October 31, 2009

Tutors Toolkit: Answering an Essay Test

The following information is from Cuesta College and was accessed on 10/15/09

Answering an Essay Test

Essay tests can have on them the following types of questions: short or long answers, fill in the blank, and sentence completion. Use the following suggestions to help you with essay-type tests:

  1. Make a brief survey of the entire test. Read every question and the directions. Plan to answer the least difficult questions first, saving the most difficult for last.\
  2. Set a time schedule and periodically check your progress (to maintain proper speed). With six questions to answer in 60 minutes you should allow a maximum of 10 minutes per questions. If your 10 minutes passes and you have not finished the question, continue to the next one and come back to the other one later. Do not sacrifice any question for another.
  3. Read the question carefully. Underline key words: e.g., list, compare, WWII, political and social, art or music, etc. As you read, jot down the points that occur to you beside that question.
  4. Organize a brief outline of the main ideas you want to present. Place a check mark alongside each major idea and number them in order of presentation in your answer. Do not spend too much time on the outline.
  5. When you answer, always rephrase the question.
    Example: Explain Pavlov’s theory of conditioning. Answer: Pavlov’s theory of conditioning is based on…
    The remainder of the answer is devoted to support by giving dates, examples, stating relationships, causes, effects and research
  6. Present material that reflects the grader’s personal or professional biases. Further, stick to the material covered in the reading or lecture, and answer the question within the frame of reference.
  7. If you do not understand what the instructor is looking for, write down how you interpreted the question and answer it.
  8. If time does not permit a complete answer, use an outline form.
  9. Write something for every question. When you “go blank,” start writing all the ideas you remember from your studying – one of them is bound to be close!
  10. In sentence-completion items, remember never to leave a space blank. When in doubt – GUESS. Make use of grammar to help decide the correct answer. Make the completed statement logically consistent.
  11. If you have some time remaining, read over your answer. You can frequently add other
    ideas which may come to mind. You can at least correct misspelled words or insert words to complete an idea.
  12. Sometimes, before you even read the questions, you might write some facts and formulas you have memorized on the back of the test.

Click here to read more.

Filed under: Pedagogy,Study Tools,Test Prep

October 25, 2009

Why Parents Don’t Make Great Tutors for Their Kids

By Sue Shellenbarger, The Wall Street Journal | Blogs, originally published 9/17/09

Most times when I try to teach my children something – how to mow the lawn, do a budget or clean a toilet – I feel as if I have a positive or at least a neutral effect – with one big exception.

When I have tried to tutor my children in school, or simply help with homework, I often feel like Typhoid Mary. In most cases I have managed only to confuse them.

As the school year revs up, many parents are now trying to figure out how best to help their kids academically. More parents are trying to tutor their kids at ever-younger ages, as pressures mount for even the youngest children to perform well in school. Based on my e-mail, though, tutoring is no slam-dunk for parents; many puzzle over how they can wield deep professional skills at work, yet fail so completely at tutoring their children in related skills at home.

Studies on the value of parent tutoring for elementary-age children yield mixed results, as shown here and here.

For older students, say Duke University researchers Nancy Hill and Diana Tyson in a recently published study, parental tutoring is linked to worse performance in school. By middle school, the researchers say, students may see parents’ attempts to help as interference or pressure. Parents often confuse students by presenting material in different ways than teachers. Also, parents may not dive in to help until a student is already in trouble, and the students know that, reinforcing their discouragement.

To read more click here.

Filed under: Tutoring Practices

October 17, 2009

School Board Balks at Peer Tutoring Class

Originally published in voiceofsandiego.org on 9/24/09

The San Diego Unified school board balked at letting a school add a class in which students tutor other children with special needs, worrying that it might not be a real, academically rigorous class.

“I would prefer for a student to be in a class that is for that student, academically” instead of devoting time to helping other students, said school board President Shelia Jackson.

Classes are vetted by a committee of teachers and school district managers who review and recommend new courses for final approval by the school board. But Superintendent Terry Grier and his deputy superintendent, Chuck Morris, have repeatedly questioned whether the committee properly screens all courses. The sheer number of courses, Morris has argued, makes it difficult to ensure that classes are uniformly difficult across schools in different neighborhoods.

“It has just gotten totally out of hand,” Morris said.

Sally Smith, a mother at Serra High School and a member of the school district advisory committee on federal money for disadvantaged students, argued that the Peer Tutoring class and other like it were “phantom classes” that allowed high schools to shoehorn teens into doing the work of employees. She named two other such classes, Library Practice and Dynamics of Peer Counseling, as examples.

“They look good on paper,” she said. “But that’s not how it’s happening on the schedule.”

Click here to read more…

Filed under: Academic Learning Centers,High School,Peer-Tutoring

October 9, 2009

Megan Conners, the “Superlatives” Superstar Tutor

Originally published October, 2009 in americanlearns “Network Superstars”

Below, you’ll have an opportunity to meet Megan Conners.  The 23 year old AmeriCorps NCCC alumnus just began serving as an adult literacy and ESL tutor through Literacy AmeriCorps Palm Beach County in Florida.

Audrey McDonough, the director of Megan’s AmeriCorps program, told us that Megan “drives one hour to [her service site] and back home each day to teach adults who are at the very basic levels of English speaking and reading ability.  Her students are primarily seasonal farm workers who come to school every day to improve their English and better their lives.”

Megan’s Strategy: Sentence Sequencing Cards

Megan became a Network Superstar by developing an engaging strategy to help her learners understand and practice the use of superlatives (words like biggest, smallest, taller).  She created the strategy as an alternative to the extremely confusing lesson offered in her learners’ text book.

Though Megan has only been an adult literacy tutor for a month and a half, she’s already having a national impact.  A number of tutors and instructors we serve across the country have replicated her strategy over the past week!

Written text of the strategy is below. Check it out!

Click here to read more…

Filed under: Community,K-8,Leadership,Training/Education,Tutoring Practices


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