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How young is too young for online tutoring?

“I’m looking for a reading tutor for my first grader, but I think he’s too young for online tutoring.”

“Can an 8-year-old do online tutoring?”

“Could you really keep my second grader focused online?”

I have talked to a few parents who were looking for reading and writing tutoring for their young children but had not considered online tutoring because it seemed like their children weren’t old enough. While many of my students are in middle school or high school, online tutoring can also be a great approach for children who are younger, as long as they have the right tutor and a parent to help them get set up the first few times.

I started online tutoring using Zoom for video conferencing with a fifth grader. For the first one or two sessions, his mom helped him log in and made sure that the tools were working for him. Then she was able to step away. At first, I shared my screen with the student and he could watch me or I could give him control of the screen when it was time to practice. Gradually, he got better and better at using the online tools and learned to share his screen with me when he had something like a story that he wanted me to see.

After the first few sessions, that fifth grader was able to use the tools in Zoom as well as any teenager or adult I have used it with.

I’ve worked with younger students, too. I find that students in first through third grade need a little more adult in-person help than older students. For my younger students, a parent usually sets up the session and makes sure that they are sitting so that they can be seen on camera and that they can hear the audio. For some younger children, it works best when a parent hangs out where they can hear the session and checks in as needed to help with things like finding letters on the keyboard or positioning the camera. For these students, having the computer set up in the kitchen or living room, where parents can work nearby but siblings don’t interrupt, can work well. Some children, even as young as third grade, are pretty independent. Some students are able to sit alone at the computer and follow my directions and guidance to use the mouse and keyboard to participate in the lesson.

Some great features of online tutoring that I love for young learners are:

  • It’s easy to incorporate online games or quick videos that keep kids engaged and motivated.
  • I can quickly update my lesson, like by typing more words that they need to practice. My handwriting is not great, so if I write words out by hand it takes me longer. Typing also lets me pick a font that works best for students.
  • The student and I can shop for books in the ebooks section of my public library and read one together on the computer screen. With in-person students, I bring a selection of books and stories with me, but I don’t always have something that the student is excited about.
  • Convenience for the families. With young children at home myself, I know it can be challenging to get everyone into the car and to the place they need to be, let alone to have the other children in the house stay quiet and occupied while a tutor is visiting for one of the children. With online tutoring, siblings seem less distracted by the tutoring experience and tend to interrupt less than when I’m actually visiting someone’s home. On the flip side, if you are sitting somewhere waiting for your other child to finish sports practice or dance, all you need is a wifi connection and a quiet place to sit and tutoring can still go on! This flexibility can be a huge help for busy families.
  • Health. Another benefit for families is that online tutoring can help everyone stay healthier during cold season. I don’t do in-home tutoring when I’m sick, but there are days when I can tutor online in spite of a cough or runny nose. When you have sick family members, or your child is getting over an illness, but well enough to work, online tutoring can go on as usual. Meeting consistently is so important for students to make progress, and online tutoring lets us do that.

If you’re thinking about online tutoring for your young child, there is not much of a downside. Lessons are fun, engaging, and flexible. Thanks to digital games, ebooks, and video conferencing, your child can get anything they would get from in-person meetings and maybe even more!

If you’re interested in trying online tutoring, contact me today for a free 30-minute consultation to help you decide if online tutoring is a good fit for your child.
How young is too young for online tutoring?

Write Your Future Self Homework Directions You Can Use

If I had a dollar for every time a student told me their homework was

Do you sit down for homework, only to realize you don’t know what your notes mean?

“study” or “math worksheet,” but then couldn’t figure out what to do, I could probably retire now. Students take out their planner in the last couple minutes of class, the teacher hands out a study guide or writes the numbers of the homework problems, or the name of the chapter, on the board and the student writes exactly that. Six hours later, sitting at her dining room table, she doesn’t know how to use that information. You need to write yourself homework directions that you can use! Here’s how:

 

Get the facts

Teachers may talk all through class, but they have a way of telling you what information is important. For some teachers, the most important things are the ones they write on the board. Others raise their voices or repeat details. They aren’t doing this out of boredom or by accident. The things they emphasize are the things you need to write down. Make sure you have these facts about every assignment.

  • Who (All students? Everyone who hasn’t passed the test? The group presenting Monday?)
  • What (What book? Which chapter? Odd problems or even? Write an outline or a draft? The whole packet or just the first page?)
  • Where (Are the resources on the teacher’s website? Do you have to go to the library? Is it the paper he gave you last week? Which one?)
  • When (When is it due? Will you be checking in about it tomorrow or turning it in all at once next week?)
  • Why? (Is there a quiz coming up? Did you struggle with these problems in class? Will you need this draft for peer editing tomorrow?)
  • How? (Write notes or full sentences? Type it or write it by hand? Submit it online or hand in a paper copy?)

Label it

Before you leave class, try to imagine yourself doing the assignment and write down a few specific details in your

 or on top of the page.

