The Best Methods for English Tutoring
Before actually getting into the methods of tutoring students in English writing and reading skills, let’s take a look at how tutoring is different than classroom instruction. Since I have experienced both, I do know the difference. Classroom teaching is a job of group management whereas tutoring is a one-on-one experience.
An English tutor does the following:
• A tutor should tailor lessons to meet the learning style of the student.
• A tutor can use several different methods to present information and help students in grasping concepts.
• By asking for help with specific assignments or tasks, students can lead the way.
• Often, what has been taught in the classroom is reinforced by students.
• Tutors pay attention to the individual needs of the student.
As an English classroom teacher, the methods of Dr. Madeline Hunter were those followed by myself as well as most of my colleagues. These methods outlined in the “Madeline Hunter Mastery Learning”, although geared to a classroom of students, can also be applied to the one-on-one instruction of a tutor. Let’s take a look at Hunter’s methods of mastery learning and apply each to tutoring and specific English skills.
Step 1: The Anticipatory Set
The first thing you should do is get the student focused on what will be learned. This is done with the anticipatory set which is a short activity to get the student focused before the lesson begins. It can tie in today’s lesson to the previous lesson. It can be examples of sentences with errors based on what will be taught. You can ask the student, “Is this sentence correct?” or “Does anything seem wrong to you?”
This anticipatory set can also be considered the “mental set” of the lesson. It is made up of an instructional concept to get the student actively involved and focused in learning. You could also think of it as being a “lesson introduction” or what teachers call the “hook”. Considering the fact that it is the “hook” to get the student’s attention, you could try something funny such as a joke. An example of a joke you could use at the start of a lesson on plurals:
“What is the plural of man?” asked the teacher.
“Men,” the student answered.
“And what is the plural of child?”
“Twins,” replied the student.
Teacher: “What do we mean by plural?”
Student: “By plural we mean it’s the same thing, only more of it.”
Step 2: Purpose and Objective
In order to get a student to learn more effectively, the student must know what they are expected to learn and why. If you, as the tutor, also know this, you will teach more effectively.
The student must know what it is he or she will learn, the objective, and why it is important to learn. How learning the objective will improve their writing as well as their reading will be demonstrated. In other words, what will the student do, with what will the student do it, and how well will the student do it?
It may very well be that it is necessary for you to decide whether or not to share the lesson objective with the student. Especially with tutoring, it might be helpful for you to know whether it is something this particular student needs to learn. A discussion of why it is important for the student to learn a particular skill and how, for instance, it will improve his or her writing should most likely take place. In any case, you should inform the student what the objective is, “At the end of today’s lesson you will be able to . . .”
An objective, for instance, could o develop an understanding of figurative language and to use figurative language in writing descriptions. Figurative language uses a comparison to describe.
Step 3: Input
In the most effective manner you can come up with, you should input the new knowledge into the lesson. This should be done with techniques including discovery, discussion, reading, or listening. Vocabulary, skills, and concepts should be clearly covered.
For the objective above, the input would be figurative language uses a comparison to describe. When you use figurative language in your writing it is so much more colorful and interesting.
Further input, a hyperbole is figurative language that is a usually a humorous exaggeration such as with this poem:
“Sarah Cynthia Stout Would not Take the Garbage Out”
“At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.” (Note: For an anticipatory set, I would read the entire poem to the student. You will find it at: http://mste.illinois.edu/courses/ci407su01/students/north/kristy/Project/K-Poem-Net.html)
Personification is giving something human qualities such as with this poem:
The dinosaurs are not all dead.
I saw one raise its iron head
To watch me walking down the road”
(The entire poem could be read as an anticipatory set. You will find the poem at: http://www.wittyprofiles.com/q/1198069%E2%80%8B)
Step 4: Model/Demonstrate
A representation of what is being taught is demonstrated or modelled for step 4. It can be visual or it can also be a representation heard or felt. It can also be a poem. Typically, modelling can come either along with or after the information is presented. It can also be part of the checking for understanding process (step 5).
• Contains the critical elements of the lesson.
• Should not be confusing.
• The student can see or hear the attributes.
• The student can discuss what they see or hear as it relates to the critical elements.
Simile: Simile is a figure of speech that compares two unlike things using “like” or “as”. (Information that would be given in step 3.)
My mom is like a fire.
She’s always warm, but sometimes she gets too hot.
Metaphor: A metaphor is a comparison of two things by using one kind of object in place of another to suggest the likeness between them. A metaphor does not use the words “like” or “as”. (Information that would be given in step 3.)
“I’m Already There” – Song by Lonestar – A father sings the following lines to his children:
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground.
I’m the whisper in the wind.
I’m your imaginary friend.”
Step 5: Checking for Understanding
Before the student is asked to practice based on the information and demonstrations previously presented, the tutor would now check if the student has attained adequate competence of the targeted learning. If not, you would then either re-teach or try a different approach. If the student’s competence is adequate, you would then go on to practice (step 6).
Checking for understanding of simile: As a follow up for step 5 (checking for understanding), you might ask the student how he or she would describe his or her father, brother, sister, or pet using a simile. You might ask the student to finish a sentence that begins with: “My sister is like”.
Checking for understanding of metaphor: For metaphor, you could ask the student if she were her sister how would she finish a sentence beginning with “I’m”.
Another approach would be to have the student interpret figures of speech in examples. This would also add to the student’s reading skills. You can find worksheets on the internet at: http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=figures-speech-metaphor-simile-personfication.
Step 6: Practice
Practice can be done during the lesson or as homework. This is when the student applies what he or she has learned. The purpose of practice is to check as to whether the student not only remembers what he or she has learned, but can also transfer it to other situations. According to Madeline Hunter, “to know something is to act on it – to act on it is to remember it”.
There are two kinds of practice:
Guided Practice — You assist the student with his or her applications. This allows you to make sure the student is comfortable with the ideas learned before you allow him or her to work independently.
Independent Practice — This type of practice is usually done as homework. The student will complete the task with no help from anyone.
Worksheets on figures of speech and most other English topics including common core for all grade levels can be found at: http://englishlinx.com.
A valuable way students can check for understanding as well as practice is through the use of a rubric. Using a rubric allows the student to self-assess. After assigning the student to write a descriptive paragraph, the student could use the following writing rubric:
Rings the Bell!
_____The paragraph starts with a surprising statement, a question or a quotation.
_____I used details that highlight at least 3 of the five sentences.
_____I used colorful and descriptive adjectives in my writing.
_____I included at least 3 details as part of my description.
_____I used a simile or a metaphor in my description.
_____I can hear my voice. My writing sounds like me.
_____My ending, conclusion, ties my ideas together in a satisfying way.
_____There are very few mistakes in spelling, sentences and punctuation.
Step 7: Closure
Closure is the final summary of the lesson. It should be at the end of every lesson since it brings the major ideas of the lesson into focus.
Closure should show that the student:
• Understood what was learned
• Knows the purpose of that learning
• Has experienced models of that learning
• Understands the value of what was learned.
An example of closure for any one of the figures of speech might be questions asked the student such as:
• Can you give me an example a sentence in a descriptive paragraph that includes a simile?
• How might the use of a figure of speech improve your writing?
• Ask for an example of a simile, metaphor, hyperbole or personification in a sentence.
CONCLUSION: The steps of a lesson described above can be applied to any lesson on writing or reading skills of English.