Tag: Ask A Tutor

Dec 9

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 12/9/2015

Question: What is the School on Wheels policy on gift giving over the holidays? I would like to give my student something but I’m not sure what is appropriate. Thanks.

This is a great question! It’s completely understandable to want to share a gift with your student over the holiday season. School on Wheels encourages creative and project-oriented gift giving, rather than spending money on purchased gifts, which can cause friction with siblings or make the parent(s) feel uncomfortable. Here are some ideas:

  • School supplies: If your student is running low on notebooks, pens and paper, or anything else, ask your regional coordinator for some additional supplies.
  • Books can be a wonderful present for students, and we have lots available at the Skid Row Learning Center. Ask your regional coordinator or drop by during business hours.
  • If you want to be creative, think about your student’s interests. If you have a skill, such as playing an instrument, perhaps you could perform for him/her. Alternatively, make something unique for your student. Even a simple handmade card will show your student you care.
  • Teach your student something they are interested in (a language, instrument, or craft). For example, show your student how to count and write in Japanese.
  • Do a holiday-themed craft project with your student. See this link for ideas. Most of the materials for these projects can be found at home or provided by your regional coordinator.

Remember to always check with your student’s parent or guardian before you give a gift or do a project with religious connotations. Most of all, have fun!

We would be happy to hear any additional thoughts and suggestions on our Facebook page!

About the Tutors: Timesia Garcia is a dedicated volunteer, passionate about helping others. She studies sociology at a local community college and has been tutoring with School on Wheels for almost two years.

Amanda Carr is the Trainer/Floating Coordinator at School on Wheels. Before joining the organization, 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.

Nov 17

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 11/17/2015

Question: Do you have any suggestions for keeping my student engaged during the holidays? His mother has already approached me about taking a few weeks off in December, and I’m worried about losing the progress we’ve made.

All students experience learning loss over the holiday season. Unfortunately for homeless students, these breaks affect them more acutely and can exacerbate their already existing academic gaps. Fortunately, tutors can help mitigate these learning gaps. The best way to lessen the learning loss your student will experience over the upcoming breaks is to provide your student’s parent with engaging educational activities that they can do together. A successful educational activity should be three things:

  1. Simple – Design an activity that is relatively straightforward. For a lot of parents, time is a precious commodity. Create a simple activity that they can do for an hour every day or every other day.
  2. Realistic – Find an activity that will work with your student’s parents’ schedule and within the limitations of their housing situation. Be realistic about what a student can and is willing to accomplish during the break.
  3. Fun – Use the break as an opportunity to explore a student’s educational interests outside of worksheets and book reports. ELA and math should be components within the activity, not necessarily the focus of the activity. Think creatively!

Some sample activities are:

  1. A journal – This project is straightforward and integrates into a student’s existing holiday plans. Have your student keep and short journal of what they did during their holiday vacation. Younger students can combine words with drawings and collages. To increase the success of this activity, have your students practice keeping a journal before the holiday season starts. Try creating a sample entry together at your last session before the holidays begin.
  2. Independent research activity or self directed art/craft project – Have your student take control of their learning by assisting them in creating a research/art project. Have them research a subject that interests them and then present their research in a creative way when you reconvene after the holidays. Possible topics include: a biography of a famous person they admire or the history of a sport they like. If your student doesn’t have regular internet access, decide on a topic ahead of time and gather and print internet resources for your student before the break starts. Spend your last session before the holidays begin reviewing the gathered resources and outlining the structure of their presentation.   
  3. Reading a book – Recommend a book to your student to read over the holiday break. The Skid Row Learning Center has a large library of novels and picture books for tutors! Also, consider lending your student a copy of a novel that you enjoy.

About the tutor: Emile joined School on Wheels in 2015 as an AmeriCorps Summer VISTA before becoming the Learning Center Support. He previously worked as a LAUSD substitute Elementary School teacher and a graphic designer at Scholastic Book Fairs.

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.

*Note: Ask A Tutor will be taking a short break and will return on Tuesday, December 8th.

 

Nov 10

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 11/10/2015

Question: Do you have any suggestions for engaging my student’s mom? She always polite and says thanks but doesn’t ask about what we’re doing at all. I’d like to suggest that she goes over his multiplication tables because he is making slow progress memorizing them.

Timesia Garcia: Being a School on Wheels tutor, you will learn that you cannot solve every issue you encounter while working with the student(s) you tutor. Sometimes, an attempt at solving these issues may seem as if you are crossing boundaries (and you might be). There are a number of reasons the parent may not seem as interested in their child’s education as you’d hoped. The parent probably has a lot on their mind about other issues and we have to remember that.

