Eye on the Sky Project FIRST: Fostering Reading Through Science and Technology
Tutor Guide to Early Literacy
eyeguy reading
tutor guidelines
tutor techniques
skill development
reading technique
wrting technique
student activities
Updated: 04/23/02
tutor techniques

guidelines for effective tutoring

  • Create a supportive, safe situation for tutoring—making mistakes is ok and you are there to help.

  • Build positive relationships with your students. Support students’ efforts through positive reinforcement. If the student is incorrect, respond supportively: “No that’s not quite right, but a good try.” Or “Not quite right, but you’re on the right track.”

  • Help students to think independently. Give them strategies for figuring things out on their own. Encourage self-help by responding with “How do you think we could find an answer to this?”

  • Encourage and reward risk-taking. Learning how to make well-considered guesses is an important skill for young students—encourage good guessing.

  • Communicate and maintain high expectations. Let your student know that you expect success!

  • Keep explanations simple and to the point.

  • Minimize distraction. Locate a relatively quiet workspace. Remove other materials so students can focus on your work with them.

  • Begin with success! Start your tutoring at a point where your student knows what he or she is doing. More challenging work can come later.

  • Be relaxed and don’t worry about making mistakes. All tutors occasionally will do something wrong. And when you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Ask others in your tutoring program for help.

--From Every Child A Reader, America Reads

tens ways to build early literacy
  1. Talking with children
    A strong foundation in spoken language helps children read and write. Share conversation about what she likes to eat, play or her favorite pet.

  2. Reading to children
    Reading to children is one of the best ways to build reading skills. Be sure to invite your student to join in with you when s/he is ready.

  3. Reading with children
    You and your child read the book at the same time. Look at the text together while you point to the words being read. Soon your student will be reading on his/her own.

  4. Helping children read independently
    Practice makes perfect—this holds true for reading too. You contribute in a big way by listening and helping students as they read aloud to you.

  5. Writing for children
    We often learn by watching someone do what we want to learn. Many of us master writing by watching a writer at work. Try to “think out loud” as you write to make the process accessible.

  6. Writing with children
    This gives your students the chance to do some of the writing while you fill in the rest. You can do the hard parts and your student can do the easier parts of the writing. Be sure to read what you have written, together or individually!

  7. Helping children write independently
    Help your student pick up a few new skills each time you write together (capitalization, spelling of common words, where to put a period in a sentence).

  8. Understanding phonics, letters and words
    Help students understand how sounds and letters relate to each other. Help them learn that words are made of sounds (beginning, end, and middle). Also help them distinguish between letters, words and sentences.

  9. Making books
    The books your student will make need not be complicated—perhaps only one line of print per page—but your students will become authors of books they can read again and again!

  10. Connecting your work with children’s homes
    Your closing activity is a great way to show parents what you are working on together.
    As the year proceeds, you can send home other reading and writing material too.

--from Help America Read by Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas

giving praise effectively
Praise is a great motivator for your students. It lets a student know that she is making progress and can be successful in the classroom.
  • Be specific. It is important to tell her why she is being praised.

  • General or vague praise is less helpful. For example, “I like the way you noticed the beginning sound” is better than, “That’s right.”

  • Praise a student when she tries to self-correct, but is still wrong. You might say, “I really liked the way you tried to sound that out” or “You almost have it.”

  • When a student is partly correct, praise her for the correct part. For example, you could say, “You figured out the last part of the word very quickly.”

Examples of Effective Praise:

“I liked the way you worked out that word.”

“I can see that you are putting in the sounds you know.”

“Good, you noticed that and fixed it.”

“I liked the way you tried to help yourself.”

“You did a good job of using the word wall to find a word.”

“I can tell that you are really thinking about what you are

“You are paying attention to the pictures to help you with your reading.”

tips for working with young readers
  • Provide successful reading and writing experiences, avoid student frustration.

  • Spend a few minutes looking over a text with your student. Talk about it before, during and after reading—it increases understanding.

  • Encourage finger pointing.

  • Don’t correct every error you hear.

  • Avoid asking your student to sound out a word in the middle of reading. Give them a few seconds to figure it out, then tell them the word and let them move on and stay focused on the content.

  • Provide opportunities for readers to practice and apply the skills they have learned.

  • Integrate skill instruction with reading and writing.

  • Reinforce concepts and skills learned in previous lessons.

  • Connect students’ experiences with their reading and writing.

  • Encourage independence by helping a student learn strategies for reading.

  • As your student reads, ask him/her, “Does it look right? Does it sound right? Does it make sense?” Reading means understanding a text, not just decoding it.

  • Practice patience—fluency comes from reading, re-reading and reading yet again.

  • Make reading FUN. Share the pleasure of reading. Tell your students what you like to read.

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