  • Today’s date
  • The due date
  • Which class it is for (use color coding to keep this simple)
  • A verb – I’ll say more about this in a minute
  • Any essential information – do you need your textbook for this? Are you meeting with your group?

Make a plan

Next to the date on your paper (or in your planner if you don’t have room), write down an action plan. This can be simple, like the single verb “study” or “solve” or it can be a multi-step plan if the teacher’s instructions are detailed.

Schedule the work

There’s a difference between the “due date” when you turn in the work and the “do date” when you sit down and make it happen. Record both in your planner. (Hint: For successful students, these are NOT the same date.) You might want to use different colors, like highlighting the due date in yellow and writing your do dates in regular pen. When you write your do date, take into account things like soccer practice and family plans. Are you really going to read that chapter after you get home from the birthday party Saturday night? Or do you need to schedule it for Friday afternoon to make sure it happens?

By thinking ahead when your teacher assigns homework, you can make sure you have everything you need to get the homework done quickly, do it right and get the grade you deserve!

Do We Have to Read this Book Again? Yes, We Do

Read it again!

I’m so tired of re-reading the same books to my preschooler!

There must be hundreds of picture books in my house. There is everything from the classics of my mother’s childhood to brand new books by Julia Donaldson and Ian Falconer. We love them all! So then why, oh why, does my three-year-old only want to read Kermie, Where Are You?, a lift the Flap Book in which Muppet Babies characters play hide and seek in the nursery?

So do I have to read it again? The reading research says yes!  Just like my preschooler wants to watch the same Alvin and the Chipmunks Halloween movie over and over again, beginning when it hits Netflix in August, and tell me the same knock-knock joke over and over again until it makes my ears fall off, he wants to hear me re-reading the same familiar stories over and over again.

As exhausting as these repetitions are, they are what our young children need to become strong readers. By re-reading the same books over and over again, they are building an understanding of what language sounds like. They are learning to anticipate events in the story, which strengthens their comprehension. And they are strengthening their memory of the vocabulary they hear in the story.

I’m not saying they need to choose the story every time, or that you have to be re-reading the same boring book non-stop until they lose interest. I absolutely say to my son, “Not tonight. I find that book boring. I would much rather read something else now and read that one later.” I say the same thing about shows he wants me to watch. We have many interest in common, but I don’t need to be excited about all of his book choices, and he doesn’t need to be excited about all of mine. We often take turns choosing books or I suggest that he read a less challenging, more repetitive book to himself or to his baby sister. Usually, he remembers enough of the story to do it.

Give yourself a break

Another option for endless re-reading of books is narrated ebooks. Epic Books is one source that, with a paid subscription, lets your child choose from a collection of pretty good books. And many of them have built in read-aloud narration. Your public library might also subscribe to Overdrive, a collection of digital books. Many of the picture books, from Pete the Cat to Llama Llama can be read aloud by the app.

The light at the end of the tunnel

But at the end of the day, we often just need to suck it up and read Go, Dog, Go yet again. Just remember, this, too, shall pass. Someday, they’ll be reading by themselves. And maybe they’ll have a good recommendation for you!

Why do young children want to read the same book over and over again? Is it even good for them?

How to Prepare for Your Parent-Teacher Conference

You’ve made it through back-to-school shopping, those first weeks of homework, and waking up to an alarm clock. Your child knows the routines for getting ready in the morning and doing homework at night. You’ve even mostly figured out how to get dinner on the table before your kids fall asleep. So now it’s time for the parent-teacher conference! Schools often hold conferences at the end of the marking periods or after the first few months of school. That means teachers have some data to report and parents have some questions in mind.

Meeting the teacher can be exciting or it might be tense, depending on how your child’s year is going.

 

The conference is a great opportunity to find out more about your child’s school day. But what should you be trying to find out?

Ask about expectations for homework at the parent-teacher conference

Depending on the teacher, school policies, age of the students, and subject of the class, homework expectations can vary widely. Many districts have a policy about how many minutes per night of homework students should have at each grade level. While I am very cautious about recommending homework to students because research shows that it may not benefit younger children, every teacher has their own philosophy.

Find out from the teacher how much time homework should take your child every night. Also discuss with the teacher a the plan for nights when the homework is taking your child much longer than the expected time. If your child is a struggling reader, for example, even the math work might take extra time as they struggle to decode the word problems.

Talk to the teacher about a plan for prioritizing the homework. Be honest about the amount of support you are providing at home to help your child get the homework done. If you are finding that you and the child are spending an exceptionally long time working together to try to complete the homework or if you find that your child is totally relying on you to reteach something they have learned in school, there may be a mismatch between the homework they are getting and their independent skill level.

One possible solution is to agree on a time limit for homework. If your child works more slowly than his peers in math, for example, agree that he will complete as many as he can in 15 minutes, if the rest of the class is expected to take 15 minutes to complete it. If handwriting is an issue, talk to the teacher about weather your child can type his spelling list for practice, or whether he could write the target words one or two times in if the class writes them three times. this can be tricky are at the upper grade levels, when some teachers grade homework assignments. but it is important that you and the teacher share expectations for homework and can work together as a team to help your child be successful.

