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Tutor Tips

Digital Security Tip:

Keeping software up-to-date is key in the constant battle against miscreants on the Internet. Major software companies regularly roll out newer versions of popular software and phase out inefficient or obsolete programs. Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in old software, so it is important to always use “actively supported” software and avoid the versions no longer being supported.

Incorporating Humor

Tutors for Project Read are encouraged to have fun while tutoring their students. After all, as the Project Read Training Manual states, “If you as a tutor aren’t having fun, it is likely your student isn’t either”! We want both our tutors and our students to look forward to and enjoy their time during tutoring sessions so that they will have the desire to come back again. Laughing Matters by Peter Medgyes is a resource book with over 100 ideas on how to incorporate humor, fun and laughter into a language classroom despite language and cultural differences.

Medgyes wrote the book with the firm belief that humor can help students practice language in genuine contexts, develop creative thinking, and release tension. It can also be a “refreshing change from routine language-learning procedures”. Our goal to increase literacy can be enhanced by having fun together as tutors and students. Having fun and using humor can increase our understanding and trust in each other and decrease stress in potentially stressful or frustrating experiences. If you have the chance, check out this book for creative ideas on how to inject fun and humor into your tutoring sessions!

Commonly Confused Words

English has many homophones – words that sound identical but mean different things. These are challenging for many English speakers to master. For example, it is not uncommon to see the words loose and lose mixed up, as well as the words principle and principalThey’retheir, and there are also commonly confused for each other.

It may be helpful to focus on a few pairs of words and learn what makes them different from each other, and then help your student practice using the correct term by making fill in the blank sentences. For example:

–       The shirt was too big, it had a ______fit. (loose / lose)

–       The school ______ was kind and very helpful. (principle / principal)

–       The neighbor was sad because ______ lawnmower broke. (they’re / their / there)

Or perhaps you could work with your student to come up with sentences that use each term properly. Some commonly confused words can be found here:

Digital Security Tip:

Removable Media: Memory cards and thumb drives provide a convenient way to move data between devices, but USB devices and cards you find laying about could contain malware. Highlighting the danger of cyberattack, researchers recently scattered hundreds of thumb drives around a college campus. Individuals took nearly all of the drives with 45% opening files on the unknown USB sticks. Security experts say you should never trust a storage device that you didn’t buy, and you should not insert an unknown memory device into your computer, even if you got it from someone you trust.

Studying Tips

If your student is preparing to take the GED, citizenship exam, or another type of test, they might need help developing beneficial study habits that they can implement outside of your sessions together. Along with study tips that may have helped you personally, here are some other study habits to remember that might help your student.

–       Don’t cram – the brain can only remember so much information at once. When preparing for an exam, it is better to break up your studying into chunks rather than try to study everything all at once. Shorter, more frequent study sessions are better than longer, infrequent study sessions.

–       Reward yourself – before you begin studying, set mini-goals for yourself and plan for a reward when you reach those goals. Perhaps if you read for 20 minutes you can reward yourself with a snack break, or by watching a short YouTube video. This helps the studying feel less monotonous and keeps motivation up.

–       Eliminate distractions – it can be hard to focus when your phone is buzzing or when people are doing something nearby. If possible, find a place to study where you can focus for a while. Some people like it to be quiet, while others prefer some background noise. If you find your phone to be distracting, try turning notifications off, putting it on silent, or leaving it in another room.

–       Plan your study – some students prefer to study easier topics before they move on to the harder ones. Others prefer to tackle the harder topics first. Try studying both ways and see which works best for you. If you have a plan for what you will do during your study time, you will be more likely to follow it, and it will be easier to attain the goals you have set for yourself.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemes are the sounds that make up a language. There are 44 phonemes in American English. In writing, the 26 letters of the alphabet are combined in certain ways in order to represent the different phonemes. For example, a single vowel sound can be written in many different ways, like in bee, meat, and grief. These letter combinations are also known as graphemes. Research shows that “adult non-readers have virtually no awareness of phonemes, and adult beginning readers have difficulty manipulating phonemes”. By helping your student increase their phonemic awareness, they will be able to see improvements in their reading.

The following activities can be used to help assess a student’s phonemic awareness:

–       Phoneme isolation: identifying single sounds in words “What is the first sound in flower?” (/f/)

–       Phoneme blending: identifying the word that sounds in a sequence make “What word is /b/ /u/ /k/?” (book)

–       Phoneme segmentation: breaking up a word into its sounds “What sounds make up the word mother?” (/m/ /o/ /th/ /er/)

–       Phoneme deletion: identifying what word is made when deleting a sound from another word “What is flute without the /t/?” (flu)


Narrative Learning

An aspect of working with adult students that differ from working with younger students is that adult students have a larger pool of experiences they can draw from to make connections with their learning. In this vein, a narrative teaching strategy is one that aims to link “lived experience and curricular content”. Storytelling is a type of narrative teaching that helps adult learners make the meaningful connection between their personal experiences and what they are learning. When encouraging students to tell their stories, it is important that they feel secure and comfortable with you and that listeners will be receptive to what they have to say.

Storytelling can help students see content in a framework that not only relates to them personally, but that relates to larger-scale groupings like family and society. Storytelling can also be a helpful tool in practicing writing skills, and analyzing stories can help students strengthen reading skills like identifying the sequence of events, the main idea or conflict, and other comprehension questions. How might you be able to incorporate narrative learning in your tutoring sessions?

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Perhaps your student has a grammar question that you are unsure how to answer – there are various resources at your disposal to bolster your own knowledge as well as your student’s. Videos can be a helpful way to supplement your student’s learning. They are beneficial for visual and aural learners and can be accessed virtually anywhere. JenniferESL is a YouTube channel aimed towards helping ESL students, however she also reviews different aspects of grammar that can be helpful for native speakers to review. Rachel’s English is a similar channel that provides many videos related to phonics, vocabulary, and English conversation.

Even channels not necessarily related to English may be valuable to your student – videos can be helpful for introducing students to new topics, enriching a text, and deepening learning. Additionally, using closed captioning can help reinforce pronunciation and help students practice reading along. Think about how you can incorporate videos in your lessons with your student!