Instantly Improve Your Tutoring Results — Part 2 — Focus
Instantly Improve Your Tutoring Results — Part 2 — Focus
Last week we began looking a some best practices for tutors. In that post, we examined five ways to increase the energy level at tutoring sessions. This week, we're taking a look at five ways to help students focus during tutoring sessions. Obviously, these tutoring tips are useful for test prep tutors, but they're equally relevant to tutors of any subject.
Just like last week's tips, these tips made the list because they're often overlooked or under-appreciated in terms of their ability to enhance the effectiveness of each tutoring session. As a bonus, they're easy to implement, free of cost, and generally deliver instant results.
Tutoring effectiveness may be diminished for a variety of reasons, but for our purposes we've divided this list into two parts: Energy and Focus. In this post, we look at Five Tips To Help Tutors Improve the Energy Level at Tutoring Sessions.
Five Tips To Help Tutors to Help Students Focus During Tutoring Sessions
1. Prepare for Takeoff.
Don’t just stow all electronic devices — switch them to airplane mode!
Your student will fight you on this, but it's important that you remain firm on this rule. Switching a phone to silent is not sufficient. A buzzing cellphone on the corner of the table is still distracting. That's not an acceptable compromise. That phone needs to be 100% silent and completely out of sight. Ideally, the phone isn't even in the same room.
Be advised that students always have a good reason why they need to have their phone at hand. Involve the parents early. Before the first session, explain your policy: students are only allowed to check their mobile devices during breaks.
Parents will usually back you up on this. If an exception needs to be made for a specific session (e.g. organizing transportation, emergencies, etc.) have the parents contact you ahead of time.
2. Put Away the Snacks
When snack time is over, it's time to study. Some students will insist that they always have food with them while they study. Some even claim that it helps them concentrate.
The reality is that snacks, particularly unhealthy snacks, are often a distraction. And unlike going to the movies, where a viewer can mindlessly devour sour patch candies while passively watching a car chase, tutoring is by definition an interactive activity.
Furthermore, students won’t be able to snack during the real SAT test or enjoy a soda during the real ACT test. Thus we encourage you to draw on the “Practice Like It’s Game Day” principle we touched on in previous posts. Restrict snacking to breaks.
3. Set a Timer
Like a lot of other software development companies, Clear Choice Test Prep knows the value of a good sprint. When we’re developing new features like the free SAT score report system or adding new videos to our library of more than 100 hours of video solutions, we work better on a deadline. Everyone does.
If you want to motivate your student to focus on the lesson at hand, add an artificial time constraint. For example, you might say, “Take the next five math problems as a challenge. You’ve got four minutes, starting… now!”
Besides the obvious benefit of helping students learn to deal with the time pressures of the SAT and ACT tests, this method of study breaks long study sessions down into more manageable micro-lessons that students can actually enjoy.
4. Plan Ahead to Avoid Scheduling Conflicts
Before you meet with the family for the first time, ask them to have a copy of the student's official high school calendar, sports team schedules, and a calendar of all planned events and vacations. At this point, you should be as accommodating as possible. It's in your best interest for three important reasons.
First, early communication prevents late notice cancellations.
Second, knowing what's going on in the student's life can help you avoid scheduling your tutoring sessions for times that the student will be overwhelmed or distracted by events such as prom, sports tournaments, midterms, and travel.
Third, setting a regularly occurring schedule from the outset helps you make sure that you'll have time to complete the course even if a session or two has to be rescheduled. It also puts you in a position to enforce your cancellation policy without anyone feeling as though you're being unfair.
5. Encourage the Struggle
If you’re anything like most tutors, you got into tutoring and test prep because you enjoy helping people. It’s probably difficult for you to watch another human being struggle with something that you could easily help them do. This no doubt includes watching a student struggle with a simple math problem.
I’d never try to tell you that the desire to help is a bad thing, but I will tell you that you need to keep this impulse in check during tutoring sessions. If you allow your need to prevent students from struggling to drive you to intervene prematurely, you will undermine your student's success in two important ways.
First, you'll be communicating, "You couldn't have solved that problem," when it's entirely likely that the student could have solved it by examining his or her approach and pressing on.
Second, you'll be establishing a precedent that the student should only work until the problem becomes difficult or unfamiliar. At that point, the student will feel comfortable shutting down and waiting for you to solve the problem.
The solution is to consciously limit yourself to asking rhetorical questions. Begin with general questions, like "What do you notice about this problem?" If that doesn't shake something loose, then begin to work toward more specific questions, like "What information do we need in order to solve this problem?" or "Is there an answer that you feel comfortable eliminating at this point? Why?"
If the student is still stuck, begin by asking her to summarize the steps she has taken up to that point. If you recognize a specific error in the approach or calculations, ask about that specific step.
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As the only provider of a 100% custom branded test prep system for tutors, we've had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of independent tutors and tutoring companies from across the country and around the world. This blog is our opportunity to bring you the insights we've been able to gather through those interactions.
Each week we examine ways to help you become a better tutor, increase test prep score improvements, drive more tutoring referrals, and grow your tutoring business. And from time to time, we'll even share links to free resources for tutors and test prep professionals.
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