Benchmarks for reading and math

Ask your child’s teacher what benchmarks or informal assessments they are using to learn about your child’s skills in reading, writing, and math. These are most often determined by the school district. Ask how many words per minute your child should be reading at this point in the year and how many she is reading. Find out how long the average written composition is for students in your child’s grade so that you can figure out whether her writing meets the standards. This is an important conversation because it means you won’t be surprised when report cards come to find that your child is not meeting expectations for the grade level.

If your child is not meeting benchmarks, ask what is being done to help them

Often schools use an approach called response to intervention, which identifies students who have not met learning targets at a certain point in the year. These students are given targeted additional support in their area of need. The way the support is given varies a lot from grade to grade and school to school but it often includes small group instruction where targeted concept is pre-taught or re-taught to help children who have not yet mastered it. Although the data may not be directly shared with parents, because response to intervention is a dynamic process in which students are moving in and out of intervention groups as they reach their goals, your teacher should be able to tell you generally when and how students are moved in and out of groups and how those decisions are made.

You may also ask about what staff members are participating in the response to intervention groups. It helps to know who the teachers are that your child is meeting with. You might be surprised or confused to hear them mention an unfamiliar name because often staff from across disciplines including paraprofessionals, teachers at other grade levels, and specialists like special education teachers and speech and language pathologists participate in response to intervention and take groups of students with the same specific skill needs.

Best way to communicate about questions or problems

Teachers often cover this on back-to-school curriculum nights at the beginning of the year, but if you don’t have a plan for the best way to get in touch with your child’s teacher, make sure you ask at the conference. Is it best for you to email your concerns? Do they prefer to have a phone message left for them at school? By the same token, be sure to let them know the best way to reach you. Do you prefer to be called on your cell phone or at your work number? Does the email address you gave at the beginning of the year still reach you during the day? It’s important to have a plan for communication to ensure that issues don’t linger and questions can be answered promptly so that your child and teacher and get on with the business of teaching and learning at school!

What systems are in place for behavior in the classroom

How is behavior managed in your child’s classroom? Is there something that works at home that your teacher hasn’t tried?

You may have a child who makes it all the way through the school year

 

without ever mentioning the behavior management system in the classroom. Or you may know the system inside and out by the end of September. It helps to find out from the teacher what the individual and group behavior expectations are for your child’s class and what systems are in place to address those. Does your teacher use a token economy system, like tickets the children can trade in for prizes? Does the class earn a collective reward when they get enough marbles in their jar? Are behavior corrections public like names written on the board or a classroom behavior chart? Or are corrections and reminders individual and personal? Does your child’s classroom use consequences like removal of recess time?

You know your child best and you may be able to suggest approaches to reminders or consequences that will be effective and efficient at helping your child be on her best behavior throughout the school day.

Suggestions for working with children at home

If there is an area where your child is not yet up to grade level, the parent-teacher conference is a great opportunity to ask the teacher for suggestions on how to practice at home. Does he recommend specific books or stories for building reading fluency? Are there math games that will help your child learn to recognize place value or memorize the multiplication tables? Is there a website that offers video reviews of the math skills your child doesn’t seem to remember? If you plan to give your child extra practice for their school work at home, resources from the teacher are a great place to start to keep your practice aligned with what’s going on in the classroom.

Recommendations for independent reading book

Some readers may have worked their way through every book in the house and most of the classroom library and be looking for more. Others may have trouble settling into a book or a series that interests them. The classroom teacher can tell you what your child has been reading in school and what other readers in the grade tend to like. That gives you good information for your next trip to the bookstore or library.

If your child is struggling, what’s next?

Talking about a child who is struggling with what is taught in class makes for a challenging conversation on both sides. As a parent, you feel worried that your child isn’t getting what he or she needs or you may feel frustrated that the school doesn’t seem to be solving a problem that you see at home. Maybe it’s not the first conference you have sat in where the teacher said your child is not meeting the grade-level benchmarks.

While it can be difficult, try to stay open to this new teacher’s plan. The vast majority of teachers are doing their best and using a range of creative tools to help your child be her best.

These conversations are easiest when the parents and teachers share the same concerns. For example, your son is avoiding reading at home and the teacher has data that shows he reads slower than his peers and has trouble with some of the phonics rules that were taught last year.

Ask the teacher what strategies she is using in the classroom to support him. She may talk about spending one to one time with him or having another adult in the school spend time with him regularly during the week to practice his reading. She may have him participating in targeted small group instruction, in which he and several classmates with the same needs are reading together. These approaches often fall under a system called response to intervention which is a method for supporting students that is based on classroom assessment data and providing targeted teaching in the area of weakness.

Ask how the teacher will know if his reading is getting better. Find out how often he is participating in groups, what specific program – if any – is being used, and how long the group will go on. For example, is her plan to reevaluate his skills after 8 or 12 weeks or will he participate in this small group all year long? While it is hard to rearrange and reformulate groups frequently, and kids often need the same practice for a large portion of the year, I hope you will hear that the teacher plans to reassess skills in a month or two and find out what the student should work on next.

