How Tutoring Children Requires Special Teaching Skills

Tutoring Children Requires Special Teaching Skills

            Jose sat at the kitchen table.  He had been staring at the same math problem for what seemed like hours.  He simply could not figure out how to compute the answer.  Hearing his frustration, his older sister sat down with him.  She had completed the same work years earlier and hoped she would be able to help.  Minutes later, she was as frustrated as him and had walked away.

 Many times children need extra help with their school work.  Sometimes it seems easy to sit down and immediately help students fill in their learning gaps or get help with an upcoming assignment, project, or test.  While this can sometimes end well, just as often it goes amiss.  Tutoring children requires skills far beyond the knowledge to simply help someone find the answer. 

But….I Know How to Get the Answer

            Similar to Jose’s sister, many people think because they know how to do the math, write an essay, or complete the science diagram that they can tutor a child.  Having the knowledge to help a child requires content knowledge, but it extends beyond that.  Although many people know how to solve word problems that require math computation skills, they may lack the ability to explain the process to someone they are tutoring. 

Break It Down

            Today’s world is filled with a plethora of online resources which can be helpful; nonetheless, knowing how to break it down or chunk information into manageable sections is a necessary part of tutoring.  Students may struggle with multi step problems and processes.  When tutoring students, work to complete homework or explain difficult concepts using clear, concise directions that are scaffolded as needed.  By scaffolding students, they begin to see how the various steps and pieces fit together. Keep in mind that the process of breaking down the learning process in reading may look different than helping someone in science or social studies. Tutoring students in reading requires understanding and applying specific strategies. 

Know the Age

            The developmental needs of a five year old vary considerably from an eight or nine year old.  For this reason, during tutoring sessions, one must keep in mind what age children they are working with.  For example, the same tutoring strategies that work well with preschool and kindergarten students will likely not be the ones that should be utilized with second grade students.  Furthermore, think about timing when scheduling tutoring.  After school tutoring may work best for a student who is less hyperactive, but for children with an abundance of energy, they may need a break from school before they are mentally and physically able to focus on tutoring.

Patience and Then Some

            Tutors need to have an abundance of patience.  In addition they need to be positive and empathetic.  By understanding the student’s situation, a stronger rapport and better communication will strengthen the tutoring relationship.  By working to actively listen to the child and maintaining a position of leadership and trust, the tutor will also have a greater impact on the child.  These various character traits once again show how tutoring children requires special teaching skills. 

Trial and Error             Finding the special teaching skills needed to tutor children may take some trial and error.  In other words, a single motivational process and tutoring style may not always work.  Evaluate different options before committing to a tutoring program or individual.  Spending money to acquire tutoring services should be done with care after determining that the provider has an understanding of how tutoring children requires special teaching skills.   More general guidelines for tutoring and how the process works can be here.