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Tips to Help Tutor Elementary School Children

Tutoring elementary school children can be a rewarding and meaningful undertaking. Not only do tutors help remove barriers to academic success, they also act as educational role models, help make learning exciting and teach essential skills in core subjects like math, science and reading. Although tutoring can be challenging, it can also help you make a significant difference in a child's life.

Be Patient and Compassionate

Patience is one of the most important characteristics of a good tutor. A compassionate and emphatic demeanor goes hand in hand with patience. Children of elementary school age may have difficulty focusing on difficult or challenging material. They might be nervous or feel like they need to perform to the best of their abilities to gain your approval during their tutoring sessions. By maintaining a patient and compassionate attitude, you can help students feel more at ease, which can help them more easily absorb the material you present.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is crucial for ensuring that your tutoring sessions will provide your students with the maximum benefit. Elementary-aged students aren't always able to articulate the areas in which they require extra help and they might not provide you with accurate input about their struggles or challenges. Discuss the specific points to cover with your student's parents and teachers well ahead of your scheduled session. Ensure that you'll have access to a quiet area where you and your student will be undisturbed for the duration of your session. Assemble all of your materials in advance. Ask your student what she hopes to get out of the tutoring session.

Take a Positive Approach

Boosting your student's confidence can help him achieve his academic goals and instills him with a feeling of self-efficacy. Taking a positive approach to tutoring can help your student feel excited and enthusiastic about your tutoring sessions and help him learn more effectively. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, praising your student's efforts, taking the time to listen to his feelings and frustrations and providing opportunities for success can help increase your student's self-esteem. Keep a record of your student's achievements -- use a chart with gold stars or other stickers to keep track of accomplishments and to help him see his improvements over time.

Make Learning Fun

Elementary students don't typically have the same attention span as older students. Incorporate fun learning activities into your tutoring sessions to keep them interested and engaged. Draw upon your sense of humor to make learning fun. Be willing to laugh and don't take a stodgy, serious approach. According to the Virginia Mentoring Partnership, using fun learning activities can help when your students' attention starts to sag or if they require a change in tutoring activities. Use icebreaker activities during your first session to help your student feel comfortable with you. For example, ask about your student's favorite stories or interests. Throughout your tutoring sessions, incorporate fun, subject-related activities, such as drawing, reading or playing question games.

10 Tricks for Teaching Writing.

When telling people that I teach kindergarten, I often am asked, “How do you do it?” Now, imagine teaching five year olds how to write entire paragraphs. Yes, we are superheroes with the powers of patience, perseverance and the ability to bend at the waist for long periods of time. Here are the best kindergarten writing tips that I have gathered over the years.

1. Teach letter formation in context

Kill two birds with one stone. Kindergarten students need to be taught how to form their letters. This can be done within the context of writing a sentence. Often, when students practice writing letters in isolation, they have trouble transferring handwriting skills to sentence writing. Teach capitalization, spacing and end punctuation while demonstrating proper letter formation.

2. Practice consistently

Have your students engage in meaningful writing from day one. Kids learn to talk by talking, and we know kindergartners have mastered that skill. They learn to write by writing even if it is a large string of letters at first or even scribbling. They have to start somewhere. We give them the tools to develop into confident writers by allowing them the time to write and draw every day.

3. Sight words, sight words, sight words

Students need to know how to read and spell several anchor sight words in order to build confidence with sentence writing. I use a word wall, songs and chants to teach students to spell sight words. For example, I sing the word like to the tune of “It’s a Small Word.” L-I-K-E, that spells like. L-I-K-E that spells like…. . Once they are armed with an arsenal of words that are essential to the structure of a sentence, they are well on their way to success.

4. Encourage invented spelling

Invented spelling refers to stretching out words and writing them exactly as they are heard by a beginning writer. If students become hung up on spelling words correctly, creativity and continuity suffers. Students will only want to write very simple sentences. Kindergarten teachers double as detectives easily decoding sentences such as “I lik pesu and is kem (pizza and ice cream).”

5. Do mini lessons

Kindergartners have the attention span of a fruit fly. This is why right before journal writing time, I teach them one quick skill. Mini lessons are great for teaching narrative, opinion writing, how to compose a topic sentence, and various stages of the writing process.

6. Try interactive writing

Morning message or class news is a good example of interactive writing. This refers to the teacher and student sharing the pen. One student gives the teacher news, and students are called up to the white board to help sound out words and place appropriate punctuation.

7. Choose meaningful topics

Kindergartners love themselves, their family and their friends. Let them write about the topics they choose in their journals. Sentence starters confuse kindergarten students. If they write about the same thing for a while, it is ok. It is much like reading the same book over and over again. They are building confidence

8. Write across the curriculum

Reading and writing go hand in hand. Students can write their favorite part of a story or compose a letter to a character. Reading informational text and drawing and labeling a picture are a great ways to combine science and social studies research with writing.

9. Remember that punctuation is tough

Kindergarten students often will put periods at the end of each word or line. Teaching kindergarteners the concept of a complete thought is difficult because their thoughts go on and on and on and on. I teach the students that if their writing answers the question, “Guess what?”, it needs a period.

10. Share, share, share

Give students the opportunity to share their writing with their peers. The more opportunities kindergarteners are given to express themselves, the less likely they will be to shout out in the middle of the math lesson that they have a wiggly tooth or Uncle Joey is visiting.

Kindergarten writing is not for the faint of heart. Enjoy the strange spellings, humorous thoughts and the innocent excitement that will lead to young students becoming life-long writers.

Ms. Zeebra Play & Learn, Inc.

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