Thursday, September 01, 2011

Week 1. Personalize the Session

This is Shaun Conner.  The blog calls me Captain because I already have a blog and that is my user name.
            My first week was good.  I learned a lot from talking with and observing other tutors.  I observed three different tutors and each had a personal style.  One tutor sat back and let the tutee guide the session and ask questions, while another took a more active position, making suggestions and giving encouragement.   I think both approaches worked well for the tutee.  I hope that I will be perceptive enough to determine early in a session which approach would work best for the tutee I am working with. 
            I also had the opportunity to tutor by myself for the first time.  I tutored four sessions on Wednesday.  Three sessions were with ESL students.  The ESL tutees all wanted to focus on syntax, grammar, verb conjugation, and word choice.  I was hesitant because I had learned to focus first on the overall organization and effectiveness of the piece. The papers were all short and based on simple topics, so they were not hard to organize or develop. All three ESL papers were personal essays, so the students had clear ideas of what they wanted their papers to say. These students really did need help on the sentence level. 
            I had trouble with things I had not anticipated. One student had difficulty understanding when to use an article (the, a) and when not to.  The tutee could not hear the difference and I did not want to just give her the answer.  We talked it over and she told me what her ESL professor had already taught her.  By the end of the session we both had a better understanding of articles. 
            Another student wrote about a specific religious practice.  His writing was accurate but he left out a lot of necessary information.  There were words and concepts he assumed the writer would understand.  It took me a moment to explain that a reader unfamiliar with his religion would have trouble following his descriptions.  
            The other session I took was with a student from 0955.  She was having trouble with parts of speech.  We went through the lesson in her textbook.  The concept was simple but the language was difficult for her to follow.  It was helpful to have it “translated” for her.  We then worked through a few examples on her worksheet.  I thought she would have trouble with prepositions and conjunctions, but she actually had trouble nouns and verbs, specifically with “ing” nouns like bowling.  They look like verbs, bowling is something you do, but they are really nouns.  I had to listen to her questions before I started giving instruction.
            The biggest lesson I took from the first week was to personalize the sessions.  If you had given me the situations as hypotheticals in class, I would have suggested different routes than I ended up taking in practice.   I am glad we talked about personalizing the session beforehand, and that the tutors I observed were good examples.  

Shaun Conner 


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