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Caitlin

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I have at least five years of tutoring and teaching experience in grades K-12 and at the collegiate level. Although my training has been interdisciplinary, among my specialties are English Language, Literature, and Linguistics. I also have experience as a Writing Tutor, primarily for English and French, and my recent graduate work was an interdisciplinary degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. My teaching methods are designed to be fun and engaging for all levels. I strive to foster a love of learning in all of my students and often incorporate non-traditional teaching methods in my pedagogy.

Caitlin’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of Saint Joseph - Bachelors, English Language, Literature, and Linguistics; French minor

Graduate Degree: University of Glasgow - Masters, Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Hobbies

I am quite passionate about music; it is something I would never be able to live without. I have played the flute in various groups and ensembles for over 17 years. I also participated in several choirs and chamber choirs over the years. I also enjoy gardening, arts and crafts, knitting, painting, and writing when I have time. Some of my favorite activities include horseback riding, ballet, and swimming.

Tutoring Subjects

American Literature

AP English Language and Composition

AP English Literature and Composition

College Essays

Comparative Literature

Conversational French

Elementary School

Elementary School Math

Elementary School Reading

Elementary School Science

Elementary School Writing

English

English Grammar and Syntax

ESL/ELL

Essay Editing

French

French 1

French 2

High School English

High School Level American Literature

High School Writing

IB Extended Essay

Languages

Latin

Latin 2

Literature

Math

Middle School Reading

Middle School Reading Comprehension

Middle School Writing

Other

Phonics

Public Speaking

Reading

Science

Study Skills

Study Skills and Organization

Summer

Writing


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

I have at least five years of tutoring and teaching experience in grades K-12 and at the collegiate level. Although my training has been interdisciplinary, among my specialties are English language, literature, and linguistics. I also have experience as a writing tutor, primarily for English and French, and my recent graduate work was an interdisciplinary degree in medieval and renaissance studies. My teaching methods are designed to be fun and engaging for all levels. I strive to foster a love of learning in all of my students and often incorporate non-traditional teaching methods in my pedagogy.

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

A typical first session with a new student would vary greatly depending upon the subject area in which I would be tutoring the student. For instance, if the student was a writing student and they had an essay assigned, one of the first things I would do would be to review the parameters of the essay with them. I would also assess the student's knowledge and understanding of the writing process through our discussion of their essay assignment and assist the student in the next steps of the writing process for their essay. This could include reviewing the stages of the writing process, outlining the parameters of the writing assignment, refining grammar techniques, reviewing and critiquing any previous written work the student has on hand, helping create an organizational outline of the student's next steps for the essay, or brainstorming ideas and refining thesis statements. Each session is specifically catered to the needs of my students, so there really is no standard first session with a student. Similarly, for a language related session, I would determine what level of language study and comprehension the student has attained to appropriately assist them with their studies. This would usually include a review of whatever materials and assignments were issued by the student's language teacher. I would address any areas where the student may be struggling, be it pronunciation, writing, reading comprehension, vocabulary retention, etc. I would also encourage the student's participation through dialogue, discussion, and individual interpretation. As much of linguistic study depends upon rote memorization of idioms and vocabulary building skills, I always learn and teach language skills best when presenting the information through some form of game for the student. When students are actively engaged in the material, they retain more of what they are learning and can more easily recall what they have learned at a later date. This is imperative to language learning and is one of the main reasons I always try to make every learning experience as fun and engaging for the student as possible.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I know from experience that my own enthusiasm for learning is infectious in my students. I am always encouraging my students to ask questions - there is no such thing as a stupid question! I encourage self-expression, critical thinking and analysis, creativity, and exploration of ideas or concepts which interest my students. If there is something they want to write about or research, I try to make that happen for them. Obviously, sometimes you must stick to the parameters of a writing prompt or assignment. However, I do encourage my students to investigate further, either on their own or with me, when something interests them. I think fostering my student's sense of self-worth and self-expression are key elements to helping my students to become independent learners. By applying the skills and knowledge they have and enabling them to think for themselves, my students are able to express their own curiosity and unique perspective of the world around them.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

