I think it’s safe to say that most tutors like their students to come well-prepared with bits and pieces. After all, all the material that they’ve been using to learn with is what they’ll need to use to revise and most likely the things that you’re going to need to use during the sessions.
However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t just turn up on your own – there are little things that you should take with you to help the sessions go smoothly. That way, you’ll keep your student engaged and you will help provide the best support.
Here’s my list of ten for tutors.
- A good old-fashioned notebook – Taking a notebook with you to mark down what you get up to with each student is really the key thing. Some students will indeed make notes, but it gives you a personal record all in one place. As a student I occasionally lost the odd set of notes now and again so having everything in one place is rather handy. I’ve seen some tutors who buy a new notebook for each student – if you want to go for that then fair enough.
Personally, I wouldn’t use a laptop as it can seem a little impersonal as you sit there opposite/next to them.
- A copy of their syllabus – Generally, many students will follow one particular one and, for the most part, there aren’t too many different exam boards out there for the same subject. Having that there will make sure that you and your student both know what is expected when it comes to that all-important exam.
- A practice paper or two (and mark scheme!) – This will be rather useful for you once you’ve taken a look at the course material that they want to examine further. Once you’ve spent some time going over a certain subject or topic, you’ll be able to see how they stack up against some of the previous exam questions that have been used in the past. And be sure to remember the mark scheme just so that both you and your student can be sure that the actual process being followed is the right way about it!
- Some highlighters and markers – When it comes to making revision notes and the like, you really need to… erm, highlight the key points that a student needs to know. Key facts, methods and points in the margin all need to catch the eye, so having a highlighter handy to get different things noticed is going to help them recognise the key points on the page. Just be careful with them – you don’t want too many things to be highlighted or the meaning is lost. On a similar note…
- Post-stick notes – If your student brings a particular textbook with them, sometimes it’s rather useful to be able to make the odd note on the page without having to write all over that – schools might not be so keen on that. A little note here and there will help you to add a little point or make an alternative suggestion if you don’t like the look of something.
- Flashcards – Come revision time, the generally accepted practice of making flashcards comes into its own. They’re interesting to make and they can make a lot of difference to a student’s revision. Having the means to do this with a student will help revision along greatly. Even if you aren’t particularly near the exam period, you will be able to get the basics down and keep them reinforced as you go along.
- A calendar/planner – If you’ve got a long-term plan for a particular student then you might want to keep yourself and your student organised. You’ll be able to work out when you’re meeting and where, what you want to discuss in each session and what you want a student to do in the meantime. All of this will help you keep to a certain plan as you go along.
- Some super wonderful homework! – I suspect that your student might not love you too much for this one, but setting your own work might go some way to finding out what your students are capable of and which areas need a bit of work. This is especially true if you don’t like some of the questions and exercises that feature heavily in textbooks.
If your student gave you something to look at, make sure you definitely bring it back to take a look at. Not only will they be happy you took the time to look at their efforts, but it might highlight some interesting bits and pieces. I remember getting essays back from my French tutor at A Level – there was always a little piece or two of grammar which I had not done quite done perfectly. Every little helps.
- Some of your own ideas and notes – Believe me, there’s nothing quite like looking at the ideas and theories of a tutor. I can remember struggling through certain areas of maths at A Level and my tutor would go away and work at a particular point. Coming back the next day to take a look at what he’d done was exceptionally useful and gave me a clever insight into a given method. If there’s something you and student aren’t sure on during a session, take it home and give it a bash at home. The effort won’t go unnoticed.
- Take a positive attitude! – OK, so this is a complete cliché I know, but I can’t stress it enough. Go with an open mind as to what you might expect and don’t be too judging of your student, whether or not they’re new to you.
It’s not to say you shouldn’t go in with any expectations at all, but make sure that you don’t go in presuming a certain standard from a student. Use what you learn from them to gauge where they’re at and what they need to do to improve. Understand where they want to get to.
We have been blogging advice for tutors for a while now – our ‘Tips for Tutors’ series. Just in case you missed any, you can find them at:
How to ensure that the first lesson goes really well
Structuring your lessons
12 teaching strategies for more effective tutoring
How to market yourself
Your tax as a self employed tutor
How to set up your website
The best way to tutor University students
Helping a reluctant student
The importance of teaching values