February 21st, 2015
Today, I tutored a little boy in first grade named Nicholas. Out of all of the kids I’ve tutored, he was one of the most shy and quiet. Boys in particular tend to be a bit more challenging to tutor, but Nicholas was very well-behaved and stayed on task.
Nicholas brought some math worksheets with him that covered basic addition and subtraction. He was fairly slow at math and also lacked confidence in himself.
Since Nicholas struggled with this basic math, I encouraged him to “draw out” the problems. For example, if the problem was 8 - 2, I would have him draw eight circles and then cross out two to see that six were left. This enabled Nicholas to get the right answers instead of just guessing and giving up right away. Eventually, he became a lot quicker with his addition and subtraction and didn’t always need to draw pictures to get the correct answer.
Because Nicholas had difficulty adding and subtracting, it took a while for him to complete the worksheets. However, during this time, he remained focused. I could tell that he truly wanted to work hard and get better at math.
After completing the worksheets, Nicholas and I read a Dr. Seuss book, with each of us taking turns reading a page. Nicholas told me that his favorite books were Dr. Seuss books and he definitely perked up while reading.
Since Nicholas struggled the most with math, I decided to try and find a way to make it more exciting for him. I picked out a bingo game called “subtraction bingo.” In this game, you read a bingo card with a subtraction fact on it and see if you have a spot on your board with the correct answer. This game allowed Nicholas have fun but also helped him work on his math skills at the same time.
Another way I worked to improve Nicholas' math was through money. We first reviewed the value of each coin and how to count money. Then, I found a box that had various shapes in it: circles, triangles, rectangles, squares, and hexagons. On a piece of paper, I wrote down the “cost” of each shape, as if they were goods being sold at the store. At first, he was the customer and I was the cashier, so he would “purchase” a shape and have to give me enough money for it. Through this, he was able to practice counting money.
Then, Nicholas and I reversed roles so that he was the cashier and I was the customer. I would give him a certain amount of money for a product and he would have to give me back the correct amount of change. This proved to be a lot more challenging for Nicholas, and understandably so. I walked him through the process of giving change several times, and he eventually started to get the hang of it. For simpler problems of this kind, he easy got the correct answer. For example, I would pay him 25 cents for a square that cost 20 cents, and he would be able to give me 5 cents back in change.
After we finished playing with money, it was juice and donut time, as well as time to complete the writing prompt, which was about good manners. Since Nicholas was just in first grade and also fairly behind in writing, he wasn’t able to write a lot for the prompt. For younger students especially, I have discovered that the best way to go about the writing prompts was first through having a conversation. I asked Nicholas to tell me about situations in which he had good manners. He came up with a few ideas, such as holding the door for people and being nice to his parents and other family members. After talking, Nicholas wrote a few complete sentences. This took a while, since I had to help him with spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I also motivated him by saying that he could choose a game or fun activity to do for the remainder of the session upon finishing the prompt.
Toward the end of the tutoring session, most of the kids were playing with games, and Nicholas wanted to pick out a puzzle. Since he accomplished a lot academically today, I walked over to the table with him and found a geography puzzle that seemed to catch his eye.
The puzzle was of the United States. Nicholas really didn’t know much about geography and struggled to put the pieces in the correct places. One thing I was able to teach him through the puzzle was directions: north, south, east, and west. The puzzle had a compass on it, so I was able to give Nicholas hints about where certain states were geographically. For example, I would tell him that Maine was in northeast corner of the United States and he would put the piece in the correct spot. Nicholas became really familiar with directions and really enjoyed doing the puzzle. A fellow first- grader who was also sitting at our table even joined in on the fun and helped us complete the puzzle.
During this session, Nicholas gained a lot of confidence in his reading, writing, and math abilities and managed to have some fun while learning at the same time.