Throughout the semester, my Tutoring Notebook has been transforming from an empty folder with a couple of dividers into an extensive and highly informational manual on tutoring. Many of the skills and strategies described in the articles and handouts that comprise my Tutoring Notebook have been presented to us, new tutors, when we still had little or no tutoring experience. It is not surprising, then, that some of the handouts that were passed out to us in English 140 at first received little attention from new tutors. However, every day of tutoring brings new questions and challenges (and of course new answers and accomplishments!), and that is when the Tutoring Notebook comes in handy. Looking back at my Binder after a semester of tutoring, I found that some handouts have helped me a lot even though at first I did not appreciate all the strategies listed in them. These handouts include “T.I.P.S. Charts,” “Parallel Structure” and “Decoding Body Language”: all of these materials made my tutoring more effective by teaching my tutee strategies for reading and writing and giving me an understanding of non-verbal communication.
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The T.I.P.S. Charts strategy helped me teach my tutee how to keep track of ideas and locate theses in lengthy texts. During the semester, my tutee was often assigned to read long articles which she had to address in her essays later on. The material was often new and confusing, and my tutee struggled with locating the main ideas and separating different parts of the text. The T.I.P.S. chart would also help her with locating main points of the text to use in her essay. When my tutee told me that she struggled to find the main ideas in one of the texts assigned to her because some of them were very complex and totally new, I thought that the “T.I.P.S. Charts” handout would really help her. I gave her the handout and we went over it before starting the reading. After my tutee would gloss over the title and the first couple of paragraphs, I would ask her what the topic of the article was (stands for T. in T.I.P.S). That pushed her to start thinking about the topic and predicting what the text would be about. The handout then goes over the Idea (I) or thesis of the text and its supporting Points (P), expanding the tutee’s attention from the general to the specific. My tutee consciously thought about the main idea of the text (or even individual paragraphs) and learned to locate theses. The T.I.P.S. chart helped my tutee with overall reading comprehension and even enhanced her writing.
One great strategy of the “T.I.P.S. Charts” handout is the question of locating the thesis. The handout asks about the author’s main idea, or thesis, which encourages the tutee to start analyzing the text while reading. Locating the thesis can be very helpful in reading because it enables the reader to see the main points of the essay and pay attention to the author’s proof of those. The practice of locating the thesis in their readings teaches the students about what a good thesis should look like. By finding theses in professional writer’s works, students can learn how good ideas should be presented. Students can use structures from their readings as models for their own points in order to make their writing more complex and developed. The idea of “Points,” which describes finding examples that the author uses to support her main idea, teaches the tutee how to provide good factual support for her own ideas.
The handout on Parallel Structure really helped my tutee with multiple grammar issues. The challenges that this handout allowed me to work with include inconsistent tense and awkward sentence structure, such as incorrect listing. My tutee was completely unfamiliar with parallel structure which caused her to use unequal grammatical units in lists of actions or items. Sometimes she would list a noun and a couple of verbs in one listing sequence, so I gave her the handout on parallel structure and explained its rules. I told my tutee that parallel structure is important because it makes writing smoother and more efficient. Parallel structure enables one’s ideas to sound clearer and enhances logical flow. Since my tutee is a visual learner, the cats and the bikes on the handout helped increase her understanding of parallel structure. She could clearly see why a cat – bike – cat sequence of grammatical units in a list (ex. He wanted to be going, to dance, and to be flying) was incorrect because the pictures helped her visualize equal and unequal grammatical units.
This handout implies identification of part of speech, a very important strategy for keeping track of grammar in writing. The handout on parallel structure teaches about grammatical units and correct sentence structure, giving students ideas for sentence development. Identifying the subject and verb in sentences is also really important, and I feel like it can relate to parallel structure very well. The rules of parallel structure show the tutee how to form structured and complex sentences with equal grammatical units. This handout also uses the wonderfully helpful strategy of visualization, equating pictures of cats and bikes to different grammatical units. This strategy was especially handy for my tutee who is mostly a visual learner. The second page of the “Parallel Structure” handout teaches about correlative conjunctions and structures such as neither, nor and not only, but also. These conjunctions also require equal grammatical units, continuing on the rule of parallel structure, plus they increase the number of different types of sentences in the essay.
Finally, the last “hidden treasure” of my tutoring binder that made a big difference in my communication with my tutee was the “Decoding Body Language” handout. This handout talks about how understanding body language is a useful communication skill. In a challenging situation when a tutor comes up with a lot of questions that the tutee does not answer, the body language of the tutee might explain his confusion and make it apparent to the tutor. I have been in a situation when I asked my tutee questions, and she just stared blankly at her paper without saying anything. Later considering the handout on body language, I realized that my tutee’s body was actually in a combative mode, and sometimes it would go into a fugitive mode, when my tutee was confused or disagreed with me. Sometimes she did not display her reaction verbally but did it physically, and decoding body language helped me identify the questions or concepts that my tutee struggled to grasp, and I paid more attention to those. Another thing that might have happened was a wrong posture on my side. As a tutor, I should be in an open-forward position of the responsive mode, actively engaged in the conversation and encouraging my tutee to do the same. Watching the tutee’s pose can allow the tutor to see how the tutee reacts to certain ideas and to identify concepts that need clarification.
The helpful strategies listed in the “Decoding Body Language” handout include paying attention to body language to improve communication and decoding meanings of body postures regarding the tutee’s reaction to the learning process. Various body postures that are unconsciously assumed by students show whether they understand the material or not. Decoding body language enables the tutor to understand whether she is using the right strategies with her tutee. Postures of fugitive and combative mode indicate resistance, disagreement with and loss of interest for the subject by the tutee. If indicated on time by the tutor, these postures can prompt her to switch to a new strategy to deepen the tutee’s understanding.
All the handouts in my Tutoring Binder had a great influence on my tutoring style and created a powerful resource to assist me in sessions with my tutee. However, the three handouts discussed above had an especially positive impact on my communication of important ideas and concepts to my tutee. While T.I.P.S. charts helped with both reading and writing, parallel structure helped with writing and speaking only, and Body Language improved non-verbal communication. Together they contribute to an effective and well-rounded tutoring practice.
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