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Tutoring Sessions: 5 Tips On How To Structure A Tutoring Lesson

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Last Updated: 2/21/2024

Being a tutor requires advanced knowledge of the subject you will be teaching. This could be playing the piano or demystifying calculus. While your knowledge and abilities can initially attract potential students, your ability to structure a valuable lesson is what will keep them coming back. Following a consistent structure for tutoring sessions can help you attract and retain students.

No matter if you are an experienced tutor or just figuring out how to start a tutoring business, determining your lesson structure can help you become more confident. To develop a structure that works best for you, here are our top five tutoring session tips:

1. Personalize Your Tutoring Sessions

One of the primary benefits of working with a private tutor is the ability to receive personalized instruction. After all, that’s what sets you apart from the sea of free YouTube tutorial videos available online. 

One way to personalize your lessons is to get to know each of your students on a personal level. During your first tutoring session, ask your students to share some information about themselves. What are they looking to learn from you? Why did they decide to seek out a tutor? What other interests do they have? Asking these questions can help build a solid rapport with your students. This relationship also helps them to feel more at ease with you during your instruction time. Just keep in mind that the speed and degree to which you connect with each student may vary.

After building a personal relationship with your student, turn your focus on their unique academic needs. This includes understanding the skills or information they’ll need to truly succeed. To personalize your tutoring sessions, the National Student Support Accelerator recommends first working to identify potential learning barriers. When a student comes to you for tutoring, chances are they’ll need extra help in certain areas. Instead of simply re-teaching a skill or topic, try to hone in on the root cause of their issue. Then, develop a plan to address it.

male tutor helping student

2. Set Appropriate Goals for Your Tutoring Sessions

Goal-setting is an important step in helping your students demonstrate measurable progress. It’s also a great way to help shape a student’s tutoring experience. For example, do they want to strengthen a certain skill set? Or is the priority to improve a specific grade in school? The answer to this question will determine the goals that you set—and how you, as a tutor, shape the education process.

To ensure you and your student are on the same page, set your goals together. Have a conversation about what they are looking to gain from your tutoring sessions. Then, set and formalize your tutoring goals. When developing a tutoring plan, the time-tested SMART goal formula is always a good structure to follow. SMART goals are:

Set a goal that is specific enough to guide your tutoring sessions. Remember, there’s a difference between “getting better at math” and “learning how to correctly solve linear equations.”

When you set a specific goal, you’ll then be able to accurately measure a student’s progress. One way to do this is by conducting regular evaluations. For example, you could ask a student to complete a benchmark assessment during your first session to gauge their current knowledge. Then, after several tutoring sessions, you can provide a similar assessment to track their growth.

Setting multiple small, attainable goals can be less intimidating than one lofty goal. When a student can track their own progress toward attainable goals over time, they will be more likely to engage in the tutoring process. Attainable goals can also prevent discouragement.

Although a student may have broader goals for their personal education, your tutoring goals should always be relevant to what you are specifically able to accomplish during your sessions together. In other words, don’t take responsibility for factors that may be out of your control. Focus on how to tutor a student in the areas where you’re confident progress can be made.

Creating time-bound goals can help you map out your tutoring sessions. Having time-bound goals like helping a student boost their grade by the end of the semester or learn a specific musical skill over the next six months can help you structure your tutoring sessions accordingly.

female tutor helping young student

3. Prepare for Your Tutoring Sessions in Advance

This point should be obvious, but it still needs to be reinforced: The best tutors prepare for every session in advance. Being an expert in your subject area doesn’t mean you can “wing it” when you walk into a tutoring session. 

What that preparation looks like will vary depending on your student and subject matter. It could be printing off the next week’s worksheets or familiarizing yourself with a new song. Either way, having a plan in advance will make the entire process smoother.

One simple way to prepare for your tutoring sessions is by creating a personalized lesson plan. TutorOcean recommends creating a brief tutoring plan for each tutoring session that includes the following fields:

  • Session Information: This can include the student’s name, tutoring subject, level, and tutoring date.
  • Goals: Write out the SMART Goals you set using the tip above.
  • Materials: List any materials the student will need to reference for your tutoring session. This could include a textbook, worksheets, or websites. If you have provided the materials, be sure to list that information, too.
  • Objectives: Write out the specific subject areas you’ll be covering during the day’s session, along with any learning objectives.
  • Practice: List any homework assignments the student should complete before your next tutoring session.
  • Notes: Include any additional information you’ll want your student to reference when the session is complete.

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4. Adapt Your Teaching Style to Each Student

We all learn differently, so after your instruction has begun, pay close attention to each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Then, work at tailoring your instruction style accordingly. Some students prefer to work independently with pencil and paper, while others may respond better to interactive exercises. One student may prefer direct instruction, and the next learns best when you ask questions and facilitate a conversation. 

To discover how you can best serve each student, familiarize yourself with the VARK model of student learning. Developed by educational theorist Neil Fleming, the VARK model refers to four primary learning styles:

  • Visual: These types of students learn best through visual mediums, such as images, maps, graphics, or videos. 
  • Auditory: For an auditory learner, information will be best retained through listening and speaking.
  • Reading/Writing: These students learn and retain information through written words – whether they take their own notes or want to read about a topic in advance.
  • Kinesthetic: For kinesthetic learners, nothing beats hands-on experience. You can help them grasp information by providing physical representations of a given concept.

When it comes to figuring out a student’s preferred learning style, don’t be afraid to ask. The more you can learn how to tutor in each student’s learning style, the more likely they will make solid progress (and enjoy your time together).

study materials during tutor session

5. Keep Your Tutoring Sessions Professional

Whether you’re tutoring online, at a student’s home, or a third-party location like a library or music store, it’s important to bring a certain level of professionalism to each of your tutor sessions. 

Here are some ways you can convey professionalism to your students:

As a tutor, your students are paying for your time. That makes it critical to be prompt for every session. Keeping your students waiting is not only unprofessional – it can also lead to a loss of business and a poor reputation.

Working as a tutor doesn’t require formal attire. But you also don’t want to show up to a session wearing shorts and flip flops. ATutor recommends wearing “smart casual attire” to convey a professional image.

During a tutor session, your student should always have your full and complete attention. Before you begin a lesson, be sure to silence your phone. While in the lesson avoid checking your text messages, email, or social media feed.

Begin your tutor sessions by reviewing the personalized lesson plan you developed by following tip #3 above. Then, have an allocated amount of time you plan to spend on each activity during your session. Provide this agenda to your student in advance so they know exactly what to expect.

tutor and student working together

Protect Your Tutoring Business With Insurance Canopy

Following these tutor tips are one way to help grow and establish your business. But after all that hard work, don’t you want the peace of mind knowing you and your tutoring business are well protected? 

As a tutor, you’re effectively running your own small business. Unfortunately, that means you’re also exposed to the risk of legal action. To protect yourself from potential lawsuits, you need tutor insurance. As a bonus, insuring your tutoring business can let current and potential students know that you take your work seriously (and that they’ll also be protected if anything were to happen during a tutor session). Check out this blog to learn more about the benefits of tutor insurance.

When you buy an insurance policy through Insurance Canopy, you’ll gain protection from the cost of liability claims with our A+ rated, low-cost insurance. Best of all, policy premiums start at only $21.08 a month. Learn more about our tutor insurance policy, and contact us with any questions you have. 

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