However, there are some tactics you can try when it comes to keeping the parent informed on how your student is doing.

  • Before a session, show the parent what you intend to work on with their child. It’s good to walk in with a plan beforehand. Ask if the student needs school supplies or anything else in that time–and see if the parent(s) have any concerns about what their child should work on (homework or extra practice on certain materials).
  • After the session, request to speak with the parent (most times, the student will notify their parent for me). Discuss progress and have the child explain what they accomplished to their parent. Be positive and praise the child’s behavior or progress. Let the parent know what needs improvement and politely suggest they continue to practice and study between tutoring sessions.

By following these guidelines, I have done what I can without imposing myself on the child and parent. I know you want the best for your student, but we can only do so much on our part. I hope this helps.

Jackie Romo: In my experience, parents are actually more interested in what we do during tutoring sessions than we think. However, parents often believe they don’t know enough about math or reading to help their child. In order to engage parents and keep them actively involved in their child’s learning, you may want to try some of these suggestions:

  • Create a short progress report: You don’t have to make elaborate notes, but think about using a checklist system to keep the parent involved and aware of strengths and weaknesses. A checklist may also be helpful for parents to refer to when they speak more formally with their child’s teacher.
  • Share resources: If you have a fun game or engaging activity, why not ask your student to play with their parent throughout the week? For example, there are several multiplication activities that can be done with flashcards. During a session, your student could make their very own set of flashcards (with index cards or paper) and use them to review or play a game with their parent. If the parent is reluctant or too busy, suggest putting them up in their room so that the child can see and review them everyday. Share your ideas and suggestions with parents and they may actually try them out.
  • Don’t be afraid to communicate: If the parent you are working with doesn’t ask about the tutoring session, don’t be afraid to share their child’s progress anyway. In the beginning, try to balance your feedback and focus on the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Communicating with the parent may also help keep your student accountable for his/her learning. If you are in regular communication with your student’s parent, he/she will understand that tutoring time is important and the goal is to make academic progress.

As a tutor, we have to remember that we not only influence our student’s academic progress, but we also support parents in their responsibilities outside of school. By including them in their child’s academic progress, we are helping to build a positive attitude toward learning. Take the initiative and talk to the parent! They’ll thank you for it!

About the Tutors: Timesia Garcia is a dedicated volunteer, passionate about helping others. She studies sociology at a local community college and has been tutoring with School on Wheels for almost two years.

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.

Nov 3

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 11/3/2015

This week, Natalie Platon discusses the challenge of teaching multiplication to a group of students at the Skid Row Learning Center.

Ever since first becoming a tutor at the Skid Row Learning Center in April 2014, I have worked with a wide range of students in terms of academic ability, grade level, social and emotional development, and more. However, out of all the moments I have shared with my students thus far, one of my most challenging moments occurred last summer when I was teaching my students multiplication.

I had been working with the same group of 3rd to 5th grade students all summer and had been testing them daily on their multiplication facts since I worked with them Monday to Friday. To prepare students, I would have them complete a multiplication worksheet before administering a multiplication facts test. The majority of my students were doing well and consistently passing their tests, but I had one student who kept repeatedly failing her 4’s multiplication test. Initially, I designed the worksheet so that students would have to answer the multiplication fact (ex: 4 x 2 = 8), then write it as a repeated addition fact (ex: 4 + 4 = 8), and finally draw a picture of this multiplication fact. However, despite completing this worksheet two days in a row, she still failed the test twice.

I noticed that she was becoming increasingly frustrated whenever she had to take the test, which required students to answer all 12 multiplication facts within two minutes. I encouraged her to be positive and do her best, but she couldn’t help but notice how her peers were passing while she was being left behind. She started shutting down whenever she had to do a multiplication activity. After she failed the test the second time, I realized I had to intervene because the worksheet strategy I was using for everyone else was simply not working for her.

I designed another worksheet that required her to memorize the multiples of the multiplication fact (ex: 4, 8, 12, 16, etc.). This time, however, the worksheet challenged her to answer the questions out of order. Thanks to the new strategy, she was able to visualize the multiplication facts in a different way and recall her facts more effectively. On her fourth try, she successfully passed her 4’s multiplication test. She started becoming excited to learn her multiplication facts, and she eventually caught up with her classmates.

With my role as a tutor, I became aware of the importance of teaching my students in different ways for them to truly understand what they’re learning. Sometimes this means having to do extra work to design new activities or lessons, but it’s definitely worth it when I see my students’ positive reactions after they finally understand a difficult concept.

