Tutor Talk

For as long as I’ve been an elementary teacher, I’ve also been an after-school math tutor. Let’s face it. Some of our young students do not learn best in the 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. window. Others do not learn well with 30 other bodies crammed inside the classroom. What is a teacher to do?

I guess the answer to that is offer drop-in math tutoring.

The first year that I offered free drop-in tutoring, I started right after our holiday break. I knew that the kids would need some additional time to get refreshed on topics taught during the 2-month-long national observance of high-fructose corn syrup. (This is the time between Halloween and Christmas.) Anyways, I originally planned for once-a-week drop-in tutoring for approximately a month. I didn’t know how many students would show up, if any, but I figured it would be a manageable sized crowd where I could work with each student independently on the concepts they were worried about.

Well, that system didn’t work out quite as I imagined it. It was nearly four months later, and I walk into a room where a dozen students are waiting for me to teach them. I had given up the 1:1 strategy weeks before that because students were only getting 5-10 minutes of my time. So, as much as it pained me, I reverted to whole-group lessons. I would spend the first few minutes asking which topics they needed help on; and the rest of the time going over those concepts and example problems on the board, while they worked them out on individual white boards.

Well, that sounds boring and it just makes for an elongated school day; why would any fourth grader want to go to my tutoring?

Students feel more free to ask and answer questions in small-group settings!

Because they were learning. Because there were no strict rules (eh, there were a few rules, but not the same ones employed when there are 30 students in the room). Because it was a chance for them to ask questions and not be judged by the “smart kids.” Because they really wanted to know how to add fractions with unlike denominators. Because they’d get their teacher’s leftover Halloween candy at the end if they stayed focused for an hour. Most importantly, because they finally felt supported in learning math.

Please contact me at thatmathlady@gmail.com if you have any questions about setting up drop-in tutoring in your school!

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