# Abigail

Certified Tutor

Undergraduate Degree: University of Maryland - Bachelor in Arts, Linguistics

SAT Verbal: 710

SAT Writing: 700

Hiking, Mountain Biking, Reading, Writing (short stories), Playing with my puppy

College Computer Science

College English

Comparative Literature

Elementary School Math

High School Computer Science

High School English

Java

Other

Study Skills

Study Skills and Organization

Summer

What is your teaching philosophy?

When a student struggles with a subject, the problem is almost always a communication one. So, I believe that the key to being a good teacher is to find the best, simplest, and clearest way to explain yourself to each student.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

I start my first session with a student off by just talking. I ask the students to tell me about what they have problems with, and why they think that subject is hard for them. Since most of the information I, as a tutor, get prior to the first session comes from parents, not students, I think it's crucial that the students get their chance to tell me themselves what they want. Then, once we know each other a little better, I ask my students to work through problems without my help. I ask them to tell me exactly what they're thinking while they work, so that I can see their thought processes and find the areas where they most need improvement.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I don't teach my students how to solve the problem in front of them; I teach them processes to solve any problem that they come across. For example, I might give an SAT reading student 5 questions to ask himself about every reading passage. That way, once the student has the process memorized, he can apply it without me.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

To help a student stay motivated long term, I would show her proof of her progress. For example, if I was teaching writing, I would keep a writing sample from one of our first tutoring sessions and ask the student to edit it a few months later. This lets the student see exactly what she's learned for herself. To keep a student motivated in the short term, I never spend too much time on any activity. This helps keep my students from reaching their frustration thresholds, and makes the tutoring sessions seem to pass faster, which keeps my students attentive.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

Change my tactics and attack the problem from another angle. If, for example, my geometry student is struggling to understand how to solve proofs, I would ask them to write a proof for something they know is true (ex. Write a proof that shows that the US flag has the same number of stars as the US has states).

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

I break up large reading passages into much smaller ones, and then we work through the comprehension one little section at a time.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Wherever I can, I let my student lead the lesson and the activity. This way, I can see what techniques the student uses to help him or her learn. However, when a student has absolutely no idea how to proceed, I work through one problem myself, explaining every step I take and asking my student questions about what I do as I do it. Then, I ask my student to repeat what I did. Once I know if my student learns best auditorily, visually, or kinetically, I'll simplify this process. But at the start, I make sure that all of our bases are covered.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

I would have them practice in a drastically different format, and, if possible, in the form of a game. I've invented more than one game to help make lessons more fun, and all of my games are designed so that they can reflect the level that my student is on.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

At least once in every tutoring session, my students and I work on a few practice problems/a practice assignment "together." While we do these problems, I do not speak first, and I speak as little as possible throughout. If a student has mastered the material, she will solve the problem or complete the assignment quickly and without asking me any questions. If the student knows the material, but still needs practice to build confidence, she will do the assignment well, but she will either work slowly or ask me lots of questions throughout. A student who doesn't know the material at all simply won't be able to complete the problem/assignment until I actively start to speak.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

If the student isn't confident in a subject because he doesn't know it yet, then I focus on teaching well. Students can usually tell when they're learning, and that learning itself builds confidence. If, however, I have a student who knows a subject but isn't confident in it yet, I will assign homework that I will grade or administer a short test. In fact, this is the only time that I will grade a tutoring student's work. I do this because, if I know that a student has mastered a subject, then I know that the student will do well on the assignment, and that good grade will serve as proof to the student that he has improved, and I've found that this proof of improvement can work wonders with students' confidence.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

First, I ask the student. Most students know, in general, where their weaknesses are and are not. This is the easiest and most effective way to start an evaluation. For example, every SAT student has been able to easily and accurately tell me if it's the math, reading, or writing section that gives her the most trouble. To evaluate a student's more specific needs, I ask them to solve problems/complete assignments in front of me without any help from me at all. While they work, I ask them to think out loud, and I question as many of their decisions as possible (ex.: "Why did you decide to add 5 before you divided by 6?"). This lets me see where students get stuck, where they go wrong, and where they go right.

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

I don't have curricula for subjects that I tutor because, even though I've taught several subjects to many students, every student has learned differently. Certain activities work really well for students who like to see before they do (for example, reading through good and bad essays before writing one) but work terribly for all other students. So, instead of writing a curriculum for, for example, SAT writing, I simply have a collection of practice problems, worksheets, and lessons that I pick and choose from for each student. To determine what a student needs, I pay very close attention to the way that the student works. Does the student ask questions like "Can you show me?" or "What do you mean?" Does the student get a glassy look in his eyes if I talk for more than 30 seconds? When was the student the most talkative in the lesson? All of these things help show me what a student wants and needs from a teacher.

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

This can vary greatly from subject to subject, but most of the sessions are spent using worksheets that I design myself. I tend to incorporate tactile objects in the lessons (ex. coins, jellybeans) more often with younger students than with older students, but I do try to use unusual materials whenever possible. Otherwise, we're able to do most of our work with just some pens and paper!