What if you and the teacher don’t agree?

You might hear something surprising or unpleasant at the conference. Here’s how to deal with it

The conversation at the parent-teacher conference about next steps to support your child can be more challenging when you and the teacher are not seeing the same things. For example, you might be really concerned about a weakness in spelling while the teacher says your daughter’s skills are age-appropriate and that she’s getting better. It can be frustrating as a parent to hear a teacher dismiss your concerns. Try to remain open to what you’re hearing, but if something is an ongoing problem, don’t plan to give up. The teacher has the benefit of seeing many students over a period of years make progress through her class. She may have seen that students with your daughter’s needs often grow out of a skill weakness during her class. If the teacher does not jump on board with a concern you have, consider this conference the beginning of many conversations.

Try to leave the conversation with the thinking that you will both keep an eye on the problem you’re seeing and talk or meet again if you continue to have concerns about your child’s progress. Teachers understand that your role as a parent is to advocate for your child. Their role is to provide the learning environment and curriculum that allows your child to succeed and gives them the tools they need. You are on the same team even if your perspective is different.

Another difficult conversation occurs when you hear your child’s teacher saying that there is a problem with your child’s learning and you were not aware of it. It is easy to feel blindsided and defensive the first time you hear that you’re sweet, smart, child is not making the progress expected in class. Again, think about the perspective your child’s teacher can offer you. She has seen many children over a long period of time. Your perspective is often limited to what you have seen your child or children do. She may be aware of challenges in school that you had not yet considered. if the area the teacher is worried about is something you know your child can do, think about why your child might not be showing their best skills in class. Think about how how to build your child’s confidence or help them demonstrate their strengths to the teacher.

On the other hand, your child might truly have a weakness in an academic area. Kids are great at focusing on the things they are confident in and avoiding things that they find difficult. It may be that you have not seen your child’s weakness because it’s in an area that he doesn’t engage in at home. The teacher may have scene problems in an area you have not observed.

The Takeaway

A parent-teacher conference is a rare opportunity to get to know your child’s teacher and to spend a little time in the world of school where your child spends so much of her time. Also, think about how your child might be feeling about two of the important adults in his life sitting down without him. Most likely, he will want to hear that you and the teacher like and respect each other and that you are both proud of him and excited about the way he will grow this year. Hopefully, a parent-teacher conference with a positive conversation we’re both parties walk away with that feeling. If it doesn’t come easily, hopefully you can at least find some common ground with the teacher and come up with some positive elements to share with your child.

Tips for things to ask your child’s teacher at the parent-teacher conference

What Will Your Child Learn This Summer?

Are you looking back on your child’s school year and wishing things could be easier for them?

What if:What do you think would make your child's school year better?

  • Sunday night was a time for family dinner instead of scrambling to finish the weekend’s homework?
  • Essay assignments didn’t end in tears or frustration?
  • You didn’t have to spend as much time on homework as your child does?
  • Your child’s grades improved?
  • Your child went to school without feeling worried or afraid of what the day would bring?
  • You didn’t spend mornings looking for missing papers, lost library books, and pieces of clothing?
This summer, let’s work together to help your child get organized and prepared for school.

Does your child know HOW to study? I can teach them!I can help them:

  • Experiment with a planner or agenda book system to find one that actually make sense to them!
  • Learn note taking and study strategies that make it easy to get ready for tests.
  • Take the mystery and uncertainty out of planning and writing essays.
  • Make a plan for homework and stick to it to get a great start on the year!
  • Build vocabulary and reading strategies to help them read with confidence.

Contact me today for a no-cost 30-minute consultation to find out how I can help your child make next year the best school year yet!

 

3 Ways to Memorize Information for a Test

Memorizing and recalling information is a basic, concrete, way of using your memory. It’s simpler (but not necessarily easier) than applying facts to problem solving or demonstrating something you have learned. But sometimes teachers just test you on what you remember.

You can use these simple techniques to help you memorize information for a test.

Can imagining Buddha in a Porsche get you an A?

Can reliving your walk to school help you recall Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy?

If you connect images and everyday events to help to the things you are trying to memorize, the answer is ABSOLUTELY!

Visualization

One way to memorize information for a test is to create a silly or outrageous mental picture that helps you recall all the details you have to memorize. In a class I took, the professor went around the room and asked each of us to say a word. He wrote them all on a large piece of paper. Then he gave us 30 seconds to memorize as many words as we could. The next day in class, he asked us to write down as many as we could remember. I was the only one who got all of the 15 or so words. I did it by connecting them and making a silly story that used all the words. The only ones I remember now, ten years later, are door handle, blue and balloon. But hey, remembering 3 out of 15 random words I learned one Saturday for 10 years is something, right?

