Practice: Tutoring, Mentoring, and Building Study Skills
The Practice
Tutoring, Mentoring, and Building Study Skills involves helping students build the skills they need to succeed. From note taking and homework skills, to time management and test preparation, this practice uses peer and adult mentoring to help students achieve academic success.
Begin by identifying students' needs: if students have ongoing questions about homework in a particular subject area, they may need tutoring in that subject. Next, determine the best tutoring match. Is the ideal tutor an afterschool instructor, a teacher, or another student? Afterschool staff can find subject-area content and tutoring tips in the other National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning Toolkits. Additionally, consider asking a student who has a solid understanding of the material to help.
Remember the 3M's that are essential to mentoring students for success in homework: motivation, monitoring, and modeling. To increase motivation, create an open and positive atmosphere, help students feel valued, and give frequent and positive feedback and praise. Monitor students by circulating around the room looking for verbal and non-verbal cues for attention. When helping students who need attention, ask open-ended questions and give students time to think before answering questions. Modeling positive behavior is also important for student success. Always be positive when assisting students with homework. Show them how to obtain the information they need by connecting with teachers and librarians and by using the Internet.
There are certain skills that students need in order to complete their homework that may not be taught in the school curriculum. Students may need help developing these supplemental skills such as time management, note taking, and test preparation. Here are some tips:
- Help students establish goals and timelines that break their assignments and projects down into smaller parts.
- Help students study nonfiction text by having them write down emphasized words (boldface, italicized, etc.) on a separate sheet of paper that can serve as a study guide.
- Help students determine what information they will need to study for quizzes or tests and practice answering anticipated questions with them.
- Provide resources (for example, books and Web sites) on study skills for students, and review these resources yourself to help identify any additional skills your students may need.
- Homework and tutoring Web sites that are reliable and reputable
- Homework hotlines from local school districts or libraries
- Materials from the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning Toolkit
- A Homework Planning Log (PDF) helps students plan and visualize the assignments that need to be done that week
- A Tutoring Receipt (PDF) records a student's participation in a homework help or tutoring activity
- A Tutoring Log (PDF) can be used to record information about a student's work over time
- Study skills books and Web sites
Research shows that mentoring has a positive effect on academic achievement, and that students acquire good or bad habits based on behaviors modeled in their environment. Research also shows that academic achievement improves when students are given lessons on supplemental skills.
Implement It
The purpose of this section is to explore some of the skills and procedures shown in the three video vignettes that illustrate the practice, Tutoring, Mentoring and Building Study Skills. In the videos, you can see how real afterschool programs implement elements of this practice through their work.
You may want to watch each of the videos once prior to reading their corresponding sections below. Jot down notes as you watch. Next, read about suggested ideas in Build Your Homework Help Practice, and answer the accompanying questions. If time permits, view the videos a second time. Compare the strategies that the instructors use in the videos with your own current practice.
Video 1: Tutoring in Homework Help: Mathematics
The Bond Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida, offers an extensive homework help program as part of its afterschool offerings. The lead teachers in the homework help program are also the school-day teachers for many students who attend the afterschool program. This structure offers continuity between the school-day and afterschool programs, and helps teachers provide focused tutoring for individual students who they know need additional instruction, or practice with specific skills or concepts.
This video shows a fourth and fifth grade afterschool session that combines whole- and small-group study as well as individual study and one-on-one tutoring to accomplish homework objectives in math. Students assist and learn from each other as they work on grid coordinates, play Shape Sudoku, or work individually on laptop computers to complete self-guided math tutorials. This multi-tiered approach helps students to learn time-management skills and perfect their study habits.
Materials
- Dry erase table
- Promethean board
- Shape Sudoku interactive software
- Laptop computers
- Study Island software
Video 2: Tutoring in Homework Help: Using Hands-On Science
The Bond Elementary School in Tallahassee, Florida, offers an extensive homework help program as part of their afterschool offerings. The lead teachers in the homework help program are also the school-day teachers for many students who attend the afterschool program. This structure offers continuity between the school-day and afterschool programs, and helps teachers provide focused tutoring for individual students who they know need additional instruction, or practice with specific skills or concepts.
