If your child is struggling with writing or reading, you may be wondering if hiring a tutor will help. Here, St. Paul, MN teacher Marilyn G. shares what to expect from a tutor, and how you can continue helping your child along the way…
I have been tutoring students periodically throughout my career. I started as an academic tutor for high school home-bound students in a local school district. Since then I have worked with students from kindergarten through adult who have wanted and needed to learn better writing skills to experience success at school or in the workplace. A tutor can help your child in any of the following areas.
• Different word types, nouns, verbs, conjunctions, pronouns
• Punctuation: commas, capitalization, quotations
• Sentence structure: subject or predicate, compound sentence structures, writing a statement versus a command or a question
• Vocabulary development
2. Paragraph development:
• Writing an introductory paragraph
• Creating a strong main idea statement
• Using details to support the main idea
• Using interesting, precise word choices
• Writing in complete sentences versus phrases or run-on sentences
• Writing a conclusion paragraph.
3. Overall organization of various forms of writing:
• 3-paragraph essays
• 5-paragraph essays
• Non-fiction reports
• Varied forms (e.g. persuasive essays, descriptive essays, cause-effect, comparison-contrast, process analysis, narrative, poetry)
4. Big picture skills in writing:
• Character development
• Plot development
• Unity and cohesion
Writing strategies will vary depending on your child’s needs and interests, and most tutors will prioritize their tutoring around the areas which present the most difficulty for the individual student, or those that you as a parent request be specifically addressed. Once you and your tutor have determined what your child needs to work on, how can you as a parent help to teach those skills? Here are some specific writing strategies you can use to teach the skills listed above.
1. Teach your child how to use graphic organizers to help outline ideas. Graphic organizers will help your child get creative ideas out of their minds and onto paper. Combining the organizing requirements with their ideas is very empowering for children. Graphic organizers are especially helpful if your child’s first language is not English, if your child has any form of learning disability, if your child struggles with attention issues, or if your child is significantly below grade level. This task helps break the writing process into manageable steps.
2. Record your child retelling a story. Read your child a short story. Afterward, have him or her retell the story to you while you record it. Listen to the recording together and then discuss the main idea, characters, setting, and the conclusion of the story. This retelling and discussion will help your child internalize the structure of stories and writing, which is a helpful step not generally included in regular classroom instruction.
3. Co-write a story with your child. Doing this with your child can make the task fun and interactive rather than a “lonely” activity. Some kids need this personalized attention to help them improve their sense of being a capable writer. Silly stories, fairytales, and comics are all usually exciting for children. Type up a copy for you and your child, and hang a copy on the refrigerator, which will increase your child’s feeling of accomplishment. Over time, your goal should be to gradually encourage your child to do more and more of the writing on his or her own.
4. Determine the learning goal. Children struggling with writing can be overwhelmed with the many errors they know they’re making. To help, try working together with your child to pick one or two goals for each writing assignment. This eliminates the need to over-correct your child’s work, as you can quickly revise those parts of the assignment that are not stated as the goals you and your child have chosen. Discuss only corrections for the areas stated in his or her learning goals.
5. Choose a book that demonstrates the skill your child is learning and read the book together. Discuss how the writing impacts the story. How did the author convey sadness? Was this word the best choice in this spot? Reading and writing are inseparable, so read together daily when possible and share what you like and don’t like about how the story is written.
Marilyn G. teaches math, reading, social studies, and ASL in St. Paul, MN. She holds an MA in English as a Second Language from Hamline University in St. Paul. Learn more about Marilyn here!
Photo by woodleywonderworks