Here’s how you can use it:

Let’s say you have to memorize the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. You might picture a man with a speech bubble that has the word “free” in it (First amendment – free speech). His sleeves are rolled up (Second amendment – the right to bear arms (bare arms)). He’s throwing quarters at a soldier standing inside a house (Third amendment – about the quartering of soldiers in private homes). Nearby, a police officer is going through the man’s luggage (Fourth amendment – prohibits unreasonable search and seizure). You get the idea. All the amendments are represented in a single picture, so that when you imagine the picture during your test, you’ll be able to see clues for each one, and each amendment will trigger your memory for another one.

Memory Palace

The memory palace technique, also known as the method of loci, takes this a step further. It is an ancient strategy that relies on your mental image of a familiar location to help you recall new information. It works like this:

As you picture a familiar location, like your bedroom or landmarks on the way to school, you imagine each piece of information on one of the landmarks of your familiar setting. Once you have created your mental image of all the steps or parts you need to memorize at each location, you just have to imagine sitting in your bedroom, looking from your closet to your desk, to the drawers in your bureau, to recall each item on your list. 

Here’s how you can use it:

Start now. “Build” your memory palace ahead of time by constructing a list of 10 or 15 things in your bedroom or noticing the details of your trip to school. That way, when your teacher assigns a poem to memorize, you just assign a line of the poem to each part of your memory palace, which will help you recall the lines and keep them in order.

Mnemonics

A mnemonic is a term for any kind of memory device, but it usually refers to a word or phrase that reminds you of different words that have the same beginning letters. A famous example is ROY G. BIV which reminds us of the colors of the rainbow (Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violet). Another is the sentence, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos,” which has the same first letter as all the planets of our solar system, in order.

Fun fact: I learned “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” because in my day, poor Pluto was a planet, not just a dwarf planet.

Here’s how you can use it:

Create a mnemonic if you have to remember a list of information in a particular order. A simple example would be the water cycle: Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, and Collection. You might remember the initial letters: E, C, P, C with the sentence “Every Child Prefers Chicken.”

You may have to try one more than one memory strategy to figure out which one works best for you. Some people prefer to visualize pictures like in a Memory Palace or a mental image while others remember things better when they use words, such as with a mnemonic device. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose. 

The important thing is to be strategic when you are memorizing information. Reading and rereading flashcards will probably eventually get you the results you want but interacting with the information and using the creative parts of your brain will help you remember things for longer and memorize the more quickly. On the other hand, don’t get so caught up in making a beautiful picture or a silly mnemonic that you lose sight of the end goal, which is to remember the information.

All of these strategies take time to implement. The night before a test is not the time to create a mnemonic or build your memory palace. By planning ahead and using active strategies, you will find that studying becomes easier and less stressful and you get the grades you want and have fun doing it!

If you need help setting up study strategies for your classes or creating your study schedule, a tutor can help! Contact me for a free, 30-minute consultation to see if online tutoring is right for you.
3 Great Ways to Memorize Information for a Test

6 Reasons Online Tutoring is Better Than In-Person Tutoring

When I first talk to parents about online tutoring, some of them are skeptical. Meeting with a new person online seems risky and unfamiliar. There are also lots of companies that market themselves as online, on-demand tutors that are impersonal and offer uncertain quality and I think they give online tutoring a bad name. Many people feel comfortable interviewing and choosing an in-person tutor. Why not choose an online tutor the same way? 

The benefits of online tutoring are well worth the initial setup process. Once you figure how how online tutoring works, starting a session is as simple as making sure your child is logged in when the session starts. Here are some benefits you can enjoy when your child meets with their tutor online.

Fewer sick days

Sometimes your child, or your tutor, is just too sick to work. However, there are lots of other times when a cough or runny nose might keep your child and tutor apart. But if you work with your tutor online you can meet on those days without worrying about spreading germs. This also works if you are sick or if somebody else in your house is sick. You don’t have to worry about inviting the tutor into your home full of germs or sitting around the library waiting for your child when you would much rather be lying down.

Meet in any weather

This has been a rough winter for snow storms. I think my New England school district had at least six snow days. And there were other nights when it was too icy or snowy for me to tutor in the evening even if there wasn’t a major snowfall. With online tutoring, as long as you and the tutor have power and internet access, you can meet in any weather. That means fewer evenings of brushing off the car, squinting through snow squalls and watching out the window to make sure the weather doesn’t get worse before your session is over. Everyone stays warm and dry while your child gets the tutoring she needs!

Meet from anywhere

For busy families, the ability to conduct tutoring no matter where you are can be a lifesaver. Although it works best if your child works in a quiet, familiar location, tutoring can take place anywhere they happen to be. I work with some students who meet with me sometimes from one parent’s house and sometimes from the other. Other students might meet with a tutor from their afternoon babysitter’s house or from a friend’s house if they go away for the weekend. If you decide to go on vacation this summer, you might be able to continue tutoring while you’re gone. I know not every kid wants to meet with their tutor in the middle of the vacation, but if you have a long trip planned, online tutoring can prevent your child from losing ground over the summer.

Hire the best available tutor

Opening your search to online tutoring means you can work with a tutor from anywhere in the world who has the skills your child needs to learn. You will be able to find a tutor who shares your schedule, or your child’s special interest, or who is knowledgeable about your child’s greatest area of need. And tutoring rates can be more affordable because the tutor doesn’t have to travel to your home and therefore those travel costs are not built into your fee.