The afterschool session shown in this video takes a group of fifth grade students through two mini-lessons structured to review science content that has been taught during the regular school-day classroom. Divided into two groups, students participate in hands-on activities and demonstrations that reinforce science concepts of potential and kinetic energy, wavelengths, and light spectrum. Students then apply their knowledge of these concepts to help them complete their written homework assignments.
Materials
- Homemade "guitar"
- Slinky
- 3-D glasses (to view visible light spectrum)
- Rope
Video 3: Building Study Skills
The Berlin Junior High School Afterschool Program is based on a strong connection to the school day. Before the afterschool hours begin, an afterschool coordinator is at work as a liaison between school-day teachers and afterschool staff, collecting information about homework assignments from teachers so that afterschool staff know exactly what students should be working on during homework time. The lead teachers in the afterschool program are also school-day teachers who rotate among the groups during homework time, answering questions, offering help, and tutoring individual students in specific skills.
The focus of this homework activity is to help students develop more effective study habits. Afterschool facilitators work one-on-one with students to help them identify and put into practice important study methods, such as looking for headers in text, reading out loud, and making notes in their own words in order to better comprehend and retain the material they are studying.
Build It
Video 1: Tutoring in Homework Help: Mathematics
Do This
1. Upon arrival to the homework center, review the day's activities with students and make group assignments. This video shows a school-day teacher of mathematics who is now tutoring students on math concepts and skills taught during the school day. The difference here, as she explains, is that the learning environment is more informal, and she connects with students in smaller groups on the homework she has assigned. Based on her knowledge of students' needs, she makes decisions about the types of skills and concepts to reinforce during the tutoring sessions, and which students need more individualized attention. The whole-group instruction is closely linked to the school-day content students are learning and often is a review of the teacher's school-day instruction. In this homework help center, students rotate through tutoring, homework activities, and self-study.
Ask Yourself
How do you know what skills your students are working on—or possibly struggling with—during their school-day instruction? How can you find out? Does your program have strong relationships with the school-day teachers of students who come to your homework help center? Are there ways that you can collaborate more effectively with
school-day teachers to support homework help?
Do This
2. Prepare the learning environment to support students' ability to complete homework successfully. In the video, easy access to materials, equipment, and tutoring help make a vast difference in students' ability to complete homework successfully, as well as move toward mastery of the content they are learning. The instructor mentions several tools and resources that are vital to students' learning—for example, the use of individual laptop computers with a software math tutorial called Study Island. The availability of many different study tools also helps students to work independently and stay engaged, while the instructor is able to focus her attention on small-group tutoring lessons.
Ask Yourself
How can you prepare the learning environment to meet students' needs—and enable you to do one-on-one or small-group tutoring with some students while other students are fully engaged in their homework or self-study? What kinds of materials and resources does your program have to support independent student work?
Do This
3. Find engaging ways for students to engage in problems-solving and critical thinking. In the video, the instructor mentions Shape Sudoku as a tool for use in the tutoring and homework time. She says it provides students with opportunities for critical thinking and analysis, in addition to being fun to play. She also demonstrates the use of the PEMDAS strategy for solving equations. PEMDAS stands for "parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction," and represents the order of operations to solve mathematical problems. The acronym also has a kid-friendly and funny way to remember it: Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Shay-Shay. Finally, the instructor comments that students' increased engagement during math tutoring is based in part on their use of the tabletop whiteboard for solving problems and equations. When students use the whiteboard to solve math problems, they are also encouraged to think "out loud" about their process and strategies for solving the problem.
Ask Yourself
What are ways you can make homework help fun and engaging for students? Are there tools, materials, or approaches to presenting content that can spark student interest in problem solving and critical thinking?
Do This
4. Set goals and outcomes for students' homework progress and program effectiveness. In the video, one outcome of tutoring reported by the afterschool instructor is that the students she tutors in afterschool perform better than her school-day students who do not come to afterschool tutoring.
Ask Yourself
What are the outcomes of tutoring in homework help? Do you think that these outcomes are met by your homework help center? Are there ways that you provide tutoring at your homework center to improve student outcomes?
Think about your answers to the following questions:
- How do you provide tutoring for your students?
- What did you learn about this practice from seeing it in action?
- What are some new strategies that you would like to try in your program?
- What are the benefits of doing this? What outcomes do you expect?
- What are some of the challenges? What will you need to do this?
