Tag: Ask A Tutor

Oct 13

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 10/13/2015

Question: Tutoring my 6 year-old student has been really challenging. His attention span is very limited, he does not like to follow instruction, and he has some behavioral issues. It is a learning process for me. Sometimes all he is willing to do is listen to me read him a book. There have also been a couple of occasions when I had to end the session early because of behavioral problems. Whenever that’s the case, I just calmly tell him that because he was choosing not to learn with me, I was going to end early, and I make him shake hands with me that the next week he will be ready and willing to learn – and the next week, he typically has a MUCH improved attitude.

He is definitely an intelligent child, but I worry that he isn’t learning as much from me as he could. Maybe you could give me some tips for guiding his attention/behavior?

-Jennifer, Region 5

Hi!

Great question! In my past experiences working as a preschool assistant teacher and working in different Kindergarten classrooms, I have seen firsthand the importance of building consistency with my younger students. In my previous experiences, younger students will misbehave because they feel insecure or nervous. When students become accustomed to a schedule, they know what to expect which makes them less likely to misbehave.

First, I always inform my students at the beginning of the session what our schedule will be and what activities we will complete. A sample 1-hour session could be:

3:00-3:05 PM: Sing a song
3:05-3:20 PM: Complete one homework assignment
3:20-3:30 PM: Read a book
3:30-3:50 PM: Complete another homework assignment
3:50-4:00 PM: Color

You could even draw a schedule with pictures that shows the student the order of the activities.

Once the student gets accustomed to the schedule and his behavior improves, you can start making adjustments and become more flexible with it. A possible adjustment is switching an activity out (ex: replacing singing a song with playing a game such as ‘Simon Says’). The challenging part will be getting your student used to the schedule at first, but it will help both of you out in the long run.

Here is a useful article from Aha! Parenting that stresses the importance of building structures and routines for young students.

Best,

Natalie

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 6

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 10/5/2015

Question: I’ve been tutoring since July, and my student recently went back to school. The last two weeks, I’ve been working on homework with her during our sessions. She has a lot, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to do other activities in addition. How do I find the right balance? She really insists on doing her homework but some of it seems too advanced.

Hello,

I’m also a tutor who finds it challenging to balance time spent on homework and additional activities within a tutoring session. However, I’ve found that having a schedule of activities is helpful for me and my student because it structures our sessions in a manageable and timely manner. The schedule does not need to be too specific or rigid. What’s more important is that the schedule guides—but doesn’t limit—the tutoring session through a series of expected weekly activities. For instance, typically, my student and I work on homework for 30 minutes, then spend 20 minutes on filling in a specific academic gap, and finally have 10 minutes of free time. But of course there are times when a certain activity dominates the whole session. More often than not, this activity is homework.

Like you, I can also be really concerned when I spend too much tutoring time on homework, especially when I know that the assignment is above my student’s capacity. In this situation, I blend another activity into homework help. Typically, I blend homework time with filling in one or more academic gaps. I do this because firstly, homework can help inform us of our student’s gaps. Secondly, I’ve found that knowing my student’s achievement gaps helps me identify my student’s challenging areas within the assignment. I can use this knowledge to properly guide my student to complete the homework. If you have not done so, I recommend that you look at report cards, or administer a SOW assessment to help you identify your student’s specific gaps.

Now, if you find that your student is having way too much trouble with her homework, it might be helpful to talk to your student’s teacher so that you can receive additional assistance as well.

I hope this helps!

Best,

Andrea

About the Tutor: Andrea Aguinaldo has been with School on Wheels tutor for almost a year as both a volunteer tutor and one of our AmeriCorps members. As part of SOW’s Volunteer Engagement team, she helps research volunteer resources.

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.

Sep 29

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/29/2015

Question: Dear Ask a Tutor,

I’ve been tutoring a 3rd grade student for about 2 months now. We meet at 6:00pm on Wednesdays. Every session she seems to be really tired, and it’s challenging to get her engaged. I’m not sure what to do, so any help would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Sarah

Hello,

In my whole duration of being a tutor at School On Wheels, I’ve often tutored during those same hours or even a bit later. There are a few things you want to keep in mind:

  1. The student may have just come home from school. This can be a tiring ordeal. It was for some of my students, who were still attending their former schools to give them a sense of comfort and normalcy through a tough situation. These schools tended to be further away, and students could only reach school via public transit. Sometimes students might be splitting time between family members or parents, etc. For many reasons, their days–even after school–can be demanding and tiring. Oftentimes, the parents have to take their children everywhere with them, and students run many important and timely errands with their parents. The parents have a lot to worry about as well, and their children have to endure that too.
  2. The student’s meal times are either limited or strictly scheduled. Ever since I’ve noticed this fact, I’ve tried my best to cater to this. If they are in a shelter, most likely the shelter strictly observes when meals are served and other matters concerning food. I make sure that my tutoring hour never coincides with whenever the shelter serves lunch or dinner. I also try to make sure that the student has a break, maybe 30 minutes to relax, before I arrive. I want to give them some time to unwind and eat.

