Guidelines for Reading Tutoring Sessions

Middle School and High School

Guidelines for Reading Tutoring Sessions: Middle School; Ages 10-13
(or what do I do now?)

In the national service arena, tutoring models range from cross-age to intergenerational programs. But don't let the jargon scare you. Instead, think of yourself as an advocate, and use the following guidelines to create successful sessions.

At the middle school level, the reading material a student needs to master is "content rich," ranging from word problems to scientific facts. Tutoring sessions may involve deciphering unfamiliar words, solving problems, and deepening reading comprehension. Cross-age tutoring and peer tutoring are two models often used successfully for this age group. When the tutor is an older student, the term cross-age tutoring applies. This type of tutoring takes advantage of the higher status inherent in age differences. When the tutor is the same age, grade, or academic status as the student receiving help, that relationship is called peer tutoring. Generally, both students share similar language and feel freer to express opinions and take risks. Many programs rely on the parent/volunteer model of tutoring. This model pairs adults from the community with students in need. In general, these programs require less supervision than student-to-student pairs.

Whether tutoring sessions last 30 minutes in a gym or an hour in a classroom, educators and researchers recommend the following overall structure:

Meet and greet your student. Agree on your goal (e.g., division of fractions, writing a descriptive paragraph). This should be based on student need and/or teacher feedback. Discuss ways to approach the assignment or concept. Dive in! Address the task at hand. Ask your student to summarize the learning. Summarize the process and the progress your student has made. Discuss what comes next and make plans for the next session.

Tips for Working with Middle School Students

Encourage critical thinking. Although it may be tempting to tell the student everything you know about a given subject, resist the urge to do the work yourself. Instead, explain your own thinking process and help your students build their own academic skills.

Write and write and write some more. Students must write for a variety of purposes, so additional work on grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation may be needed. A tutor can harness the power of creativity. In your next session, experiment with poetry or try writing a screen play.

Teach academic success skills. Many students need explicit instructions on how to organize material, take notes, and study for tests. A tutor can help a student gain mastery in these areas by explaining and modeling. Bring your datebook to sessions to show how you organize your time.

Become an advocate. In addition to questioning students about schoolwork, making direct connections with classroom teachers helps you give and receive valuable feedback. Help your students figure out what to do when they have questions or concerns in class.

Set attainable goals. It is imperative to set goals so that the session stays on task and results in concrete accomplishments. Reflect on the progress made (and ask the student involved to do the same!).

Guidelines for Reading Tutoring Sessions: High School; Ages 14-18
(or what do I do now?)

In the national service arena, tutoring models range from cross-age to intergenerational programs. But don't let the jargon scare you. Instead, think of yourself as an advocate, and use the following guidelines to create successful sessions.

Assessing, judging, reflecting, debating — these are some of the tasks of the high school student. In the upper grades, students must write term papers, analyze literature, tackle text books, study for comprehensive tests, and plot a career path. That's a tall order! Tutors can help by making connections between classroom learning and real-life situations and planning a "mode of attack" for accomplishing larger, seemingly overwhelming, assignments. Try some of these strategies in your sessions.

Learning from textbooks Teach the SQ3R method (Study. Question. Read. Recite. Review). Survey the chapter(s) to be read. Ask questions about the content. Read the material. Recite answers to questions previously posed. Review the key points covered in the chapter.
Analyzing literature If your students can't name the important characters or events in a novel, they may not be able to talk about larger issues like imagery and character analysis. Start by clarifying the plot and move to discussion of character motivation and theme.
Taking notes There are many ways to take notes. You can begin by showing examples of your own notebooks. Then listen to a short taped lecture and compare and contrast the notes you both took. Effective note-taking is highly personalized, but be sure your student jots down the main points!
Preparing and studying for tests Memory, note-taking, reading comprehension, and time management all play a part in test preparation. In addition to quizzing students, you can help them identify strengths and weaknesses and develop an overall test preparation plan.
Composing (and editing) writing assignments Teach the writing process. Start by brainstorming ideas. Then create a basic outline of the paper. Have your student talk while you take dictation. Don't edit rough drafts. Instead, ask clarifying questions so that your student can learn editing skills.
Managing Time Bring several different calendars and show how to plan for short- and long-term assignments. Break longer assignments into small, manageable tasks.

Tips for Working with High School Students

Be a sounding board. Whether assessing different career paths or contemplating college choices, high school students need to discuss the pros and cons of choices to help determine direction in their lives. Encourage your students to become future-oriented in their thinking. And respect their individuality and their confidences.

Model the service ethic. Too often, youth feel alienated. Demonstrating ways to become involved may help them to establish a positive role in their families, schools, and communities. Don't be afraid to talk about your own volunteer work.

Know your learner. (And help them to know themselves.) Research and experience show that individualized learning, tailored to a student's learning style, can raise self-confidence and skills. Reading and discussing topics of personal interest help develop the habit of lifelong learning.

Ask for help when you need it. No one expects you to be an expert on everything. Collaborating on research is much more valuable than launching into a lecture. Simply stating "I don't know," and investigating questions together might give you an opportunity to introduce your student to the wonders of Internet-based research.


Upward Bound helps economically disadvantaged students complete high school, enter and succeed in post-secondary education. Offers academic instruction, counseling, mentoring, and other support services. Students meet during the school year and participate in an intensive, residential program during summer. Students enter in ninth or 10th grade and can participate through the 12th grade. There are more than 500 Upward Bound projects, some of which have Web sites. Overviews of Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math/Science and lists of funded projects are available on the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Higher Education Programs. From the New York Public Library System access Teen Link, featuring a book list for young adult readers, teen writing on the Web, and links to homework help, art and music, sports, and other Web pages geared to the teen "surfer." Teachers & Writers Collaborative encourages direct dialogue between students, writers, and teachers. For example, the Asian American Writers' Workshop offers opportunities for young writers ranging from online literary contests and feedback from teachers to e-mail correspondence with a writer-in-residence. PEN American Center: Readers and Writers brings writers and their books to classrooms, literacy programs, community centers, and prisons. Seeks to inspire children and adults to read regularly, critically, and adventurously.

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