Video 2: Tutoring in Homework Help: Using Hands-On Science
Do This
1. Schedule tutoring activities by determining the content that needs to be re-taught, and determining which students need help with the concepts to be re-taught. In this video, the afterschool instructors (one is a science teacher and the other is an engineering student from a local college) review science concepts with two groups of students. One of the instructors is also the students' school-day science teacher, so she is able to work with students who need extra help with the concepts that she teaches during the school day. She has determined that some of her students need extra work with the concepts of potential and kinetic energy, and some need to review light spectrum and wavelengths. Her group examines potential and kinetic energy using hand-on materials inside the classroom, while the other instructor works outside with a group of students to explore light spectrum and wavelengths.
Ask Yourself
How do you decide which students need help with certain concepts they are learning during the school day? What is your mechanism for communicating about students' needs with school-day teachers? Are you comfortable with teaching the content? How can you get a content refresher? Are you able to bring in a school-day teacher to assist?
Do This
2. Engage students in developing content knowledge through hand-on activities. In this video, the school-day instructor reviews different types of energy with a small group of students as she lets them strum the strings of a homemade guitar and examine a music box as it plays. She gives students time to experiment, then asks them to demonstrate (with the guitar and music box) the difference between potential and kinetic energy. She also draws out examples of potential and kinetic energy from their life experiences, such as riding a roller coaster. The college student instructor works on the concept of wavelength and light spectrum, using a rope to show how waves move, and giving students 3-D glasses to wear as they look up toward the sun so that they can see the visible light spectrum.
Ask Yourself
How can you develop content knowledge in students through hands-on learning? Why is student engagement important for the learning process? What kinds of hand-on learning opportunities do you have in your program, or would like to see your program implement?
Do This
3. After engaging in hands-on learning, ask questions to check for student understanding. After the hands-on demonstrations are completed, students work on homework problems that test their understanding of the concepts that they have explored. Both instructors walk around the classroom as students complete their homework assignment. The school-day instructor tutors individual students by questioning them on potential and kinetic energy, which is also the basis of their homework assignment. By walking around the room and questioning individual students, she is checking for students' understanding of the concepts they have just explored in the hands-on activity.
Ask Yourself
How do you test for understanding of concepts with students after doing an activity? Do you ask open-ended questions and listen for reasonable thinking in the responses? How do you work with students who are still struggling to understand a concept?
Do This
4. Set goals and outcomes for students' homework progress and program effectiveness. As reported by the teacher in the video, one outcome of the tutoring is better test scores for students who attend the science tutoring afterschool program.
Ask Yourself
What are the outcomes of tutoring in homework help? To what degree are these outcomes met by your homework help center? In what better ways could you provide tutoring at your homework center to improve student outcomes?
Think about your answers to the following questions:
- How do you provide tutoring for your students?
- What did you learn about this practice from seeing it in action?
- What are some new strategies that you would like to try in your program?
- What are the benefits of doing this? What outcomes do you expect?
- What are some of the challenges? What will you need to do this?
Video 3: Building Study Skills
Do This
1. Help students to analyze the work they are being asked to do in an assignment, and develop a strategy for accomplishing the work. In this video, the afterschool instructor goes through a step-by-step process with a student to help him work through his science homework assignment. The first thing she suggests to the student is that he answer all the questions that ask for a "list." Identifying questions or items that ask for a list is a good starting point (or warm-up activity) for an assignment because it is a relatively low-level thinking skill and can be done quickly with relative ease. It also carries greater potential for success.
Ask Yourself
How do you help students "get started" with an assignment? What strategies do you teach students to help them begin with relatively easy assignments and move on to more difficult tasks?
Do This
2. Teach students several methods for decoding text and locating information. In this video example, the afterschool instructor teaches the student the following methods for decoding text and locating information: reading boldface type for answers, reading titles and subtitles, reading color-coded text, and reading text aloud. She tells the student that it is important to read titles and pay attention to colors, as they may provide clues to answers. She instructs the student to read subtitles first in order to zero in on important topics featured in the homework assignment. She asks the student to read a passage aloud and helps him to identify or "pull out" the important information embedded in the text.
Ask Yourself
How do you help students learn to decode and locate information in a text? Do you teach students any of the strategies used in the video (reading boldface type for answers, reading titles and subtitles, reading color-coded text, and reading text aloud)? Do you monitor students as they read aloud and help them to identify important information embedded in the text? What purpose do you think this method of working might serve?
