failing, they prefer to not do any of the homework at all rather than trying and making mistakes. It sounds like your student may be dependent on you because he knows he will get the answers correct when you’re around. To get him out of this dependent mindset, it is important for you to communicate your expectations and be conscious of the way you interact with him.

To communicate your expectations, let him know that it’s important for him to do his homework on a daily basis. Ask him why he is not completing his homework. Remind him that homework is an opportunity for him to practice the skills he learned at school, and that if he doesn’t practice them he will be more likely to forget what he learned. I always tell my students to compare homework to weight training. If the weights aren’t difficult, the athlete will never gain any muscle. Similarly, if your student keeps doing easy homework, his knowledge will stay the same.

Sometimes students may not trust their own judgment to get an answer right. If your student says the homework is too difficult, encourage him to solve the first problem in each assignment independently before you help him. If he says it’s too difficult, ask him what about the problem is difficult. Encourage him to be specific rather than relying on a general statement such as “It’s too hard.”

Even if the problem is truly beyond his grade level, have him work independently before helping him. It is important to promote a mentality where he tries to solve a problem on his own no matter how hard it is, even if he does not succeed. It might be frustrating for the student, but we want him to realize that trying to solve a problem and getting the answer wrong will help him learn more than not trying at all. Learning from mistakes and failures is one of the best ways for people to learn quickly.

After he has solved the problem, give him feedback on how he did. Offer specific praise on things he did well. For example when I see my student complete a math problem and get the answer wrong, I’ll say something like, “I like how you figured out that we need to use addition. That’s a good first step. Let’s see what numbers we need to add together.” This will build his confidence that at least he’s doing something right. I try to avoid offering contradicting praise such as “I like how you figured out we need to use addition, but you added the wrong numbers together.” Contradicting praise will only confuse the student.

When I give my students positive feedback, I avoid generalizations as well. Instead of saying “Great job completing your homework!” you can say “I like how you kept focused on that one problem even though it was challenging.” Or instead of saying “You’re so smart!” you can praise the strategy he used to solve the problem or his effort. Ex: “You found a really good way to solve that problem” or “I can tell that you’ve been working hard.” This way, the student knows what he should do if he wants more praise.

About the Tutor: Natalie Platon possesses seven years of experience working with K-12th grade students in different capacities and is currently finishing her multiple subjects teaching program with CSU Los Angeles. She has a deep passion for working in diverse and underserved communities and has worked in after-school programs, tutoring organizations, shelters, and schools.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Jan 5

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 1/5/2016

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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 .
  1. 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.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.