Getting the most out of a tutoring lesson means going in with a plan. The purpose of this blog post is to provide tutors with tips on how to structure their lessons.
How to structure your private lessons
We recommend that you start by:
Greeting your student: Saying hello and establish eye contact, be friendly and try to establish a common bond with them. Ask your student how they got on at school last week, and if there is anything that they would like to cover whilst you are there.
Outline your goals for the session: Before the lesson, draft a written outline of how you plan on structuring your time with your student during the session. Tell the student what you intend to cover, and try to stick to it. Don’t be afraid about diverging from the plan if you find that you need to spend extra time on a topic – you are there to help after all.
Presentation and discussion: Take time to explain the topic in a methodical way. Start with the basics and build up. Educators tend to call this scaffolding. In addition to teaching the core material, try and provide examples of how it is used in the real world – for instance, you might show your student how fractions are of use in practical life (in dividing a set number items between a group people, for instance).
During this stage of the lesson, ensure that you aren’t listening too long to your own voice; ensure the student takes an active role, so that you are sure they actually understand what you are explaining. Making the tutorial session interactive also ensures that your student stays focused and interested throughout the session. Intersperse theoretical explanations with activities like role plays or games, which will put your student’s knowledge to the test.
If you are tutoring a student on a memory-based subject like Biology, help them retain important facts and figures. One of the most efficient ways of both clarifying and condensing large bodies of information is through the use of mind maps – these are a visual representation of key ideas and sub-ideas which not only improve memory retention but also encourage students to connect seemingly divergent ideas and to think creatively.
Be flexible: If you notice that your student is particularly tired or mentally drained on a given day, don’t be afraid to veer from previously laid plans and put the focus on fun. When tutoring a student in a foreign language, for instance, if you notice your student is having a difficult day, dump the textbooks and just play them a song in their target language. Explain key phrases, colloquial terms and idioms; sometimes, the most pleasurable and effortless ways of learning can also be the most effective!
Do they really understand the topic: Watch out for subtle signs that their students are failing to grasp an important idea. If you sense this, go over the concepts again in a different way and always try to use as simple and as practical example as possible, so that your student does not feel that the concept is too esoteric or intellectually demanding. Sometimes, using visual charts or ‘learning/thinking maps’ can also help get your point across.
Sweet endings: As the lesson draws to a close, tell them what they will be encountering in your next session. Tell them you have a special challenge in store for them; most students will be excited by the prospect of a new game or puzzle. You can also take advantage of the last few minutes by referring the student to interesting websites that will provide practice tests and/or games that will enable them to reinforce their understanding of the concepts learned during the tutoring session.
We hope that you have found these tips useful. If you have any more you would like to share, please feel to add a comment to this blog post.
Other blog posts in our ‘Series For Tutors’ can be found at:
8 ways to become a better tutor
Developing critical thinking in your students
How to market yourself
Your tax as a self employed tutor
How to set up your website
Using learning maps
The importance of teaching values
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