Recent Tutoring Session Reviews
"Today for warm up I had the student trace words across three worksheets. After tracing each word, I had him read them out loud. Most of the words were pretty simplistic, but one or two had "st" and "ch" in them, which required more thought and sounding out on his part. We took more time with these and I (re-) introduced the idea of elongating the words (stretching out each sound while stringing them together). While practicing this, I used my hands to signify this elongation, in an accordion -type motion, and had the student do the same hand motion with me when sounding out longer, more complex words later in the session. After this, we took a couple of minutes to manipulate several of the words in the warm-up to create other words. This stemmed from the student's addition of "n" to "wet" to create "went". I then set expectations for the main activity of the session: to take several of the words from the first exercise and use them in a sentence or two to set the stage for a story, something that we could easily visualize and write a story about. To assist the student with approach and word selection, I began by coming up with a single sentence containing two of the words. Once I did this, he took an interest in extending the story, bringing in additional words from the worksheets. I had him repeat back his story a couple times to not only check his delivery and incorporation of select vocabulary, but to give him practice storytelling (stressing the idea that we often use language to convey a story or share our own story). I let him know that we were going to take turns recording/writing our combined story. I think this was of some comfort to him, as he is often left to his own devices when writing and liked the feeling of support. I modeled writing the first sentence for him: walked him through my metacognitive process as I asked him to help me determine when to capitalize letters in words; how to approach spacing; the reasoning behind intentionally stopping before a longer, more challenging word and taking the time to stretch it out to help with spelling; and how to show that I had come to the end of my thought (sentence). Talking through this out loud helped him to see all the ingredients one should consider and can struggle with when writing, and also empowered him, as he got to share his knowledge of the writing process with me and function as my major support throughout. When it was his turn to write (sentence two), we had the same sort of conversation we had had with the first sentence. My intent here was not that he should view me as a peer so much as he could see that writing is a process for everyone and that it is something that can be collaborative and can allow for creativity. Since creating equal spaces between words consistently is a challenge for him, I made this the focus for the remainder of the story writing. I asked him what he had been told about spacing in school and why we do it. He said he taught himself to use his thumb for spacing, but sometimes forgot to do so. I asked him to place his thumb where my spaces occurred in the first sentence to see if there wasn't another metric or idea we could use to help with differentiating one word from the next. He was quick to say that his thumb was too big for my spaces so I asked what he thought about using his pinky finger to help space things out. He liked this idea so we agreed we'd implement the 'pinky space' between words moving forward. Before tackling the third sentence, I again asked and encouraged Sebastian to help me with things I needed to be cognizant of while moving from one word to the next, when writing a word I wasn't very familiar with, etc. and between words would purposely say "pinky space" out loud so he could hear and see that I was reminding myself to actively pursue this in my writing. The things I vocalized as I was writing sentence one and sentence three went a ways in helping the student to grasp the notion of writing strategy and see the reminders/practice that goes into developing one's own writing. When we got to the final sentence, the student's sentence, he applied the strategies I had modeled, verbalizing as he went. In fact, when he got to the last word of his sentence, "purple", he was first to bring his hands together and pull them apart to sound it out, and his spelling of the word was that much better for it."
"We first looked at a paper that the student has been working on at school on Coco Chanel. She edited it around 4 different times and each time it got notably better. We talked a bit about other elements that she can improve so that her writing gets even better--grammar, spelling, ways of expressing herself, and how to add details to make her writing very specific. Then, she did a quiz I had on vocabulary. She did all of it very well leaving the first sentence for last because she had problems with it. The word was "ambiguity." The sentence that had the blank also had an example for her of an ambiguous sentence ("The lady hit the man with an umbrella"). Even though at first she did not see the two very different meanings, she did eventually. Does the lady use the umbrella to hit the man OR is the man carrying an umbrella? We talked about how important it is when writing academic texts to never have any ambiguity in words, sentences, or ideas. This is very hard to do since the writer has a clear idea of her meaning, but the reader does not. As such the reader can read a verb as a noun, or read a word as being one of its alternate meanings, or so many other possibilities for misreading. Then, we talked about how, in creative literature, authors often use ambiguity on purpose for many reasons. In poetry and other texts, it can be used to have multiple plains of meaning at the same time. Afterwards, we read three versions of the folk song Barbara Allen and listened to two recordings. The student really liked this because she loves folk songs. We talked about how it is that there are so many versions of the song and they can be very different from one to another. For next session, the student is supposed to write a creative piece with a whole list of vocabulary words that we got from "The Raven" and a few words from today."
"Today the student and I met to discuss his outline and notes for an in-class evaluative/analytical essay critiquing an essay on child labor laws. The student had re-read the essay several times and highlighted additional material he wanted to incorporate into the essay. After our discussion, he refined the content of the body of his essay (including identifying aims and modes of writing), developed his own thesis, and expanded upon the strengths of the essay. He showed good insight into how to efficiently and effectively meet the assignment's criteria, and he should be well-prepared to sit for this writing session. He will type up his notes (he's allowed to take a one-page set of notes into the writing session), decide if he will take optional Paper #6, and contact me if he wants extra support with finishing up his government class."
"We reviewed the student's writing assignment to ensure it followed clearly defined expectations we discussed. The body of his paper was well organized with few errors. We also reviewed grammar. He then took a grammar test. We focused on pronoun rules which included use of pronoun antecedents, personal pronouns, indefinite pronouns, and the difference between contractions and possessive pronouns. He had some trouble with antecedents so we will continue to review them in our next session. We reviewed adverbs and adjectives rules, double comparisons and double negatives. We also discussed general writing strategies. This included audience and purpose, revision strategies, development of the body of the paragraph, and strategies for writing a powerful conclusion. Finally, we discussed the use of advanced vocabulary in his writing. He was given a list of 8th grade vocabulary words to study. His homework is to write a narrative paper. We will review it in our next session. Good session!"
"We reviewed the two writing assignments he completed based on writing prompts. He and I continue to work on the parts of speech and their use. He did vocabulary, spelling, and grammar drills. We also reviewed an assignment from his English class at school called "Stories of Place." We discussed the various elements of this assignment and how a final essay will be constructed. We also reviewed calendar planning, scheduling, and study tips."
"We reviewed the writing homework I gave the student last time. It was generally well done; just some problems with commas and verb tense. We will work on that. We discussed reading: I know he enjoys reading, and I recommend that he always be reading good writing; I recommend Hemingway short stories and National Geographic. This will help improve his ear for what works and what is awkward. We worked several exercises about topic sentences, composing paragraphs, and making inferences/drawing conclusions. I assigned him the third chapter of "The Elements of Style," and I asked him to write me two pages on his experiences on a Disney cruise."