Tutoring is an art. It’s a beautiful thing when you find a way to reach a student. See below for tutor Andi Dolgin’s story about a breakthrough she’s made with her learner, a woman in her 70s was only able to read a few words when she entered the program. Her learner had worked hard all of her life to raise successful children and felt that it was finally her turn to learn.
At one of our sessions when [my learner] first sat down she expressed some concern that she was not learning fast enough. I asked her if she was frustrated and she responded affirmatively. Beyond her frustration, I felt that the materials were not keeping her interested.
We talked many times about how she loves to bake. That’s when it occurred to me that we should try reading recipes. She brought in a magazine that has a cake in it that she never made and I had her read what she could and I filled in the remaining words.
It was astonishing that she knew by sight what tsp. and TBL meant, but could not read the word. Spices that she used consistently she knew by sight. Our next session, I brought in spices from my home and she could read most of them. For those she was not familiar with, I wrote them out on index cards for her to study at home.
The next session, I asked her how she bakes sweet potato pie. I was thinking of Thanksgiving. She said she doesn’t follow any recipe, she just knows how to make it. With that in mind, I asked her to tell me how she makes the pie and I wrote it down for her. We read it together and from this we will start a personalized recipe book. She must rewrite it herself and learn any words that she wasn’t familiar with. I tried using as many sight words as I could that she was recently taught such as “in” and “the” in “in the bowl.” Here’s her recipe in her beautiful handwriting:
Also, some words I intentionally misspelled and admittedly a few were misspelled that were not intentional. We used a dictionary to correct the spelling. It was the first time she had ever used a dictionary and I believe she was happy with this accomplishment. Granted, the skills were not mastered, but it was definitely a great start.
Click here to see a recipe that Andi’s learner found in a magazine and brought in for them to read together. They read the time and ingredients sections together. She could read a lot of it because she is so familiar with the context of cooking but she hesitated a lot. She is concerned about making mistakes.
What can we learn from Andi’s success?
- Really listen to your learner and be eager to adapt.
- Use high-interest materials.
- Give your learner a chance to show their skills and talents and share their experience.
- The Language Experience Approach (Tutor Manual p. 21-22) can help you and your learner create text that is interesting to read together. It’s what Andi did having her learner tell her about how to make the pie.
What’s your tutoring story?
Do you have a success story to share about your tutoring? Or are you noticing frustration in your learner or learners and want some helping moving forward? Contact Literacy Program staff to share or get support.