Do This
3. Teach students to make notes of the important information in their own words. In the video, the instructor helps the student work on his note-taking strategies. She emphasizes that good note taking is not copying text verbatim, but is restating ideas in one's own words. The student understands that if he puts the information into his own words, he will be better able to understand the concepts.
Ask Yourself
How do you teach students to take notes on text they have read? What are some strategies that you have found to be successful?
Do This
4. Set goals and outcomes for students' homework progress and program effectiveness. As reported by the teacher in the video, one outcome of the tutoring is better test scores for kids who attend the science tutoring afterschool program.
Ask Yourself
What are the outcomes of building study skills in homework help? To what degree are these outcomes met by your homework help center? In what ways do you provide tutoring at your homework center to improve student outcomes?
Think about your answers to the following questions:
- How do you help students build good study skills?
- What did you learn about this practice from seeing it in action?
- What are some new strategies that you would like to try in your program?
- What are the benefits of doing this? What outcomes do you expect?
- What are some of the challenges? What will you need to do this?
Checklist
What skills do practitioners need in order to tutor, mentor, and build students' study skills?
Practitioners need to know how to:
1. Tutor
- Identify students' needs
- Determine the best tutor match
- Afterschool instructor
- School-day teacher
- Peer
2. Mentor
- Motivation
- Create an open, positive atmosphere
- Help students feel valued
- Give frequent and positive feedback and praise
- Monitoring
- Look for verbal and non-verbal cues for attention
- Ask open-ended questions
- Provide think time (wait time for responses)
- Modeling
- Always be positive when assisting with homework
- Show students how to obtain information by connecting with teachers and librarians
- Show students how to obtain information by connecting with the Internet
3. Build Study Skills
- Teach students supplemental skills
- Time management (setting goals and timelines)
- Note taking (writing down emphasized words)
- Test preparation (determining key information and practice testing students)
- Provide resources on study skills for students to review
Handouts
- Homework Planner (PDF)
- Tutoring Receipt (PDF)
- Tutoring Log (PDF)
Resources
Even very young students can use Internet search engines to conduct online research, but some of the general search engines can provide access to both inappropriate and incorrect information. Clearly young people need to learn to be discriminate searchers, but until they have developed those skills, they will need (and look for) guidance from adults.
Seven Search Engines for Students lists search tools for young people to use for help with their studies.
The University of Oregon Library Web site includes instructions on citing resources for a project or paper.
B.J. Pinchbech's Homework Helper is consistently ranked as one of the best homework help sites on the Internet. You'll find a link to B.J.'s site as well as online books, ask-an-expert, and subject area/general resources for elementary, middle, and high school students at the Homework Spot and KidBibs Homework Help .
Noam, G., Biancarosa, G., & Dechausay, N. (2002). Afterschool education: Approaches to an emerging field. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Luckie, W., Smethurst, W., & Huntley, S. (2000). Study power workbook: Exercises in study skills to improve your learning and your grades. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Discovery Education's Homework Helper
http://www.discoveryeducation.com/students/
Fact Monster
http://www.factmonster.com/
National Geographic Kids
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/homework
Homework Spot
http://www.homeworkspot.com
Refdesk
http://www.refdesk.com/homework.html
Kid Info
http://www.kidinfo.com/
Homework/Study Tips
http://homeworktips.about.com
MadSci Network
http://www.madsci.org/
A+ Math
http://www.aplusmath.com
Tutorvista.com
http://math.tutorvista.com
Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/
KidBibs Homework Help
http://kidbibs.com/homeworkhelp.htm
Cosden, M., Morrison, G., Albanese, A., & Macias, S. (2001). When homework is not home work: After-school programs for homework assistance. Educational Psychologist, 36(3): 211-221.
Cooper, H. (2007). The battle over homework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Cooper, H., Robinson, J., & Patall, E. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1): 1-62.
Cooper, H., & Valentine, J. (2001). Using research to answer practical questions about homework. Educational Psychologist, 36(3): 143-153.
Cooper, H., Valentine, J., Lindsay, J., & Nye, B. (1999). Relationships between five after-school activities and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(2): 369-378.
Muhlenbruck, L., Cooper, H., Nye, B., & Lindsay, J. (2000). Homework and achievement: Explaining the different strengths of relation at the elementary and secondary school levels. Social Psychology of Education, 3: 295-317.