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Tutor Tips

This month’s tip is an activity that can be adapted for any level of student, but it works especially well for beginning students and students who find writing challenging. It’s called the Language Experience Approach and it involves using the learner’s own words to create passages to help teach reading and writing. This activity is especially effective because it encourages learners to use all four language acquisition and communication skills—listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Here’s how it works!

Ask the leaner to tell a story about an experience.
Print exactly what the learner says. Use correct spelling and punctuation, but you don’t need to change any words. You can leave a blank line in between printed lines in case you need to make changes or edit it later.
Have your student suggest a title for the story.
Read the story back to the learner, and ask for any corrections or changes.
Ask learner to read each sentence after you.
Ask learner to read entire story.

That’s it! It’s a simple and enjoyable activity. You can save the pieces for review later. You can also use these stories to teach other skills by having students circle certain letters or parts of speech, make flash cards out of words they want to practice, or anything else you might be working on. Students can also reread their stories for fluency.

Enjoy trying this exercise with your students and let us know if you find new ways to use it!

An exclusive interview with our newest math teaching tool: FRACTION TILES


Amy: “Mr Fraction Tiles, can I call you Mr.T for short? We are so happy to have you in our office. Can you tell our volunteers a little bit about yourself?

Mr T: Of course! I guess you could say that I have many layers. I mean, there’s one part of me that’s obvious, uncomplicated, and whole. But then, if you look a bit deeper, you’ll see that I divide myself among other interests and identities. It’s just a reality of modern life. I think we can all relate to that.

Amy: I agree. How do you think you can help our students at Project Read?

Mr T: Thanks for asking! I think fractions have been frustrating and confusing for many of our students in the past, and I’m here to give them a concrete way to practice adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions in a way that they can see and feel. 

Amy: Can you give us an example of that?

Mr T: Sure! It can start with something as simple as comparing ½ and 1/12. 12 is larger than 2, but 1/12 is much smaller than ½. My tiles show that a large number in the denominator means that the fraction’s value is pretty small. Let me show you a video of some other things I can do.

Amy: You must be so proud of your work.

Mr T: Well our volunteers and students are the real heroes. Sometimes teachers will just lay out my fraction tiles and let the students talk about what they notice. I’ve seen some students make some pretty cool discoveries that way.

Amy: Amen to that! Volunteers and tutors, please come to the Project Read office to see how Fraction Tiles can help you and your student build a stronger math literacy foundation. Please email me ( if you have any questions, frustrations, or success stories to share! 

(Amy Jackson, math instructor)

UEN Digital Security Tip:

Will your password survive the summer? Most passwords won’t! With the number of data breaches occurring daily, there is an 99% chance that you’re using a password that is already on a list of “known passwords” and in the hands of miscreants. Known passwords are like having a key: all a bad actor needs to do is find the lock. You can safely check to see if your password is already known by the hackers. 

This month’s Tutor Tip is sponsored by Reading Horizons:

Simply put, phonological awareness is an umbrella term that includes all levels of awareness of the sound structure of words, syllables, and onset and rimes.

A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound or speech that corresponds to letters of an alphabetic writing system. Thus, phonemic awareness is the ability to notice those individual sounds in a spoken word and identify and manipulate them. Why is this important? Since print is speech in written form, children who have phonemic awareness learn to read more easily than children who do not. Tasks that build and assess phonemic awareness include the following:

  • Identifying initial phonemes
  • Blending phonemes
  • Segmenting phonemes
  • Deleting phonemes
  • Adding phonemes
  • Substituting phonemes
  • Reversing phonemes

Tasks that have the most immediate impact on reading and spelling are phoneme blending and phoneme segmentation.

Want more from Reading Horizons? Ask a staff member, we can help!

Encouraging Early Literacy

Our adult literacy learners can reinforce the skills that they are learning by establishing routine reading with their young children. 

Some tips for  reading with young  children that you can share with your adult learner:

1. Start early.  Reading to babies is a part of healthy brain development. Infants can be assisted with language development from hearing nursery rhymes and songs, and simply talking with your baby.

2. Use cloth books and board books for babies.  Infants love to torch and mouth objects. The sensory inp;ut helps them to learn about their world.

3. Make reading a part of your daily routine.

4. Take turns with your toddler.  Allow them to turn pages and fill in some of the words.

5. Ask your child questions.  You can make your reading interactive by asking questions, such as”What do you think will happen next?” 

6. Reread your child’s favorite books. Children learn from repetition. Typically by age 3, a preschooler is able to complete some of the sentences in their favorite books

7. Point out similar words and look for certain letters.  When a child is four years they can beginning identifying letters and certain words.

