Tutoring Tips

All of our volunteers read, study, and discuss the book Help America Read: A Handbook for Volunteers by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas. Training sessions are held monthly.

Tutoring is not easy. It can be difficult establishing a relationship with a young scholar , especially if that youngster has had difficult relationships in the past. You may encounter challenges and this is normal. This is part of the reason we meet regularly as a team to offer each other guidance, suggestions, and support.


Qualities of a Successful Reader

  • Ability to accept different points of view
  • Accessibility
  • Consistency
  • Flexibility and openness
  • Kindness and patience
  • Persistence
  • Personal commitment
  • Respect for youth
  • Sense of humor
  • Willingness to listen
  • Willingness to share life experiences


Ten Ways Literacy Volunteers Can Help Children

  • See organizing chart on inside cover of the handbook

–        This chart provides a variety of ways to work with children in literacy learning

–        The training program will help you understand and apply each way effectively.

–        Chapter 2 provides an overview of each of the ten ways literacy volunteers can help children.

Sample Plans

It is essential to create a very simple structure for the hour you work with your child.

See chapter 12

A successful session will cover a number of different activities.

Sample Plan 1

  • Select a book and read                        10 min.
  • Talk with child about book                 2 min.
  • Listen to the child reread                    8 min.
  • Reread a favorite read before 5 min
  • Write a sentence together                   5min.

            about the story

Sample Plan 6

  • Read a book aloud to the child.            10 min.
  • Listen to the child read books              10 min
  • Work on building words                                   10 min
  • Assist the child in writing a page          15 min

            for her journal. Reread. Write

            a response

Suggestions for Effective Sessions

  • Make a brief, written outline for your session
  • Plan for a variety of activities
  • Have materials organized and ready before you start with the child.
  • Include both reading and writing.
  • Make sure the child is actively engaged.
  • Keep a lively pace (don’t get stuck on one activity).
  • Make sure the child is always successful (not struggling).
  • Record notes about how the session went and list the points you want to remember for next time.
  • Reorganize materials and make a brief outline for the next session.


Tips for Tutoring Readers & Writers

  • Create a risk free environment for learners.
  • Students need to be interested and engaged.
  • Students should have opportunities to make connections between what they know and new information.
  • Know students’ interests and backgrounds.
  • Value the students’ individual communities from which they come.
  • Have conversations.
  • Work for and expect surprises.
  • Draw on students’ attention and help them attend.
  • Think of “guided participation”.
  • Provide multiple opportunities to learn and revisit the learning.
  • Provide individual attention and tailored instruction for students.
  • Work regularly with students in a one-on-one setting.
  • Be reflective.
  • Be persistent.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be able to change direction when it is necessary.
  • Read students’ signals (when they are comfortable, uncomfortable, enjoying activities, etc.).
  • Help students experience success.  Praise students and look for their approximations (focus on ‘the half right’).
  • Be positive and work from students’ strengths.
  • Use authentic texts.
  • Surround students with quality texts.
  • Provide opportunities for social interaction through such activities as shared reading, buddy reading, interactive writing, choral reading, songs, poetry, and rewritten books.
  • Find what works for the students and you.
  • Listen hard and be set for diversity.
  • Learn from other people.


Getting to know students for tutors


Early in tutoring interactions, establishing rapport and getting to know the students as readers and writers is very important. Consider using the following interviews as part of gather information about readers and writers. Once tutors have established rapport and found out how to approach students based upon their interests, moving into instruction and support of their efforts to read and write will provide you with additional information from their reading and response to lessons. A simple “lesson record” form is also provided to allow you to make note of lesson activities and report on your observations.

Burke Reading Inventory

  1. When you are reading and you come to something you don’t know, what do you do?  Do you ever do anything else?
  2. Who is a good reader that you know?   
  3. What makes ________ a good reader? 
  4. Do you think that _______ever comes to something s/he doesn’t know? 
  5. (Yes)   When ______ comes to something s/he doesn’t know, what do you think s/he does? 

(No)    Suppose ______ comes to something sh/e diesn’t know, what would s/he do?

  1. If you know someone  was having trouble reading, how would you help that person?
  2. What would a teacher do to help that person?
  3. How did you learn to read?
  4. What would you like to do better as a reader? (Paraphrase:  What do you think you need to do to be a better reader?)
  5.   Do you think you are a good reader?  Why?



Tell me the kinds of things you read.

Do you read by yourself? At home? At school? (If  “no,” ask, “Who helps you?”)

What kinds of things do you like to read at home?  At school?

Who reads to you? Who else reads to you?

What is your favorite book that someone has read aloud to you? Who read it?

What is your favorite book that you have read for yourself?

What kinds of stories and books do you like to hear read aloud to you? 

What kinds of stories and books do you like to read for yourself?

How much do you like to read?  Very much? Quite a lot? Not very much? Not at all?

What are some of the books that you have at home?  What else do you read at home?

Have you ever been to the library with a member of your family? Do you have a library card? 

How many books have you checked out of the library in the past month?


Tell me the kinds of things you write.

Do you write by yourself? At home? At school? (If  “no,” ask, “Who helps you?”)

What kinds of things do you like to write at home?  At school?

Who writes to you? Who else writes to you?

What is the best thing you have written?

What kinds of stories do you like to write? 

What kinds of stories would you like to write that you haven’t gotten to write yet?

How much do you like to write?  Very much? Quite a lot? Not very much? Not at all?

What are some of the things do you have at home to write with?  What kinds of things do you write at home?

Do you write with your mom, or dad, or other members of your family? 

Who is your favorite writer?


Student: _______________________ Tutor: ____________

Date: _______________________

Immediate context:

      ACTIVITIES                   OBSERVATIONS_________Next Steps_____



© 2010-2020 Freedom Readers™, Inc. All rights reserved. | P.O. Box 30548, Myrtle Beach, SC 29588 | Site by jpa | Find us on Facebook!