Tutors: How Tutoring Can Help Your Child
Plus Tips for Your Tutor

Many children rely on help from tutors. Kids learn at different rates in the classroom, and sometimes teachers are too busy to make sure every child is grasping the information. A tutor is a wonderful idea for children who could use a little help, kids who have ADHD or even for children who want to get ahead.

Having a tutor allows your child to work one-on-one with someone who has a fair grasp of the information. A good tutor will help your child not only achieve better grades and have a better understanding of class material, they can help your child cultivate good communication and problem solving skills.

However, just like children, no tutor is alike. You want to ensure that your child has the right tutor. And being a good tutor doesn't always come down to smarts, although intelligence definitely does help. More importantly, being a good tutor is about having good communication skills (that includes listening skills)!

Having a good tutor also means that your tutor knows how to help your child learn. We've got some excellent tips on how children should be guided when being tutored. We suggest you pass these tips on to your tutor.

  1. Lecturing and Explaining
    Tutors may frequently need to explain a key concept of the material to the student if they feel the student has not been properly introduced to the key concept. However, explaining and lecturing should actually not be the focus of the tutoring; they should be kept to a minimum. This is because the tutor is there to help the student use the resources available to him-sometimes this resource is the tutor, in which case explaining or lecturing is necessary. Sometimes the resource is the textbook-this means you help the student find the answers or details in the textbook. So if you're not lecturing the student the entire time, what ARE you doing?

  2. Question and Answer

  3. The idea behind questions is to guide the tutee to ask and answer the right questions-the questions that are significant to the learning material. That means you have to ask your tutee the right questions too, which can be hard. Here are some tips for asking the right questions:

    a. ask open-ended questions: stay away from yes/no response questions; open-ended questions allow you to understand how you tutee thinks and permits you to make appropriate corrections explanations
    - where do you think we should begin?
    - what are the steps we use to work on this problem
    b. tutor should ask simple, probing questions; these test the understanding of the student
    - what led you to that conclusion?
    - if what you say is true, what are the implications?
    c. rephrase your questions

  4. Summarizing
    Now that you've worked through the concepts of the learning material, it's important to have your tutee summarize all the information. This allows the student to synthesize all the bits of information and form the 'big picture'. It reaffirms the information the student has just learned.
    Have the tutee summarize the main concepts or the steps in solving the problem. One issue that faces tutors is 'parroting', and parroting frequently occurs without the tutor even knowing about it. Parroting is when a tutee just repeats what the tutor has said-this signifies a very superficial understanding of the key concepts. Instead, make sure the tutee has grasped the information and processed it, looking at it in different ways. Have tutee paraphrase the key concepts, problem solving steps or vocabulary in his own words and ask him to come up with examples.

  5. Test Your Pupil
    Now that your tutee has had the opportunity to summarize the information, he is ready to be tested. No tutor help is complete without testing the student. While you may think you're student has understood everything you've said, testing him will show areas that he hasn't understood. You can then spend about five minutes going over the concepts he's having problems with.

    The trick to testing your student is starting with the basics. You never want to assume that your tutee has understood what you've gone over together. Starting with the basic components of the lesson means that you're reaffirming what has been learned. This bottom-up approach also means that you can quickly identify what areas need to be clarified before moving on to more central concepts.

    a. test vocabulary first: it's a good idea to have index cards on hand, write down vocabulary terms and then store those cards alphabetically (an index card system can be found inexpensively)
    b. move on to all associated terminology: make sure your student understands the other fine points associated with the key concepts
    c. ask them to explain key concepts to you: at the start of the lesson, wan the tutee that they will have to explain the key concepts as if they were the tutor; psychological studies have shown that when you study under the assumption that you will have to teach the information to someone else, you remember much more information
    d. ask more probing questions: listen to ascertain whether the tutee has a firm grasp of the information (also, ASK the student if he understands everything!)
    e. draw diagrams of the information: drawing diagrams is great for visual learners; also, by changing instructional medium, you're reinforcing the material

A Note About the Learning Process
Let's take a look at how the learning and memory process operate. Understanding these points will help the tutor and parent organize information so that the child can more easily comprehend and remember information.

The first thing you need to identify is what type of learner your tutee is. Have your student imagine a relative or friend who lives far away and who they haven't seen in a while. Now have them imagine that the relative greets them with a 'hello' and the relative either gives them a hug or shakes their hand (whatever feels more natural for the pupil). Now ask the tutee what is most clear in his mind: the sound of the relative or friend's voice as they say 'hello', the hug or the sound of the relative's face.

  1. Visual Learner
    If your pupil is a visual learner, they can probably most easily conjure up the face of the relative or friend. Use lots of drawings and diagrams for your visual learner. Have parents invest in a white board or a chalk board.
  2. Auditory Learners
    If your pupil easily imagined the sound of his relative's voice, then he's an auditory learner. Working through the concepts verbally and allowing him lots of opportunities to talk about the information will suite his learning style best.
  3. Tactile and Kinesthetic Learners
    That's right, if he could most easily imagine the hug, he's a tactile learner. Tactile learners are somewhat different from kinesthetic learners, although they're definitely related. Kinesthetic learners learn best when they're moving or using large muscle groups. Use role-playing, simulations, discovery and use a chalkboard (they get to use their arm muscles). Tactile learners predominantly take in information through the sense of touch. Use writing, drawing, note taking and hands-on approaches.
Now that you know the individual needs of your pupil, it's necessary to understand the learning and memory mechanisms of every child. Memory has three main components-encoding, storage and retrieval.
  1. Encoding
    Encoding is when your student actually takes in the information; for example, sitting in class and listening to the teacher. The key to successful encoding is paying attention. Kids with ADHD often have difficulties with encoding, as they have trouble paying attention. One way to make sure kids pay attention is to keep them interacting while they are encoding-have them shout out answers or use hands-on approaches.
  2. Storage
    The second component of memory is storage. Let's pretend that the student heard every word of the lesson. The time between the encoding and the retrieval, otherwise known as storage time, definitely plays an important role in how much is remembered. Being asked a question about what they've just learned five minutes after learning will yield better results than being asked two weeks later.
    To help promote successful memory of material, have child look over notes before a test to refresh they're memory.
  3. Retrieval
    Retrieval is the last step in the process. Retrieval is the actual remembering, or when they look in their memory for the information they learned.
    Successful retrieval begins with proper encoding, and frequently recalling to mind what has been encoded, so that it doesn't gather dust.
Now that we've taken a look at the memory components, understand that information is usually lost at every step. To ensure stronger memory, first make sure the child is encoding as much of the information as possible. Then to keep storage time shorter, have them look over notes and lessons frequently, so that they are always refreshing the information. Doing this will result in better retrieval come test time.

A Note About Rewards and Reinforcement
Remember that kids need to be rewarded for doing good work. That doesn't mean you bring candy to the lesson, it means you offer verbal praise when they're getting the right answers or when they're trying really hard.

It's also very important that you offer very specific verbal praise. This allows the student to understand what good behavior is. For example, 'you did a very good job when you summarized the key concepts and provided supporting details for those concepts'.

Happy Tutoring!