8. Count objects on the page.  This is an excellent opportunity to reinforce early math skills.

9. Have your preschooler tell you the story.  By age five, children can sit for longer times. They are also capable of creating their own stories and retelling the story.

10. Read with passion and have fun with story time!

11. Set an example. Let your child see you read.

12. Just keep reading.  Read to your child often and early. You will make lasting memories with your child.

The adult learner who can read with their young child is setting up a Win/Win situation for parent/caregiver and child.

Source: Tips to Boost Early Literacy

Apply the Literature

When it comes to reading comprehension, it is helpful to find ways to relate and find commonality with what we are reading. One method of learning which we all use is that of relating something that isn’t familiar to something that is familiar – almost always learning by associating the abstract with the concrete. This association allows us to develop a foundational knowledge upon which we can further build understanding.

When it comes to helping students develop their literacy skills, it can be useful to relate or apply a given piece of literature to ourselves. As we lead by example and encourage our students to do the same, they will be able to not only read single words and comprehend their meaning individually, they will be able to extract big-picture meaning from the literature and determine how it relates to them.

Although it may seem like this is a skill to be developed later-on in one’s journey to literacy, developing this skill early will allow the student to develop a habit of extracting larger meaning through interconnected language and relating it to their life and experiences. This skill will not only make leisure reading more enjoyable, but will create a functional literacy that will serve them well in many aspects of their life.

Setting short term goals:

Take time to help your student set short term (daily/weekly) reading goals. Make sure that their reading goals are attainable, measurable, and engender growth. After a week or so, reassess the difficulty of the goals with your student. If they are proving too difficult, dial them back. If you and your student feel they aren’t helping as much as you want them to, crank it up. As your student consistently fulfills their reading goals, they will naturally grow in ability, so raising the bar should always be part of the goal schedule’s future.

Accountability will help to ensure that the goals your student sets aren’t forgotten. Together, come up with a way to track the goals; calendar, checklist, phone reminders. Make sure to include something for your student to do that signifies that they’ve completed a goal; put a check on the list, cross out a calendar day, put a star next to it, record number of pages read or time spent. You can increase accountability by consistently following up with your student and encouraging them to stay on track, whether they have been successful or not. If helpful, you can come up with a small reward your student can give themselves if they are consistent in reaching their goals for a week or so.

Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexia (That Benefit ALL Students)

 Students with dyslexia require a clear process to understand many concepts (especially how to read), but clear, explicit phonics instruction is beneficial for every student. Here are some tips from Shantell Berrett Blake, dyslexia specialist and Director of Professional Services at Reading Horizons, to help you accommodate the needs of every learner in your classroom, including those with dyslexia.


1. Provide one-step directions.

2. Extend time for reading and writing assignments.

3. Preview and review.

4. Post the schedule for the day or class period.

5. Avoid habituation by keeping instruction between 10–15 minutes and providing a variety of activities for practice.

6. Never expect students with dyslexia to take notes without a visual outline or a friend to be a note-taker.

7. Set a good pace.

8. Assume nothing—connect everything.

You can learn more about how to implement each of these strategies in Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexia (That Benefit ALL Students).

Teaching to Your Student:

When teaching it is incredibly important to listen to your student.  Each person learns and develops at a different pace and in different ways.  By listening to your student you can  better determine how to meet their individual needs. This also helps to make your student feel that you care about them as well, making them more likely to heed your advice and tips.  For ideas on how to improve your listening skills see,defusing%20any%20potential%20classroom%20conflicts.

  When giving pointers to a student also remember to make sure they understand. Ask them questions to ensure that you are being clear and are able to effectively communicate your ideas with them.  If they do not seem to understand, do not just repeat yourself.  Try to tackle the issue from another angle, one that may provide your student with a deeper insight and a better understanding of what you are trying to say.

Make sure that you ask clear, concise questions when teaching to help students draw their own conclusions and arrive at understanding with minimal assistance (when applicable).  This cements their understanding and greatly enhances their learning experience.  Never assume your student knows something.  Make sure they understand what you are doing and the context of what you are reading.  If you feel you could improve your question asking skills go to for more information.

Digital Security Tip: 

Chances are that you already use two-factor authentication (2FA) on at least one online service. Two-factor authentication is a process that can improve the security of your online accounts significantly over just using a password. Many online services have a 2FA option, but statistics show that few people are using them. Increase your security by turning on 2FA wherever you can. 

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?

Source: page 5

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!