The Learning Commons and English/ESOL Departments teamed up for a highly attended and incredibly productive afternoon of reflection and dialogue on March 8, 2018.

Key elements of the tutoring process were addressed in order to deepen the quality of support received by Skyline College students. In preliminary planning, it was determined that establishing best practices for unpacking prompts with students, as well as prioritizing in tutoring sessions once this has been done, would yield maximum benefit. The impact can be best summed up through the expressions of tutors and faculty in attendance.

“Our flex day activity was a great opportunity to connect with other tutors (and professors) about best practices when assisting students.” English Tutor Joshua Paras said. “Activities like these help me develop a rapport with the larger English Learning Assistance community at Skyline College.”

“It was a pleasure working with this impressive group of thoughtful, smart, and dedicated tutors.” English Professor Rachel Bell said. “Our students are in good hands.”

It is our hope that this team effort can become a regular staple of the mid-semester flex trainings offered. Key best practice gathered during the training are as follows:

Best Practices for Breaking down Prompts:

  • Have students mark up/annotate the prompt
  • Identify focus & task
  • Make sure student understands the genre
  • Look at each piece of the prompt & check for understanding
  • Help students unpack complex ideas
  • Help students draft a “working” thesis
  • Turn over prompt and have the student explain what they are being asked to do.
  • Have a conversation and/or freewrite about the tasks.
  • Talk through the required structure of the paper
  • Ask “How can I help?” without making assumptions
  • Ask critical questions: “What do you think?” “Why do you think that?”
  • Look for clues throughout the prompt
  • Ask student to explain text/story
  • Work backwards towards a concise thesis (from loose ideas)
  • Reverse outline the paper
  • Exercise empathy with your students
  • Enlist sections of the Skyline rhetoric for help (especially the thesis section)
  • Create a question & answer it to develop a thesis
  • Help student to make sure response is text based
  • Ask “What is your writing process?”
  • Give time for ESOL/non-native speaker to silent read the prompt, then unpack together

Best Practices for Tutoring Students on Essays:

  • Start with a positive and ask to see earlier drafts w/ teacher’s feedback if available
  • Discuss the difference between key concepts & start reverse outlining based on the thesis statement
  • Put the draft away & have a brainstorming session with a new sheet of paper. Next, apply that brainstorm back into the work they already have.
  • Isolate an element of the essay for improvement (set goals)
  • Group similar ideas
  • Big picture (content) vs small picture (grammar/editing/proofreading)
  • Have students explain the quotes/information with adequate analysis
  • Refine strong and relevant examples
  • Label the TEA/PIE in each paragraph
  • Look at 1 or 2 grammar challenges and then have tutee apply to the next instance of error
  • Ask questions in order to help develop reverse outline based on prompt (use guiding & probing questions)
  • Regularly integrate sincere commendation balanced with constructive feedback
  • Help students by encouraging language reflective of growth mindset
  • Discuss long-term benefits

Article written by Chanel Daniels l Photo by Scott McMullin

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