How can you offer effective tutoring to help underachieving student develop confidence, improve their learning skills, build good work habits and thus begin to achieve their true potential?
"The answer is not working harder, but learning how to learn" says Helen Gibson, a teach with over 35 years experience teaching on four continents. Helen developed the key learning and tutoring strategies to ensure academic success that we will be discussing in this article. Here’s a sample of some of the accelerated learning techniques she recommends for use in the tutoring process.
This is a cornerstone strategy based on accelerated learning research. As reported in: Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century, the ground breaking work by Colin Rose and M. J. Nicholls:
Your student may do this already in his head. Then it is simply a matter of persuading him to verbalize aloud so that you can hear his thoughts and help him more effectively. Be aware that many underachievers [particularly in mathematics] sit and try to do a problem in complete silence inside their heads. They think that solutions just pop into the heads of ‘smart’ people. During your tutoring sessions your student may be uncomfortable with this strategy. This is more of a challenge, but your student absolutely must learn to talk aloud - and listen to himself - for his own sake! Help him to tell you whatever is going on in his head, even if it is "I hate ….". Help him ‘burble’ on about anything he sees in the problem. Help him ask himself such generic questions as "what am I after?" and "what am I given?" Encourage all hints of success. In particular, point out when your student was able to talk his way even part way through a question that initially, in silence, he felt that he could not do. Model ‘Talking Aloud’ for him. Get him to explain steps to you as if he were tutoring you. Cajole, praise, bribe, but this accelerated learning technique has to be mastered before the other tutoring strategies will work. Of course, the student will then learn to automatically ‘talk’ in his head whenever he is solving problems.
This accelerated learning strategy of reviewing and backchecking applies to all subjects and boosts retention significantly. The more they review, the more they will remember. According to Bob Pike, accelerated learning expert and author of Creative Training Techniques Handbook, without regular review and practice, students will forget 80% of what they learned in 30 days. This means that your student will be doing every step of her problem twice, as she works her way through a question or assignment. Practice (integration) is also the 3rd phase of accelerated learning guru David Meier’s model for accelerated learning techniques.
“Phase 3, the practice (integration) phase, is the very heart of accelerated learning. Without it there can be no real learning."
We will outline examples of how this accelerated learning technique can apply to Mathematics, as well as to the Arts, Social/Natural Sciences, and Humanities.
In Mathematics, backchecking means that your student will be doing every step of her solution twice, as she works her way through a problem. Model this for your student: for example with this mathematics question, 3x2 - 5x7, you would hear your student say as she was writing out the solution “3 times 2 is 5 - let me check - no 3 x 2 is 6 - minus 5 times 7 is minus 35 - let me check - minus 5 x 7 is minus 35 …."
Initially, this may seem time-consuming, but we promise you that once it is automatic, a great deal of time will be saved. During the tutoring sessions, make sure that she is Backchecking all the time - do not just remind her when she makes a mistake, because then she is relying on you to tell her when she has made a mistake, and you will not be with her at home and in the classroom. Marks of students who are prone to ‘careless’ mistakes can increase by 15% with this strategy [along with Talking Aloud] alone!
It is always wise to write things down as you work your way through a problem, in order to keep track of good ideas and to see concepts on paper so that you can build on those ideas. By high school this approach becomes essential, even though before high school, many students could solve the problems completely in their heads or hold all the concepts needed for their essay in their heads and only used pen and paper as a recording tool. Each time you offer tutoring, help your student to talk aloud and write as she thinks her way through a problem. If she hates to write something down that might be wrong, have her divide her page in half and do her written thinking at the side.
Do homework consistently and make good corrections. Notes always taken in class - dated and complete - should include what the teacher says, not just what is written on the board. Homework always attempted, with written evidence of this. Homework questions starred if there was any difficulty. Corrections made in color, with explanations of where the student went wrong.
The longer you provide tutoring and work with particular students, they will gradually relax, and feel that it is OK to make mistakes, OK to be vulnerable and let you see his errors, etc. When he begins to gain confidence in himself, point out how we all learn from our mistakes - demonstrate how he has learned from an error - model how you learn from your mistakes - etc. Then encourage him to risk trying to solve problems that he is unsure of in the classroom setting, even when he may be wrong. It is OK to be wrong, but not OK to not try.
Insist that the students you are tutoring see their own subject teacher for individual help at least once a week outside of class time, even if just for a few minutes. Teach her how to take her notebook with a question that she had trouble with, with the question attempted to the point where she could go no further. Use the tutoring sessions to provide coaching to help students learn how to ask questions in class.
First look over the entire test briefly and spot the easiest questions. Begin with these. Briefly check each step in the solution as you work through it. Budget your time. Avoid becoming “stubborn" with one question. Watch the time spent on each question and ‘cut your losses’ and move on when unable to continue with a question. Be sure to leave all your attempts written down so that part marks are a possibility.
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