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How to be a good reading and writing tutor

Excerpted from a pamphlet published by The International Bureau of Education


Select material. In addition to using the child's textbooks, have the tutee chose any reading material of high interest to them.

Read together. Support the tutee by both reading all the words aloud together. Adapt your reading speed to exactly match that of the tutee. The tutee must read every word.

Correct errors. When the tutee reads a word wrong, just tell the tutee the correct way to say the word. (Do not give clues, or the flow of reading will be interrupted.) The tutee must repeat it correctly. Then you continue. Always correct all errors this way, and no other way.

Pause. However, do not jump in and put the word right straight away. Pause and give the tutee four seconds. If they put it right by themselves (self-correct) in this time, there is no need to interfere. (However, with a reader who rushes, you might need to pause for less time, and finger point back to the error word).

Praise. Praise your tutee for: good reading of hard words; signalling for ‘reading alone’; reading alone correctly for longer; getting all the words in a sentence right; and self-correcting. Try to use a variety of different praise words, and look pleased.

Review. Talk about the book. Why it is interesting? Talk about the meaning of difficult words. What were the main ideas in the book? In what order?


Generate ideas. Talk about the purpose and audience for the writing. Talk about the tutee’s ideas. Stimulate ideas by asking questions (such as Who? Do? What? To? With? Where? When? How? Why?—in any relevant order). Make brief one-word notes on the tutee’s ideas.

Map ideas. Review the ideas. Have the tutee number the ideas in the best order. Or divide them into sections, and put the sections in order. Draw lines linking related ideas, making an ‘ideas map’. Use colors or underlining if it helps. This map forms a plan for the next step.

Draft. From the map, begin to write a rough version of the text. The tutee should say what they want to communicate, while the tutor does as much of the actual writing down as the tutee needs. The tutor may: do all the writing; only write in the hard words; show the tutee how to write the hard words for the tutee to copy in; or only tell the tutee how to spell hard words. Do not worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar at this stage.

Read. The tutor reads the draft aloud, with as much expression and attention to punctuation as possible. Then the tutee does the same.

Edit. Look at the draft together. Have the tutee think about where improvements are necessary. The problem words, phrases or sentences can be marked with a colored pen, pencil or highlighter. The most important area of need for improvement is where meaning is unclear. The second most important is to do with the organization of ideas, or the order in which meanings are presented. Only then consider whether spellings are correct, and last of all whether punctuation is helpful and correct. The tutor can then make any additional suggestions about changes.  Remember to use the dictionary, if in any doubt.

Evaluate. Perhaps later, the tutee and tutor inspect and evaluate the 'final copy’. Try to give more positive comments than critical comments. This should help the tutee think about how to improve next time.


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