Students are more comfortable

One of the greatest advantages of online tutoring is the comfort it brings many students. For students that are anxious or shy around new people, sometimes having the distance of a web camera and not having to sit side-by-side with the tutor or look them in the eye helps them to feel more comfortable and focus on the lesson. It also make students more comfortable when sharing materials. When I can share a document on the screen and point to it with my mouse, we don’t have to sit side-by-side. This can be especially an advantage for older students, like middle school and high school kids. I can also quickly point out mistakes or highlight information without interrupting the students flow. I keep the work right on the screen where they are already reading or writing.

Easier to share resources

Speaking of sharing resources, online tutoring is great because it lets me as the tutor introduce new resources quickly and flexibly when they’re needed for the lesson. When I travel to a student’s home or to the public library, I don’t always have access to the internet. So if a topic comes up that a student doesn’t have background knowledge about or something that they are confused about, it’s harder for me to share visuals to quickly teach them something new. On the other hand, with online tutoring, I can quickly pull up a picture or a resource to share a needed fact. For example, when reading an article about Olympic records, I realize that my student wasn’t familiar with the long jump event. A quick Google search and a couple images from Wikipedia let me show him what the event looks like, and what the article was describing. This can be especially helpful for students who are working to build their vocabulary or who are visual learners.

And if a student finishes the work I had planned, I can quickly open the next article we plan to read, instead of being limited to the text I have printed in my bag. I was working with an in-person student recently and he was talking about what he had learned about Wilma Rudolph, the Olympic runner. He was very impressed by her story but, unfortunately, I had to stop him and totally change the subject to the text I had planned for that evening. If we had been meeting online, I could have quickly shown him a different article I read earlier that connected to his interest in Wilma Rudolph. I brought the connected article the next week, but it felt like a missed opportunity to capitalize on his interest.

Who is online tutoring for?

Online tutoring isn’t the best solution for everyone. For some younger learners, it can be challenging to navigate using the mouse or too distracting to have to draw or write their responses on the screen. I can facilitate a lot of this by offering to do the writing myself and keeping the lessons very verbal.

Other times, a parent has found they need to sit beside the young student and support them as they learn to use the mouse and keyboard efficiently. Although there can be a learning curve for some students when doing online tutoring, it can be a great solution for older students who are comfortable on the computer. Many students who are digital natives, used to using devices throughout their school day and for fun, find online tutoring very natural. 

Contact me for a free 30-minute consultation so I can show you how online tutoring would look for your child.
6 Reasons Online Tutoring is Better Than In-Person Tutoring

5 Reasons to Give Audiobooks to Reluctant Readers

Getting books into the hands and brains of your slow developing or reluctant readers isn’t just a good idea, it’s essential. Over time, kids who read less fall farther and farther behind their average reading peers. Researchers have found that as early as first grade, average readers read up to three times as many words in a week as their lower performing classmates. They have called it “the Matthew Effect” because in reading, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. When kids miss out on reading all those words, it limits vocabulary, makes it hard for them to comprehend more complex stories, and prevents them from becoming more fluent readers. They fall farther behind and become even more likely to avoid reading.

For this snowball of important reasons, it’s a great idea to give audiobooks to reluctant readers.

But isn’t reading an audiobook cheating?

This is the number one question that comes up when I suggest audiobooks for reluctant readers. But is it cheating when you listen to the news on the radio instead of picking up the newspaper? Is it cheating when your best friend starts to text you a great story and you say, “Call me instead!”?

Audio books are a great tool for kids to use and they don’t replace learning to read. In fact, they complement it.

Here are five reasons to get your kids listening to audiobooks

Build vocabulary

Students can comprehend material at a higher level than what they can read.  by listening to audiobooks at their listening comprehension level, kids can be exposed to vocabulary that they will not be able to read independently for a while. In turn, a better oral vocabulary helps with their reading comprehension and their ability to read those familiar words when they first see them in print.

Grow a love of stories

Listening to audiobooks can be just plain fun! Kids who struggle to read or get bored when they’re reading with their eyes may find it much easier to get into a story when they hear it. That doesn’t mean it’s cheating. Sometimes they are exposed to a story for the first time as an audiobook, then later go on to read other titles in the series.

Replace screen time

Audio books can be a nice compromise to replace screen time for long car trips for example. Times when kids are “bored” are great times to listen to audiobooks. You can either choose a title to listen to as a family or have the kids put in earbuds and listen to their own choices on tablets or smartphones.

Promote independent reading

If you find yourself struggling with your child about independent reading time, audiobook might be a solution that get them over the hump and help them create an independent reading habit. You might make a deal like letting the child listen to the book first and then having them reread it with their eyes. You could also set a schedule where Tuesday and Thursday are audiobook nights and the other nights are for eye reading.

