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How to be a Good Tutor

Good tutoring starts with a positive attitude toward learning. Good tutors need to respect the learners. Enjoy your lessons and don't forget to add fun and humour where appropriate because a relaxed environment enhances learning

Have a positive attitude

Most prospective volunteers have doubts about whether they can be effective tutors. It is only natural for people to feel anxious about a new responsibility. It takes time and experience to feel confident about your new role. Once tutors see their learners making progress, confidence comes naturally.

It is also important to have a positive attitude about the learners' ability to become literate. All the learners are bright and capable people who have not yet reached their full potential. Some learners have challenges that create barriers to learning but are able to make significant gains through hard work and commitment. If you believe that your learner can learn to read and write that belief will have a strong influence on the progress that is made.

How to Relate to your Learner

Respect: Learners have not had positive academic experiences for the most part and are very concerned about failure. They may even have negative feelings towards teachers. When you show respect for the learner as a peer, they will be able to trust you and learn more effectively.

Create an atmosphere of success: Build on what the learner already knows and focus on topics that interest them initially. Build on your learner's strengths and learning style. Let learners know when they have done well and worked hard.

Listen: Good tutors are good listeners. Ask the learner questions that require more than a yes or no answer. You will be encouraging good communication and creating an environment where the learner feels safe enough to ask questions and give you needed feedback.

Be open to what is happening: Use all your senses to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues as to how the learner is feeling. This will allow you to pace your lessons appropriately and help you identify strategies that work from those that are not effective.

Encourage independence: Be a facilitator of learning. You want the learner to be able to function independently outside of the tutoring sessions.

Keep a regular schedule: Meeting regularly keeps the momentum going. Regular lessons helps learners remember what they have learned and keeps up the commitment to lessons.

Involving your learner: Explain why you want to use a particular strategy and what it is supposed to accomplish. Ask for feedback from the learner on how a teaching strategy worked for them. Ask for ideas and suggestions and be open to changing your plans based on what is heard.

How to teach:
  • Explain a new skill
  • Demonstrate the skill
  • Have the learner practice the skill by starting with simple examples and working slowly up to a more difficult level
  • Provide ways to apply the new skill in everyday situations
  • Provide lots of ways to review and practice the new skill

Pace lessons: Try to vary the activities allowing no more than hour per activity. Ask the learner for feedback on the pace of the lessons and watch out for clues such as yawning or anxious fidgeting to help you identify the right pace.

What to do about mistakes: The only people who never make mistakes are the people who never do anything. Everyone makes mistakes when learning something new. Too much correcting, especially early in your relationship, may discourage the learner.

Review, review, review: Whenever a new skill is taught, allow for lots of and ensure you review from time to time what has been learned.