MyTutor Tips & Features

How to structure a tutorial

Whilst every tutorial is different and although every student will learn in a different way, it’s useful for tutors to have a lesson template to refer to. This will ensure you cover all the material you need to and that you can convey your examples in a concise and useful way for your students. This article draws on advice published by the Department for Schools, Children and Families, which can be read in full here.

Preparation

Before your first tutorial, have a Meet the Tutor session to establish what your tutee needs and what the parent expects from the sessions. Work out what barriers the student is facing, what exam boards they are sitting and which topics they need help with. You should also always bring along a past paper. It means that you have something constructive that you can work on in the lesson, even if the student hasn’t brought any work or if you finish working through the lesson material earlier than planned.

Before their subsequent sessions, make sure you have activities and examples prepared to upload to the shared whiteboard. Also ensure you have all the topic information to hand, so you can answer any questions the student may have. Mark any homework you may have set and prepare feedback.

Starting the session

Build up trust and rapport with the student. Ask them how their week has been and what they have learnt at school. Perhaps play a game to get them ready for the session. It is important to make them feel relaxed. They should see you as someone who is there to help them, rather than strictly assess them. In fact, instilling the lessons with a sense of fun is key to boosting the student’s engagement.

Discuss the lesson structure with the student. Explain what topic(s) you are going to cover and in what order so they know what to expect. You should also set goals to indicate what you want to achieve in the tutorial. This will make them feel more involved in the learning process. Don’t be afraid to diverge from the plan, however, if it transpires the student needs extra help on certain topic areas.

Recap problem areas

If your tutee faced any specific problems in their previous sessions, the recap these areas. If you set them any homework, run through their answers and make sure they have clarified their knowledge. Then move on to the next subject.

Present a new skill or idea

Explain the new topic, offering current, real-world examples along the way. Does the student have familiarity with the topic? If so, get them to explain what they know, so you can identify the gaps in their knowledge and also work out if they have misunderstood any of the core concepts.

Then demonstrate these ideas. If tutoring a memory based subject, such as Chemistry, then this might involve clarifying and condensing the ideas in a mind map or on flashcards. With skill based learning, demonstrate a worked through example, thinking aloud as you go. It can also be useful to think about how you learnt best when you did the exams you are now coaching your student for. What worked for you? Why not ask your friends if there were any games or techniques which especially helped them.

Source: The National Strategies

Testing

Next, work through an example with your student. Once this has been completed, get them to work through an example alone, thinking out loud as they do. You want to make sure that they can not only get the right answer, but that they can arrive at the answer in the right way.

If they are struggling to work through a problem alone, give them small prompts or work through an extra (easier) example with them. Let them get to answers themselves, however. Simply asking ‘Do you agree?’ will lead to them parroting you, instead of truly absorbing the ideas for themselves.

In terms of pacing, you should deliver tuition at a pace that is suitable for your tutee but also leaves them challenged. Be aware that some students will pick things up more quickly than others, so be prepared to adapt accordingly.

Be flexible. If the student is having a difficult day or is growing tired near the end of the session, then take a step back. Let them take a short breather – they could stretch their legs or have a drink of water.

Praise

All students respond well to be praise. Being told how well they are doing will boost their confidence and make them love learning. Give your student as much encouragement as possible, but avoid any general or insincere statements. Praise should always be specific.

If a student makes a mistake, don’t get angry or frustrated. See if they can identify where they have gone wrong. If they can’t, explain their error and try to offer them a general rule for how to solve this kind of issue in future.

Conclude

Don’t end a session when a student is struggling. Instead, end it on a high note, after the student has accomplished something positive, such as working through a particularly difficult example.

Restate the objectives of the session and discuss them with the student. Were they all achieved? Are there any aims which require more work? Then set goals for next week, as well as any homework you think is suitable. Be sure to congratulate the student for their hard work and any specific areas they did well on, and note down their progress.

You should use a spreadsheet or document to record the topics that you work on. Include some brief comments on how you think the student is doing. Sending this to parents at regular intervals is a great way of substantiating what you’re working on and proving you’re covering a lot of ground. Remember that you can also leave feedback for the student and/or parent after the session.

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