One of the first ways I would help a student stay motivated is to eliminate stress, distractions, and anything that might make them feel overwhelmed with their work. The primary way I do this is to help them stay organized. By helping the student to organize every level of their studies, I am able to keep my students motivated. For instance, if a student was struggling with too much homework, had too many major assignments due around the same time, or just felt overwhelmed by the material they needed to know, I would start by helping them to assess what they need to accomplish and when each assignment is due. Once we have an understanding of the overall picture, I would go through each subject with the student and break down each subject, as well as each individual assignment, that needs to be completed. I would help the student prioritize and to learn to identify what tasks need to be prioritized and why. Additionally, I would provide my students with step-by-step instructions on how to successfully complete each assignment within the time frame allotted and to help them create a sense of balance in their schedule. Working from the minute to a more comprehensive global scale with their course work, I would demonstrate how you make a seemingly impossible task into one that is manageable. I fully believe in positive reinforcement, especially with younger students. To that end, I strive to ensure all my lessons are fun, engaging, and interesting for my students. I find keeping a positive attitude and the atmosphere as light as possible helps to keep students focused on their work and actively engaged in what they are learning.

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

If the way I was explaining a concept was not easily understood by my student, I would try presenting the information in another way. As a tutor and teacher, I know that not everyone learns the same way; what might be excellent for one student might be completely incomprehensible to another student based on their unique learning styles. For example, I had one student who was only four years old and just starting to learn how to read. She needed to review her phonemes as part of her lesson work, for which we would normally use note cards with the different phonetic sounds written out which she would be practicing that day. Simply looking at the card and having her try to recall the pronunciation for it was just not working, and my student was getting very frustrated. One solution I had to help her was to have us make a duplicate set with pictures to match to the written sound of the word on her existing cards. I knew from previous lessons that one of her favorite activities was to color and draw. I had us take a quick break from practicing her phonemes to have us both draw pictures to correspond to the words and sounds she was trying to read. Once we were done, my student was not only in a more positive frame of mind, but she also was curious and interested in what we were going to do. I then had us spread out the cards on the floor by my desk where we were working and helped her engage with her learning through the matching game we had just created for her. We both played the game, partly to enable me to reinforce the proper reading techniques and to make it more fun for her. Although it was a bit challenging for my student at first, given her age and previous frustration level, she soon became familiar with the game. Ultimately, it actually became her favorite activity during her lesson and she excelled with her phonetic work. By making the challenging activity into one full of positivity and fun, my student was able to overcome the difficulty with the material she was studying. By changing the lesson to one which required more visual acuity than rote memorization, I was able to help my student understand the material more easily because of her unique learning styles. Not only was she engaging with the material in an aural and visual way, she also was able to engage kinesthetically through the act of the matching game and direct interaction with the cards. By tapping into multiple ways of viewing the same concept, I was able to help my student overcome her difficulties.

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

When helping a student with reading comprehension skills, I always make sure to review the skills and steps to breaking down a reading passage. This includes on a micro level by breaking down individual sentences or areas of grammar which may inhibit or restrict the student's understanding. The next step would be to work on breaking down our understanding of a passage on a paragraph level. We comb through the passage until we cover the entire passage. I encourage my students to read the passage multiple times, each time with a different intent. The first time is for initial understanding and to identify the main idea of the passage. On a paragraph level, the main idea of the paragraph is stated in the topic sentence, which is the first sentence in the paragraph. If a paragraph's main point is not succinctly expressed in that first sentence, then the concluding sentence is the next likely place to find a statement about the intended purpose of the paragraph, as concluding sentences are also transitions to additional paragraphs related to the topic or to a thesis statement. Another way I have my students resolve a reading comprehension issue is to have them engage actively with the text. For instance, I remind my students to be mindful of key terms used in the passage and to circle any words they might not know as we read. I have them underline the topic sentences and locate the main point of a passage. I have them write questions in the margins as we read. I teach my students how to skim read and to look for clues to reading comprehension questions in the text. If writing on the text itself is not an option, I always have my students take notes on separate sheets of paper throughout the reading of the passage. I ask them questions as we go through and pause as we take turns reading the passage. My goal with reading comprehension is to help the student actively engage with the text and to analyze and critique what they have read. Doing so not only reinforces strong reading comprehension skills, but also reinforces their understanding of grammar, literary techniques, and writing.

