6 Tips for Becoming a Great Tutor to Kids

by Lily White
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Before we begin with the tips, it is perhaps important to talk a bit about what it means to be a tutor first. A tutor can be anyone, as long as they are helping their students learn/master a skill or a subject(s). Therefore, most of the tips mentioned here are just as applicable for a math tutor as they would be for someone teaching guitar online. However, there will also be a focus on becoming more productive as an academic tutor in some of the ideas shared here. Let’s get straight to it then.


Personalisation: Cater to your Student’s Specific Needs

As we are discussing tutors here, and not schoolteachers or college professors who must deal with much larger classes, the goal should be to personalise your teaching style and hone it into an effective tool for you as an educator. The more customised your teaching style is in relation to your student’s specific talents, abilities, personality, speed and other important facets of learning, the more effective every class will be for them as well.

For example, even in a smaller school class, teachers will often find that some students are way ahead of the curve in terms of their learning speed, but a few are always lagging behind. The job of a tutor is to make sure that a generic speed of lesson progression is not followed blindly, without paying much heed to whether every student is capable of synchronising with it.

On the contrary, the tutor should adjust their own teaching pace and match it with the learning speed of their student. If a child is showing signs of advanced intelligence, then great tutors will provide them with the opportunity to learn more with all the extra time they have. Simultaneously, if a student is finding it hard to keep up with school for one reason or another, the same tutor will always slow down their teaching pace and help them get over their present problems before moving forward.


Better Education and Training

It shouldn’t come as a real surprise to any teacher that even they must improve and update their expertise over their craft/subject regularly, or it will be difficult for them to teach advanced students. Try and improve your own expertise in the subject, as well as the teaching techniques themselves. Higher education and advanced educator’s training courses can certainly help tutors become better at not just understanding the subject they are teaching, but also the specific act of teaching itself.


Help them Practice with Method

There is a stark difference between regular practice and methodical practice. A good tutor should know how to guide their students and get them to practice systematically, so let us identify the core difference between the two.

Regular practice is helpful, and it is a proven method to learn or even master something, especially when compared to binge practice. In other words, it is better to practice on a regular basis to improve than it is to try and improve with infrequent bouts of binge practice sessions.

However, methodical or systematic practice sessions are exemplary in their ability to improve student performance at a much faster rate. The strategies usually incorporate the following elements for achieving the best results, but there are other elements to the process as well.

  • Performance analysis after each practice session.
  • Analysis of results comparison to note differences with the student’s previous practice results.
  • Explanation of the questions, answers, and analysis to the students, so that they can learn from each practice session.

For example, it has been found that almost any student can improve their Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT) score with methodical or systematic mock tests. It’s an excellent example of practice makes perfect, but only when each session is designed with purpose and method.


Make Each Lesson Relatable

Relatability is one of the reasons why we forget details about most movies soon after watching them, but an ancient memory of a cartoon episode we watched as a child is still embedded in our memory like we had watched it yesterday. There are other factors such as shock value that can also have the same effect on our memory, but that is not applicable in tutoring. When you impart each lesson with relatable elements embedded into it intelligently, students find it interesting, relatable, and most importantly, they are more likely to retain that knowledge for a longer period of time.

Good teachers will often use stories from their own lives (made up or not!) to make history, science, and even maths lessons more relatable for the student. Cognitive processes such as memory, recall, and understanding work through association within the human mind. Therefore, when tutors associate themselves with an interesting story and the lesson, it helps kids understand their teachings better. Relatability can even be established in older students with similar methods, but the process must be more mature. Executive educators will often tell their students about how a present lesson is related to their future job roles. This serves to not only generate practical interest in the subject matter, but also helps them form an immediate association with their future job roles. Relatability can be enforced in multiple ways by tutors, which should also be made a part of the lesson plan itself.


Try a Different Approach

If you are looking to be better at whatever subject it is that you tutor, then there is a chance that perhaps you are not having the same impact on your students as you had hoped. In situations like those, experienced tutors advise trying a fresh new angle. More often than not, tutors repeat the same lesson plans for multiple lessons, and in worst-case scenarios, they will follow the same lesson plan for each and every one of them! This makes every chapter feel increasingly boring to most students, but some may lose interest in your classes completely.

On the other hand, all great educators in the history of education are well known for being innovative in how they imparted their knowledge onto students. That is precisely what made them great teachers to begin with. For example, Maria Montessori was an exceptional student and one of the few, first-generation female physicians in Italy, back in the early 1900s. However, Maria Montessori is not a world-famous name even today because of those impressive feats. We know about her because she introduced the famous Montessori Education System (1907) for young children, which revolutionised the educational parameters across the world at that point in time.

It was innovative in its approach because of not just one reason, but many. With respect to what we are discussing here, let us focus on the “spark” element of her education philosophy. The idea of the Montessori Philosophy remains that children do most of the learning by themselves, but it is up to the educators to provide them with an environment that sparks and guides their natural inquisitiveness in the most beneficial way. While not everything included in the Montessori principle is applicable today, especially for older students, tutors can still learn from some of its core principles.

For example, the education system works on the principle of tutors providing a spark to young minds through careful lesson planning, so that the self-learning process is initiated automatically. Naturally, if a trigger is capable of generating true interest in the subject matter within your students, they will learn better and much faster. The scopes of innovative lesson planning are highly dependent on the variables, but with a bit of thinking, educators can indeed apply it while teaching almost anything. Understand that the Montessori Education System is not without its criticisms, but she was spot on about helping students learn better by generating true interest in them via innovative lesson planning. It is the one principle no modern educator will call ineffective.


Try a Different Method

Understand that this vastly different from what we discussed in the section above. While there is certainly scope for innovation here as well, that is not what this particular discussion is about. To explain it better, let’s take basic mathematical calculations as the subject. There are multiple different ways in which a child can learn to make multistep mental or written calculations. However, it has been found that there is no universally simple method for manual calculations that every child will find to be the easiest to master by default. The human brain is a complicated place, and a good math tutor will teach their students more than just one method to calculate. Once they notice which one their students are finding the easiest to master, the tutor will then proceed, based on that method.

This was a simple example to highlight the importance of approaching the same problem with different, established methods until a tutor gets through to their student. Some children may or may not require multiple different approaches to the same subject, but most can benefit from it. Just as mentioned in the beginning, it’s the principle you should take into account because the same can also be applied while setting scale practice exercises for guitar students.


By Jessica Peters

Bio – Jessica Peters is a freelance writer from Melbourne who blogs about health and fitness. Jessica is an avid traveler and regularly crosses the globe to learn about other cultures while blogging from her laptop.

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