Sometimes, I may bring a snack for my students, but only with the parent’s permission. That usually wakes them up. Nonetheless, I strongly suggest that you politely bring up your concerns with the parent(s) and see if you can work out a new time or day that works for both of you. You can start by saying “S/he looks very tired around this time…Should we change the time/day to _____?” I It’s always good to be a little flexible in those matters and with time. I found that when I made my arrival time a bit later, the student had eaten and had enough time to relax, and they seemed well-energized during our session.

However, if your time is fixed around a busy schedule, maybe think of fun tasks for the student in the beginning to wake them up? You could try talking about something your student finds fun or interesting. If my student is talkative, we usually begin with a chat before work. Good luck, I hope this helped.

-Timesia

About the tutor: 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.

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.

Sep 22

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/22/2015

Question: My question is about student behavior and if you frequently come across destructive behavior or behavior that shows students don’t want to be there. How do you deal with that, especially with the older kids?

-Jonathan

Hi Jonathan,

Great question. There are definitely times when students, especially older students, might appear uninterested in tutoring. Actual physically destructive behavior is very uncommon. The best thing to do with an unengaged student is to find out what they want to learn. This way, they are helping to lead the tutoring session rather than being just a passive participant. Students who are engaged are also much less likely to act out.

First, simply ask them what they want to learn. My student wanted to learn cursive even though Common Core says no. We worked on it together, and now she has very nice handwriting. She also wanted to learn about elephants, so we wrote to the elephant rescue in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Writing topics can be anything. Think outside the box and bring interesting lessons to your sessions. For example, teach your student to count in Chinese or another language. We all like to feel smart and learn something most people do not know. If your student says everything at school is boring, that is just because they are not getting to the good stuff in the subject. For example, no one ever said ‘foot-binding’ is boring. Take them out of their comfort zone. From foot-binding it is not a far stretch to teach them about the Silk Road. You might also try trivia to set an interesting tone for the session, e.g. ” What very fat American president got stuck in a bathtub in the White House?”

Last, if you would like tips on tutoring older students or students in a group home, School on Wheels has some great resources in their workshops, for example, this one on Tackling Teens. The most important thing you can do is build a bond with your student, no matter their age, so that they trust and respect you from the beginning.

Hope this helped.

Pat

About the tutor: 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.

Sep 15

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/15/2015

Question: I’ve been tutoring since July, and my student recently went back to school. The last two weeks, I’ve been working on homework with her during our sessions. She has a lot, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to do other activities in addition. How do I find the right balance? She really insists on doing her homework but some of it seems too advanced. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

—A tutor from Region 2

Hi, tutor from Region 2!

The first couple of weeks of school should include homework that’s mostly review for the student. If she is having trouble completing it on her own, you might think about contacting her teacher. Make sure you get in touch with your regional coordinator to verify that your student’s parent/guardian has signed the form that gives you permission first.

As a classroom teacher myself, I think of homework as a way for students to independently practice what they learned in class, with little or no help. Since she’s having trouble completing it, I would request that her homework be modified to contain fewer problems so that you’ll have time to work on other areas of weakness. Make sure you give her a quick assessment, which you can find here, to find where her gaps may be, or ask her teacher what skills you can work on in addition to homework. As tutors, we are an asset to classroom teachers. Don’t be afraid to reach out and work with teachers to make a plan best for your student.

Best,
Jackie

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 Master of Science 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.

Sep 8

Ask A Tutor Tuesday! – 9/8/2015

Question: I had my first student for over a year, but after that, I’ve had a different student every 2 months. It’s been really hard to create a bond like I did with my first student. Do you have any suggestions?

Hi there,

When I began as a Volunteer at School on Wheels, I first started at an emergency shelter, where I was lucky if I worked with one student for a month. So, I understand your confusion and possible frustration with the situation. I got too attached to my first student and thought about all these ideas for teaching them. I’d become so invested, yet my student only stayed at the shelter for so long before eventually moving far away. After this, I realized I had to change my mindset and make goals that were short-term for the student.

As I worked with my student on homework and other activities, I began to ask myself each week: What do I want my student to learn today? Whatever it was, I tried to just make that day enjoyable and a good learning experience for them. I always socialized a bit too. Open yourself up to your student, ask how his/her day was, and tell your student one small interesting thing that happened with you. This can help create a friendlier dynamic and shift the burden off of you being a strict figure to someone who can at least make their day better. Through tutoring at the emergency shelter, I had to learn to be more flexible and work with my situation—adapting to these students and the circumstances of their lives.

So, here are the tips outlined:

  • Make short-term goals and continue as you go on. What would you want the student to learn today (the day you tutor them)? Example: strengthen addition skills. Focusing on the positive each day can help create a bond.
  • Make the best of the time you have with them, and try to be a positive role model for the short amount of time you are in their lives.
  • Ask about their day and interests. If they won’t talk much, tell them something funny that happened to you so that at least they will laugh. Ask some questions about tv shows, music, or books.
  • Each child is different, so you have to really try to get to know them and not view them as someone temporary. Focus on them right now because they are your student for the present. Allow yourself to be flexible with the kids you come across.
  • Keep in contact with the parent(s). This not only helps establish great communication, but also will encourage the family to like and trust you. They may more more dependable as a result.

I wish you the best of luck!

Timesia

About the tutor: 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.