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

Some of the strategies I use daily with students are remaining positive and not being afraid to laugh at myself. By demonstrating to my students that mistakes are learning experiences and that everyone makes mistakes from time to time, I help to put my students at ease about making their own mistakes as they learn. I also find that students respect the teachers who respect them and who expect them to try their best, regardless of the outcome. Effort and hard work are key elements to a successful learning experience. It is not so much the result that matters as it is the journey to attain that result. Although results matter in the scheme of things, so long as a student puts in their best effort on a task, I call that learning experience a success. Everyone works at their own pace, and I feel that that is one of the most important things to remember as a teacher. Of course, attaining concrete results are of great importance, but results are not everything. Maintaining the student's self-confidence, self-worth, and trust are paramount to achievement. So long as the student understands what is expected of them and works hard to achieve or even exceed those expectations, then the lesson time was well spent.

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

My solution is to make the subject as fun and engaging as possible for the student, such as through the use of a game as a learning tool. I find this works best in helping to engage a student in the material with which they are struggling. For instance, unlike most people, I love grammar. It was always one of my favorite subjects in school. Most students, however, loathe grammar, or at least that is the case in my own teaching experience. One of my favorite activities to do with students to inspire them to want to become excited or at least more engaged in their grammar work is to play a game called "You've Been Sentenced." This game is an actual card game comprised of different parts of speech. Once the cards are dealt at random to the players, the players turn over their cards and try to create a sentence using all of the cards, or at least, as many of the cards in their hand as possible. Different parts of grammar attain different point levels and the player with the most points wins. All players have to agree that the sentence is grammatical, as each sentence is read aloud to the group of players. Due to the nature of the cards and the players' opportunity to be creative, most sentences are hysterical and silly. By helping the students to laugh and actively engage in working with grammar, I find that most students understand the concepts more easily because they no longer feel overwhelmed by the subject matter.

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

The techniques I would use to ensure a student understands the material we are covering in the lesson varies depending upon the subject I am teaching. For example, in literature, I would review reading comprehension techniques, critical analysis techniques, writing styles, and literary techniques with a student as appropriate to their age level and experience. I would have the students actively engage with the text, address reading comprehension questions, and encourage them to analyze the text based upon our discussion and their familiarity with literary terms and devices.

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

One of the primary ways in which I build a student's confidence in a subject is through positive reinforcement. By praising their effort and their understanding, I encourage them to continue to try and to ask as many questions as they need to during a lesson. Even if a student answers a question incorrectly, I try to give them positive feedback and praise their effort while correcting their understanding. I try to look at things through their eyes and to use what is familiar to them to help them to better understand a subject by looking at it from a different perspective.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

I constantly assess and re-evaluate a student's understanding of the material throughout our time together. I review our goals and objectives at the beginning and end of a lesson. This not only helps the student to feel a sense of accomplishment, but it also helps to ensure we stay on track throughout the lesson. I might assign additional work, or give the student specific tasks to accomplish before I see them again. Then, when we do reconvene, I re-evaluate what they were actually able to accomplish with what I gave them and re-adjust or re-distribute the workload accordingly. At the beginning and end of the lesson, I help my students prioritize and organize what they need to accomplish. This helps to keep them from feeling overwhelmed outside of the lesson and gives them a sense of purpose in accomplishing their goals. I also keep my students on their toes by asking questions about material we have covered before or, for my language students, by providing little assessment quizzes of ideas, concepts, grammar, and vocabulary we have covered before.

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

I constantly adjust and re-evaluate my teaching techniques and goals throughout the lesson to ensure that my student's needs are met. If a student is struggling with a concept, I would spend as much time as necessary on that concept, or at least as much time as time would allow in that session, until the student had a better understanding of the material. I would then follow-up that lesson the next time by reviewing those concepts and re-capping as to what we learned during our last time together. If a student still needs more time, I would offer supplemental resources for the student and schedule additional time to work specifically on that area to ensure that all of the student's needs and goals were met accordingly.

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

I use all kinds of materials during my lessons. Some examples are textbooks, auditory and visual aids, diagrams, whiteboards or chalk boards, word processing programs, the internet, games, search engines and databases, worksheets, reference guides and books, note cards, etc.