Tutor time


Last week I talked about building brain muscles during summer vacation. My post today (and others to follow) will hopefully give you some ideas to max those brain muscles out!

I love tutoring – I really and truly do. It fills the void that I tend to feel about 2 weeks in to summer “break”. I start missing my students and the things they say. I start missing the rewarding feelings of watching a student try his or her hardest and succeed. And – it also helps me know that students who need to maintain their school year gains are. 🙂

Tutoring is an opportunity for me to try out some ideas that I’ve been looking at and to see how it goes. I’m always looking for new ways to reach emergent readers. My Pinterest boards are even separated into Classroom Antics and Tutor Time.




When working with students who are emergent readers, it is important to teach the same concept in as many different ways as possible. Some students may come from low income homes – which can drastically affect vocabulary acquisition and comprehension. For example, in a low income home, by the age of three a child may have heard 10 million words. This is in comparison to a child of the same age from a middle class home which has heard over 30 million words. Karen Tankersley included in her book on literacy strategies: Juel (1988) reports that by the end of 1st grade, students proficient at reading will have seen an average of 18,681 words of running text, whereas those who are struggling will have only seen 9,975. It is no wonder that, given half as much practice as their more proficient peers, struggling readers lost ground in decoding, automaticity, fluency, and vocabulary growth.

Struggling readers need to feel motivated and find themselves successful. Choice is also important. There are many other statistics and research I can offer on this topic, but I will resist the soapbox for now.

This summer, I am tutoring a child I just finished teaching in kindergarten. We have a good time and I try to make the hour long sessions as fun as possible. But we work – HARD! I am incorporating ideas from Pinterest, research, and the far reaches of my brain. I’m also using lessons from Fountas and Pinnell.


She made such great progress this year. Her parents are incredibly supportive and understand the importance of not losing all those gains.

I give her as much choice as possible during the session. She chooses from the activities I have in mind and sets the order we do them. Some she is familiar with (apps on the iPad) and others are new to her.

After going back over her sight words lists from the end of the year, we created new cards for her to practice. I drew the words in block letters. She colored them and then stamped the word on the other side, spelling as she went. We then reviewed the words and she took them home. We go through these cards each day. When she recognizes a word 5 times in a row, she gets to put it on the hot pink binder ring she chose.

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We use those same words to play sight word hopscotch.


We use word family cards to come up with rhyming words. These are great sets I got from a teacher supply store.

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Also – we read A LOT! I have great sight word readers I printed from Hubbard’s Cupboard.



We use these to go on sight word hunts and for reading. She takes two home each day to read and practice. The following day, we search for sight words and highlight them in the text. Then she reads them to me again.

During the one hour long sessions, we may do anywhere from 5-8 different activities. She is always eager to find out what is next. At some points she needs to move on from one activity to another to prevent her from getting too frustrated. I am able to see what coping mechanisms her young brain has already developed – and decide which are good strategies to keep, which are bad habits to break. We mostly work on phonics and reading, but we throw some math in there as well. Remember, literacy extends into all subject areas.

More ideas to come!



Filed under Literacy

2 responses to “Tutor time

  1. Very informative and inspiring. It is true that a huge part of success is getting the students to feel motivated in what they are doing. Great work!

  2. Pingback: Tutor Time 2 | With Literacy in Mind

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