 

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.

Oct 27

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 10/27/2015

This week, tutor Emile Kanhai discusses working with a high school student who was initially resistant to tutoring.

My most difficult moments as a tutor always come when working with students who have been newly enrolled in our tutoring program. I’ve learned to be patient with students and to understand that a student’s first tutoring sessions will be more about acclimating a student to tutoring then about helping them with their homework.

This summer, I spent a lot of time tutoring an older high school student who was not only new to School on Wheels, but also new to California. She was very homesick and overwhelmed by her sudden move to Los Angeles. Her anxiety and frustration manifested in her bad attitude and negative behavior. She was closed off and intensely difficult to work with. When she did engage with me, it was either through taciturn one word answers or by snapping at me angrily. Working with her was frustrating to say the least! Additionally, my background in education is from working as an Elementary School substitute teacher. Before this summer I had little to no experience working with high school students.

There’s no magical solution to working with students like this, but of all the techniques I tried, the most effective was simply showing up and being present and positive with her. For me that meant three things. First, giving my student my complete and undivided attention. Second, ignoring or brushing aside the sarcastic and negative things she said. Choosing what battles to fight is a technique that I learned as a substitute teacher. A lot of children and young adults misbehave as a way to receive negative attention, because it’s the only way they have been socialized to interact with adults. And third, paying close attention to her body language. My student was not a verbal communicator; a lot of what she “said” to me was through the way she would maintain or break eye contact or position herself. (For example, crossed arms and shaking her leg was her way of telling me she was angry or bored, relaxed with her hands on the table or fiddling with her pencil meant she was interested and receptive to learning.)

My student is a lot easier to work with now. She’s much more talkative and eager to engage with me. She showed great initiative in researching subjects that interest her (the geography of Los Angeles county) and finding effective methods of studying (creating flashcards for her American History class). She’s polite and funny, and I genuinely enjoy our time together. My student’s shift in attitude didn’t happen overnight; it was a change that gradually took place over the course of many weeks. Those were some difficult weeks for me, but as rough as they were, it helped to imagine my student’s perspective. I learned a lot from my student, but the most important thing I learned is that it’s one thing to espouse empathy, but it’s another thing to practice it.

About the tutor: Emile joined School on Wheels in 2015 as an AmeriCorps Summer VISTA before becoming the Learning Center Support. He previously worked as a LAUSD substitute Elementary School teacher and a graphic designer at Scholastic Book Fairs.

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.

Oct 20

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 10/20/2015

Over the next several weeks, our tutors will share some of their most challenging tutoring moments, as well as the strategies they used to overcome these obstacles. This week’s entry is from Jackie Romo, who discusses working with a student who was so far behind, he completely shut down during their sessions.

A couple of years ago, I met a student who entered school for the first time ever in third grade. By the time I met him, he was a fourth grader, and as one can imagine, incredibly behind in school. During our first session, he seemed excited to be working with me and loved the book I read aloud to him. When I took out a second book and said, “your turn,” he completely shut down. He not only refused to read, but he told me he didn’t want a tutor after all. When I offered him another book, he said all of the books were “lame.”

No matter what I tried, he refused, and the rest of the session was rough to say the least. It took me a while to get this student to do much of anything, and I felt as though I was wasting his time each time I came for tutoring. Since he was so far behind in school, however, I knew it was important that I not give up on him. Eventually I realized that I had not spent any time getting to know my student. I knew quite a bit of information about him academically, but I had no idea what his interests were. I began to compile a wide variety of books, and each session, I’d share them to learn more about his likes and dislikes. I knew I needed something to grab his interest if our sessions were going to be beneficial.

After a small amount of success, I finally hit the jackpot when I brought an encyclopedia of science books for kids that I came across at the library. It was a large hardcover book with plenty of interesting pictures and science facts. On that day, he said something that changed our sessions: “I love doing science experiments!” After that, I was set. We made a deal to work hard on reading activities, study math flashcards, then use the last fifteen minutes of each session to do a short science experiment. He was in! Each week, I’d google search an easy science experiment, and for the most part, I could get him to do any kind of work or studying in exchange for a fun experiment.

After that experience, I learned the importance of knowing my student both academically and personally. In addition to the School on Wheels ‘getting-to-know you survey, I found a more detailed survey on Scholastic.com. Each time I got a new student, I made sure to administer the survey sometime during the first formal session. In the end, when we make student interests seem valuable and important, our students are more willing to respect the work we do during our sessions.

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.