Practice comprehension skills

Just like vocabulary, comprehension can be improved by listening to audiobooks. Kids have the chance to listen to text that is more complex, and maybe more interesting, then what they can read independently. Understanding things about story structure and character traits will help them comprehend better when they do read text with their eyes. Plus, it gives them a chance to practice those story-level skills without feeling distracted by the mechanics of reading words.

Some kids avoid reading because it feels hard. These can be kids with ADHD, or with specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Other reluctant readers do not have disabilities, but for one reason or another would rather do other things and avoid reading. No matter the reason, audiobooks can be an excellent stepping stone towards a love of reading. Free audio books are available for download at many public libraries. You can also get books on CD from the library. Finally, a subscription to Audible would get your child a steady supply of new audiobooks each month. No matter what option you choose, consider offering audiobooks as part of a “balanced diet” of reading.

If your child is avoiding reading, they may be struggling with basic skills that make reading and writing frustrating and hard. Tutoring can help. Contact me today for a free 30-minute consultation to find out how online tutoring can help your child be a more confident reader by the end of the summer!
Audio books can improve kids’ vocabulary, comprehension and motivation to read!

Private Tutor vs. Tutoring Centers: Finding the Right Fit for Your Child

Hiring a tutor for your child is not a decision most parents take lightly. Often, the family has tried having a parent help with homework, encouraging the child to stay after school to meet with the teacher, and extra practice in workbooks or on websites like Khan Academy. Sometimes, in spite of all these efforts, the child needs extra support from a tutor to master the skills he is missing and meet his goals at school. There are many ways to find a tutor, and in this post I will outline some pros and cons of finding a private tutor and attending a commercial tutoring center.

Getting Connected

Unless you live in a very rural area, tutoring centers like Sylvan and Kumon are heavily advertised and widely available. You might drive by them in your errands or see their advertisements in your local paper or in Facebook. A tutor is just a click or call away. These big companies have a staff of people ready to talk with you about your request and match you to an available tutor.

Finding the right private tutor can take a little more effort. Local teachers often tutor students in their school community. Other parents hire high school or college students to tutor their children. For some students, this is enough. For students with greater needs, like those who need tutoring for dyslexia or dysgraphia, or students who need help with executive function, it is important to find an expert who can offer your child the best strategies for learning. To find a tutor that is a good match for your child, you may need to email, call and interview more than one person to find the best fit. It is easy to use an internet search to find tutors in your subject in your area. Online tutoring is another awesome way to work with the best tutor you can find without having to worry about travel or geographical limitations. Meeting with a tutor through video conferencing opens up your search to the best available tutor in the world, not just the best tutor in your town.

Scheduling

Tutoring centers are flexible and convenient. They are often open all afternoon and evening and they usually have many tutors they can assign you to. You will be able to set up a tutoring schedule that can fit in with your busy life and your child’s schedule of sports and activities.

Independent tutors are individual human beings, so they may or may not be able to meet your exact scheduling needs. But while they may not have unlimited hours to offer you, independent tutors are often willing to be flexible to best meet your needs. Offering flexible arrangements like every other week tutoring, or changing your time slot if needed are benefits that you can get with an independent tutor. Instead of working with an employee of a tutoring company, who may have fixed work hours, you can choose an independent tutor who sets his own hours.

Curriculum

In my experience, large tutoring companies offer more of a “one size fits all” approach to curriculum. A large tutoring center often has access to a wide variety of curriculum. Some companies use commercially available workbooks and worksheets and the quality of this curriculum may vary. Other large tutoring companies have developed their own proprietary curriculum that may or may not be a good fit for your child’s needs. Before you commit to a tutoring center, be sure you know what type of curriculum they use, and also what kind of assessments they offer to make sure your child is learning what they came in to learn.

Independent tutors have almost unlimited options in the curriculum they offer. Some tutors are willing to work with your child’s textbook and homework material. Others have their own preferred resources or develop individualized lessons for each student. In my experience, independent tutors are more likely to be flexible about the curriculum they use. It is in their best interest to use the materials that make your child most successful! An important part of arranging tutoring with a private tutor is still asking about curriculum and assessments.

The Personal Touch

As an independent tutor, it is my business to make sure my students achieve their tutoring goals. So if it’s appropriate, I have arranged with some students to review draft of their paper or to connect with them outside of our tutoring meetings to remind them about what they need to complete. I often send emails to parents or students to see whether they have tried the techniques I taught them, or finished the homework assignment that was giving them trouble when we last spoke.

Tutors from a tutoring center usually work set hours on site. Companies may even have policies that prevent these tutors from communicating directly with students and parents outside of their tutoring sessions. While there are many options online for instant homework help, these convenient sites won’t know about your child or be able to remind her about what she learned before to help her with tonight’s assignment.

Cost

I saved this for last, because the cost of tutoring varies widely depending on what services you are looking for and where you live. Tutoring centers often offer group tutoring, which can keep costs lower. They may offer pricing deals if you buy a block of tutoring hours, enroll more than one child, or commit to a long-term contract. When you buy tutoring from a tutoring center, keep in mind that your fee pays for the physical surroundings as well as the support staff and administrative staff running the center. The tutor who works directly with your child probably will not be highly paid. As a result, these jobs don’t attract the most highly-qualified and experienced tutors.

