>How to Structure a Tutoring Session: A Most General Approach

>How to Structure a Tutoring Session: A Most General Approach

Ally, I tutor “Sam” twice a week. The sessions are one and a half hours. I love working with this charming Grade 5 student but we are both(!) finding that the sessions tend to drag a little, especially toward the end. I know that he needs the time/support and yet I feel at a bit of a loss. I am wondering whether you tutor, and if so how do you go about structuring your sessions? (I just read your post on structuring weekly Math lessons and thought you might have some ideas).

(Just to give you some insight, his learning profile (generally speaking) is as follows: His overall cognitive abilities are in low-average range. He experiences difficulties in the following areas: processing language, language expression & reading; auditory-verbal processing; visual perceptual skills. ADHD.)

I also tutor a fair bit during the summer months. I love this one-on-one time with students, but at the same time I feel for you. Sessions can certainly “drag” if not structured properly no matter how entertaining one tries to be … and of course not every child “welcomes” a tutor initially (especially when his/her friends are out playing in the sun).

What I have posted below is an outline of a “typical” math/language session as broken down into time segments. I hope that you find it helpful.

Oh! But before you begin tutoring any child consider the following:

First, it is really helpful to take all the time necessary to get to know your student. Simply, take the time to talk. Ask open ended questions. You might even want to give him an interest survey. There are great, printable “back to school surveys”  for example, (e.g. those getting-to-know-your-students-in-September-surveys) to be found everywhere on the web. Following this, base language and math lessons on areas of personal interests (e.g. basketball, music, reptiles, art, cars, etc.). Use what he already loves to “hook” him. He has to buy into the sessions after all. Now, initially, as you chat away, it may seem as though you “are not doing your job” … but I assure you: The more you know who you are working with, the better able you will be to build on his strengths and his address needs.

Secondly, just as you would during any school day make sure to break up your time, e.g. mix up longer and shorter written activities. “Interrupt” written activities with games and puzzles. Include games/puzzles that you can work on together and those that he can engage in independently. (The independent “fun time” will give you an opportunity to assess the activity that the student has just completed.) Also, be sure to give him an opportunity to move around every once in a while. You might want to do some stretching “exercises” together when needed. I am sure that you’ll know when: you will sense it.

Lastly, just like in the classroom: always over plan!

Sample: A Math Language Tutoring Session
Teacher (T): Introduce the session. Ensure that the student knows what to expect. Provide a clear overview of activities. He should understand how the session will be structured; what it looks like.
Student (S): Quick “fun” warm-up: puzzle/brainteaser/word search/game (related to subject area).


T: Introduce the paragraph writing lesson (e.g. Write a paragraph entitled, “My Favourite Outfit)”.
S: Pre-writing activity: Work on graphic organizer.
T: Assess the completed warm-up activity.


S: Read a short story aloud in keeping with the writing theme. This will help the student generate additional ideas and build vocabulary. Focus on your student’s fluency, decoding and comprehension skills.
Next: Student completes comprehension questions based on reading. He does this independently.
T: You review/edit the graphic organizer.


S & T: Writing conference: Review the graphic organizer together. Brainstorm. Focus on ideas, organization, vocabulary, voice, etc.
S: Writes first draft.
T: Prepare math lesson (e.g. set up math manipulatives, games, papers, etc.)


S: Put writing aside. Complete a Math Minute.
T: Continue to prepare math lesson.


T: Introduce math concept (e.g. place value). Read a picture book on the math theme being (see for suggested read alouds: ) .
S & T : Play concept-related game with student e.g. Place value game with dice (More math games can be found at: http://childparenting.about.com/od/makeathomemathgames/Make_at_Home_Math_Games.htm)

S: Complete place value pencil and paper activity (math consumable).
T: Edit the first draft of the student’s paragraph.


S & T: Writing conference.


S: Write: Paragraph 2nd draft.
T: Correct math.


S & T: Go over math. Ensure for understanding, make corrections.
S: Complete extended Math activity.
T: Edit 2nd draft.


S & T : Engage in a bite-sized puzzle/game: Math or Language related


T: Continue to edit 2nd draft.
S: Work on bite-sized independent grammar/spelling/open activity giving up time to review the above)


S & T : Writing conference. Ask the student to choose a method/means to publish his work. Encourage creativity. (Publishing can be done at a later date.)

S & T : Debrief: Talk about the session.

Done! 🙂
Now go out and enjoy the sun!


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