One of the first things we ask the parents we help is, ‘Why are you seeking tuition?’ Obvious question you might think, however, why we ask this is the important part. Thinking about the type of child you are teaching is crucial to understanding the difficulties they are facing. If you can quickly recognise the real reasons behind a parent’s concerns, it is far easier to select the best techniques for tackling a child’s gaps.
There are obviously no hard and fast categories of students who seek tuition, but we find that there are generally six types of student and learning styles. See if you agree.
These are the most obvious class of student: those who find school, or a particular subject, difficult. These children have often got left behind by the pace of learning in the classroom. They will often speak about their lack of confidence, not liking a subject and finding it too difficult. These are often the easiest children to identify and, in many cases, the easiest to teach.
These children often have gaps in the most basic foundations of a subject. Go back to the very basics and move on only when they are truly confident with a concept or skill. Build slowly on the rudimentary skills they acquire as you go and watch as their confidence builds. Be careful not to teach steps, teach understanding.
Important: You will need to explain your plan to the pupil's parents, who may be concerned at the level you are working at. Tell them why it is vital to build from the bottom up and let them see how their child is blossoming as they start to understand concepts they thought were beyond them.
There are many children out there who are capable but lack confidence. This is often the saddest case, but one which is a lovely challenge. These are children who can complete activities successfully, but don’t believe they can beforehand, and often don’t think they have been successful afterwards.
Start simple, but go quickly. Like the strugglers, these children will benefit from going back to basics, but this time, do so not to fill in gaps but, instead, to show them just how much they know already!
As they begin to realise their own abilities, seek to quickly reach the level they are currently working at and then introduce new concepts in contexts they already know. Your questioning will be key with these children - use your questions as prompts to get them thinking, guiding them to the right skills, concepts and, resultantly, answers. Gradually reduce your prompts as their confidence grows and then point out how they are completing tasks without your help. ‘You don’t need me,’ is a great line.
Important: Again, discuss your approach with parents and help them to take a similar approach at home. Remember, parents are often seeking guidance themselves. Be careful not to heap too much praise on these children (tempting as it is), because to develop their inner confidence they will need to be able to recognise their own achievements themselves.
These are the children who are doing okay, but could do much better. They are the middle ability children who sometimes get lost in a classroom setting. They are the children who just need a bit more drive, or a push in the right direction.
These children often gain a lot from a short, sharp burst of tuition to get them motivated. Show them what they are capable of by giving them fun, engaging activities to foster a passion for their learning. Show them where they can get to by talking about their aspirations and hobbies, and then designing activities based on these.
Most importantly of all, make them feel proud of their own efforts. Many children await the feedback of adults, rather than taking pride in their own achievements. SO ask them, ‘Are you proud of that work?’ or ‘How do you feel about what you have just achieved?’ If you can foster an internal drive in these children, they will fly in school.
For us, these are the trickiest children to help, because learning how to learn is a much more difficult proposition than learning new skills. They are children who have never developed the study skills they need. They may focus on right answers, not trying to understand concepts. They may struggle to: concentrate, engage in class, learn from their own reading at home, or even to sit down and start work. If you are a poor learner, this will impact upon every subject.
Speak to the parents first. Teaching skills such as concentrating and note taking are very soft skills, but are incredibly important. Often, parents want to see specific, measurable gains, but this will not be the case with a focus on becoming a better learner. It is vital that parents are on board from the outset.
Much of your teaching will be in presenting an activity, discussing how to approach it and then assessing what tactics helped, focussing on the process of skill selection and use of resources. Similarly, you will need to arm the student with strategies for becoming unstuck, i.e. asking teachers, peers or parents and using resources. Empowering this type of child will take time and these skills should be taught alongside the subject-specific content you are covering.
These are the children who are already doing very well in school but who want to achieve the top grades, or whose parents feel they can be pushed further than they are in school. These children can be seeking specific exam guidance or they may wish for a more open, discursive approach that fosters a deeper understanding and interest in a subject.
First, find out the aims of tuition and then tailor your teaching to this. For this category of children, you should be led more by the parent and student in determining what to focus upon. That said, for those who require exam preparation, it will be about performing an initial assessment to uncover their strengths and weaknesses - focussing on the areas which let them down at present. Remember, exam technique is a hugely important skill in itself. The most knowledgeable pupil will not get the best grades if they cannot decipher the meaning of a question or give a succinct written response.
For those who would like you to broaden their child’s understanding of a subject, well, just enjoy sharing your passion for the subject. Try to get these students to think about their own interests and which topics raise the most questions for them.
Every child has special educational needs, however, there are many children with specific barriers to their learning which require more specialist knowledge.
Given the breadth of needs and advice to be offered, we will purely set out some basics here. First, discuss any formal diagnosis with parents, asking for any reports they have been provided. Ask them which strategies they, and school, have found work best with their child and build these into your sessions. Similarly, do your research. Look up methods other teachers use or relevant bodies recommend. It may be that you believe a student shows sign of additional needs, in which case it will be up to to raise this with parents.
Some individuals who seek out a private tutor do so because of a specific learning difficulty (SpLD). According to the NHS one in every ten students in the UK struggles with some form of dyslexia, an SpLD that affects literacy skills.
Left undiagnosed, an SpLD can cause a student to fall behind his or her peers and negatively impact on confidence, self-esteem and attitudes towards school and learning.
That’s why it is important tutors recognize the signs of dyslexia, make use of appropriate materials, and implement dyslexia-friendly teaching strategies on a case-by-case basis. The right accommodations can help every student reach their full potential."Meredith Cicerchia, Blog Editor, Touch-type Read and Spell
Scott is a fully qualified primary teacher who left teaching to set up Tutorful, a site which helps parents and learners find the right tutor for them.
If you are looking to become a tutor, you can easily create a profile with Tutorful. You can set your own price, offer online or face-to-face tuition and begin building your rewarding career in no time.