The cost for private tutoring varies, too. You can hire a high school or college student for not much more than minimum wage. Hiring a professional tutor, someone with an education degree and teaching experience, or someone with a specialty like learning disabilities tutoring or test preparation tutoring costs more. But a cheap tutor isn’t always a good deal. An experienced professional tutor can assess your child and identify the problem your child is having. She may be able to correct the problem in just a couple of well-planned lessons. An inexpensive, inexperienced tutor might put in many hours with your child without dramatic results.

The Final Decision

There is no one “best” or “right” kind of tutoring. Students and families can find almost any tutoring solution to meet their needs, from meeting with a local college student at the library after school to having a private tutor come to your home, to taking your child to a small group class at a large tutoring center. As you shop for a tutoring solution for your child, think about your child’s personality and academic needs. Consider your family’s schedule and other family members’ needs. Set your budget for tutoring and be prepared to talk about your goals for what you would like your child to accomplish through tutoring. By preparing before your first conversation with a tutor and knowing what you expect, you can find a tutor that will help your child make the most of her study time!

Choosing a private tutor or a tutoring center is one of the first steps toward getting your child the help they need.

How and Why to Use a Color-Coded Binder System

In elementary school, staying organized was pretty easy. Homework was the same, week to week, and teachers gave lots of support and reminders, and parents did the same at home. Some kids internalized those routines, and others got by with help. And yes, sometimes work got forgotten in a student’s desk or lost in the bus, but the stakes were low.

Fast forward to middle school

Different teachers all day long, and lockers to manage. Suddenly, kids are responsible for holding on to work for days at a time and finishing it at home, then returning it for a grade. They are taking notes and getting materials they need to study for a test weeks from now.

Some teachers explicitly teach systems for keeping it all organized. Some teams of teachers plan for all the kids they teach, so everyone’s materials match. And in some schools, with some teachers, you are on your own.

If your student hasn’t been given a specific supply list to follow, start here with a color coding system. And don’t forget to grab your color-coded binder checklist PDF down below!

Why color-code?

A color-coded system is ideal for kids who:

Color coding folders is a great way to help kids get organized
  • Are distractible. A consistent color system gives kids with ADD/ADHD an extra layer of prompts.
  • Are poor readers. Being able to remember that all red items go with science, for example, means they can more quickly find and file items without taking the time to read each handout or page of notes.
  • Have poor short term memory or slow processing speed. These kids might need more time to make decisions about where to put things, and again, the colors add another layer of cueing.
  • Are anxious. The time pressure of making it from one class to the next can make adults crazy, let alone an anxious kid. A color-coded system is ready to put things in and quick to straighten up later if something gets hastily misfiled.

How to set up color coded binders

  1. Decide on a type of binder. One big, zipped, binder (like this one from Case-It) works well for fifth and sixth grade, or for classes with workbooks (and not a lot of handouts or note paper). A series of 3-ring binders (I like these sturdy ones from Avery) works for students who can get to their lockers a few times a day, and is better if teachers tend to give many handouts.
  2. Shop. Back to school time is a great time to stock up, of course. Invest in sturdy binders (marked durable or heavy-duty) so they can withstand lockers, backpacks, and teenage indifference.
  3. Organize. Label each folder, binder and notebook with the name of the class (and for the notebook, with the date you started it). Put the colored pencils or pens in a pencil case or zippered pocket. Put the key to the color code in 4 places: a plastic sleeve in the front of the binder, a plastic sleeve hanging in the locker, taped into the cover of the child’s planner/agenda book, and hanging over the homework area.
  4. Use it! Start class with the correct binder, folder, and notebook at
    Use colored pencils to mark each paper you get in class with the date.

    your desk. Take out the matching colored pencil. Put a quick mark in the top right corner of each page the teacher hands out. Better yet, put the date and a quick direction on each page. Write “study,” “read,” “have Mom sign” to remind yourself what to do with the paper.

  5. Maintain it. At the end of the
    Every evening, put new papers in the binders when you start your homework.

    school day, or when you get home, do a quick visual check. Are all the items in the folders marked with the right color? Are there any papers that belong somewhere else? Use the three-hole punch to put any papers you are keeping in the notebook rings.

  6. Clean it out. At the end of the week, month or term, look at every page in a binder. Remove any old work (stuff that’s been graded and notes/handouts when the test/project/unit is completed), clip it together and put a sticky note with the date on it. Then file it in long term storage (or put the whole thing in the recycling, if you’re sure you don’t need it again).

This system is a great start for kids who don’t have one. As you put it into place, you will start to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. There is nothing magical or sacred about this system. The magic comes from putting something in place and working with it. Subscribe below to get a free PDF checklist for setting up your color-coded binder system and a shopping list for picking up the materials you need.



Need help getting your child organized? Contact me for a free 30-minute consultation to help you decide if tutoring is a good fit.