Tuesday, March 27, 2012

English Language Tutoring

Preschool is what I do eight hours per day, but it is not the only teaching I do during the week.  Two days a week, I visit a family who is in the U.S. temporarily, while the father is visiting a local university.  This family is in the country for about a year, and prior to this I worked with another family who was in the country for a similar amount of time for a similar reason.  I have never advertised my tutoring services, and have been recommended only by word of mouth.  I am proud of that fact, as this week I am about to start working with my third family in two years.  I can't pretend that the only thing I want to do when I leave work in the evening is eat in the car on my way to another job, but I love my tutoring.  I have wonderful relationships with my students, and the progress they make is so rewarding.  And since I am considering this kind of instruction as a career, I want to get as much experience in the field as I can fit into my schedule.

Since I am working with my tutees (as we called them in the Writing Center in college) on English language, we do a lot of reading.  I love books for introducing vocabulary and idioms in an engaging way, as well as identifying weak areas in pronunciation.

Particularly for initial assessment, I like to pick up wordless picture books from the local library.  Picture books with no words, like The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, allow me to assess children's vocabulary and spontaneous syntactic structures since they are forced to describe what they see in their own words.  In some cases, I can also observe the quality of narrative and structures that make a story more interesting and easy-to-follow for the audience, such as added dialogue or "and then" links.

In addition to reading, I play games with my students.  I love Guess Who? for tutoring because it works with questions, which are hard to illicit normally.  Since questions are a more complex structure, requiring syntactic movement, all of my students thus far have needed help in this area.  Guess Who? is a fun way to illicit questions, and since it is a slow-paced game, I can easily stop for corrections, even with my more excitable students.  I have lots of other games I like to use, among which is Twenty Questions for Kids, though it requires a relatively advanced vocabulary.  I've found any game that is new to the tutee is useful, as they have to listen to or read and comprehend possibly complex directions.

For records, I keep vocabulary lists and notes about areas to return to later.  I've recently started keeping pronunciation lists as well, though I have not found a method that I like yet for reviewing these.  So far we have only copied our pronunciation words to flashcards and written a creative sentence containing the focus word, but I find flashcards so boring, I have a hard time believing students can benefit much.

This week I begin work with a new family.  In my next Tutoring post, I will write about my initial assessment techniques and the success or struggle therein.

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