Recent Tutoring Session Reviews
"We covered his weekly article assignment and tested his vocabulary. We also continued to read "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.""
"The student has just begun a new 6-week unit which will focus on several subjects: Shakespearean sonnets, reading a novel of his choosing, persuasive writing, and, later in the unit, a research paper. We discussed what novels he might consider, looking at an approved list of novels with "literary merit." Some of the books that caught his interest were "Catcher in the Rye," "1984," and "A Farewell to Arms." He will be selecting a book this week, and we will discuss it at our next session. We then began the long short story, "The Monkey's Paw," but determined that it would be too time-consuming for our session, so I assigned it as homework instead. He has two weeks to read the story (with included vocabulary list) and answer the short answer questions before our next session. We switched from "The Monkey's Paw" to a short descriptive passage from "Great Expectations" describing Miss Havisham's sitting room the first time that Pip encounters her. The student was then meant to identify what was "odd" or "strange" in the description of the scene, but he found the language very difficult and only identified one or two details, so we spent a little time talking about identifying clue words (like "but," as in, "she was adorned with bridal flowers, but her hair was white,"). We then went through a summary and main idea worksheet similar to one that we worked on early in our tutoring last fall. The worksheet is designed to help students identify main ideas and summarize the important content of a passage. The four passages in the worksheet all had to do with ninjas--their weapons, clothing, and myths surrounding them. On the first passage he underlined somewhat random sentences in the passage, so on the second one I had him read the full passage through once, trying to identify the main idea before going back to underline the more important sentences. We did this for the remaining two passages as well because it forced him to take more time with the passage and focus more on the structure. We then did two "persuasive writing" outline-writing prompts. The first was on whether schools should adopt a year-round schedule. The student was initially very opposed to a year-round schedule, so this was the thesis he adopted for his outline. However, as we discussed the different factors that might come into play, he seemed to change his view, and found it difficult to come up with any supporting ideas other than "kids would not want to do that." We talked a bit about rhetorical strategies that can be employed to defend weak positions--for instance, he came up with the idea that putting forward that "students would riot." We discussed how, though we can't know that students really would riot, it's a much stronger position to argue than, "kids wouldn't like that," because it comes with more specific consequences. The second prompt focused on whether American schools should adopt the European practice of having students clean the school themselves. The student argued that they should, but his supporting arguments mostly focused on the idea that the school would then be "cleaner" than it is now. In future work on persuasive writing, I'd like to focus on helping him think more broadly about cause and effect, and generally finding a wider range of supporting ideas for his arguments. For instance, in the latter prompt example, we could also discuss possible arguments about saving the school money on janitorial services, and improving students' attitude and pride in the school due to the added responsibility. We also might discuss counter-arguments about students who might choose to abuse the system and make more work for their fellow students, etc. At our next session I will collect the "Monkey's Paw," we will discuss the beginning of his new book, and we will work on a few sonnets together. We will also likely do a few more persuasive writing prompts and summary exercises."
"The student's class begins to read Of Mice and Men tomorrow in class. I recommended that he reads a little ahead of the class since he's not currently reading a book on his own. We worked on reading tests focusing on strategies. We talked about pre-reading the questions to aid in the reading of the piece and how to skim a work for keywords. We worked on two of the passages from his previous test. He didn't need to refer to the original text as often since he used the questions to guide his reading. We looked at a Kurt Vonnegut short story, which I recommended he find in the school library. We discussed the symbolism he uses, as well as comprehension of the overall theme. He was able to draw allusions to other literature in the context of the piece we were reading. It's great to know that by being introduced to Kurt Vonnegut, he is not only gaining access to an ever-present literary community, but can also connect with his parents on such a level."