Tag Archives: tutors

My neighbor, who was born in Korea, sends her children to English tutors year-round. Should I do the same? Her children get straight A’s and are in gifted classes.

Tutoring is a way of life in some cultures, including South Korea.  There children go to school for six to eight hours during the day, 220 days a year, and then they go to a tutor for another four to six hours in the evening.  Estimates are that Korean children spend up to 13 hours a day being educated, almost half of that time in the largest private tutoring system in the world. Tutor teaching a child.

The cost is high.  Some Korean parents spend up to half their income on their children’s education, leaving them little money for other expenses.  It also has increased the debt of private citizens.

So why do parents in South Korea use private tutoring?

  • Dissatisfaction with the fairly uniform curriculum available to Korean students;
  • A desire for their children to be accepted at top universities;
  • The option for students to study subjects they cannot get in school;
  • The opportunity for students to receive excellent educations, leading to excellent jobs.

In the U.S., Korean parents continue using tutoring services.  They rarely cancel a tutoring lesson, and when they do, they make it up.  Often, they help their children with math and science homework, but use private tutors for English and social studies.

But in the U.S., many non-Asian parents balk at using tutors. Why?  They might think that

  • tutoring is elitist;
  • tutoring stresses children;
  • tutoring leads a child to believe he is deficient and cannot learn on his own;
  • tutoring usurps the time when children should be playing;
  • tutoring interferes with organized sports programs;
  • tutoring interrupts the time when parents might want to chill out after work.

Yet when you look at the valedictorians and salutatorians of our high schools, or at a breakdown of student backgrounds at excellent universities, you find many privately tutored students of Asian background.

One way of looking at extracurricular learning is that it can add months of learning to each year of a child’s education.  I have personally seen four-year-olds, who don’t know their ABC’s, start working with a private tutor and by the end of kindergarten—after working one hour a week, year-round—able to read at third or fourth grade levels and easily qualify for gifted programs in their public schools.

Should you hire a tutor for your child?  I cannot answer that, but I know that your child will be competing for scholarships, a place in college, and good jobs with children like your neighbors who are being tutored.  –Mrs. K

Many parents have their child participate in after-school sports for hours a day. They will drive many miles to have the child on the elite team or with the best coach.  They will send their child to sports camps and even hire a personal trainer. They’ll fly across the country for gymnastics meets or baseball world series.  They do not consider the athletic endeavors to be stressful, yet those same parents may never consider hiring an academic tutor.  In our typical American culture, too much time spent on academics is considered stressful.  Yet, a child who does better in school may be less stressed at school.  It is a complicated issue.  –Mrs. A

My neighbor hires a tutor to work with her preschool child on reading for an hour a week. Is that really necessary?

Tutoring is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S., so your neighbor joins plenty of other parents in using tutoring services. I work as a private tutor, and I have tutored four-year-olds in how to read. Good idea? Bad idea? It depends.

Parents hire reading tutors for many reasons:

  • Many foreign-born parents speak English as a second language. They want their children to learn reading, vocabulary and pronunciation from a native English speaker.
  • Other parents want their children to be the best in the class and can afford to pay for that excellence.
  • Some children are poorly organized and benefit from systematic instruction.
  • Some children have no one at home to help them. The tutor takes on that role.
  • Some parents hire a tutor as a babysitter—someone to develop a relationship with the child and keep the child occupied in useful tasks while the parent is working.
  • Some students have genuine learning problems—dyslexia, for example. The sooner the problem is identified and the sooner the child works with an expert, the more likely the child will keep up with classmates and learn ways to overcome her disabilities

In many Asian countries, using tutors is customary. When parents move to the U.S., they bring that custom with them. In some immigrant communities, almost all the children are tutored, so the children assume that tutoring is normal. Their parents are often engineers or doctors, and expect the same careers for their children. What gave the parents an edge in Korea, Taiwan, India or Shanghai is what they want for their children in the U.S.

2 kids showing tutoring's advantageOne of the most compelling reasons for tutoring is the amount of extra education it gives a child. A four-year-old who is tutored only during the weeks when school is not in session gains 16 weeks a year of ongoing education. Multiply those 16 weeks by kindergarten, first grade and second grade, and that child will have studied a year more than her classmates when she starts third grade. A year more of education at a time in life when learning is so essential!

One grandmother I know said when her son was young, he struggled learning how to read. By first grade he was already behind and feeling overwhelmed. This grandmother helped her son with his homework, but it was always a struggle. If she had it to do over, she says, she certainly would get him a tutor, and enroll him in a structured summer program. Now it is 25 years later and she sees the same learning style in her grandson. She has recommended that her son hire a tutor for the boy, and he agrees.

Should your child be tutored? If it is just to keep up with the neighbor, maybe not. Talk to his preschool teacher. Read with him yourself. Not every child needs to be tutored, especially those who have an involved parent. I never had an outside tutor, but I had a wonderful mother who read to me every day and helped me with my homework. Don’t underestimate your capabilities or your influence. After all, most of the learning your child has done until now has been with you as his teacher.

How do I teach CVC words that end in –ck and words that end in –ook without confusing my son?

When a child is learning to read, and is at the short vowel, one-syllable, consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) word stage, the child often encounters words from the word family –ook (book and look, for example) or words that end with –ck (sock and truck, for example).  Strictly speaking, these word don’t follow the CVC rule for pronunciation, so they should be taught separately, starting with the –ck family words.

CVC words that end in _ch and _ook.

To enlarge, click on the picture.

Usually there is no problem reading CVC -ck words once the child understands that –ck is a single sound.  But reading, pronouncing and spelling the –ook words can be a problem.  How can you help your child?

"I know that word, Mom," says the child lookinFirst, wait until your child is comfortable with CVC –ck words (see list above) to explain this difference.   Teach the CVC words that end in –ck first and make sure the child understands how to read, pronounce and spell those words.  Then introduce –ook family words.

  • Point out to your child that the –ook sound is not the same as the short –ock or short –uck sound.  Say the sounds aloud so the child can hear the difference, and ask the child to say the sounds too.  Don’t show letters at this point since it is the sound that guides the child as to which letters to use.  The child needs to be able to hear the difference.
  • If you have pictures of words that end in –ock (clock, dock, flock, knock,), in -uck (buck, puck, suck, tuck, truck) and –ook (book, cook, crook, hook, rook) you could create a set of flash cards for the child to sort by sound.  As the child sorts, ask the child to pronounce the word to be sure she is hearing the word correctly.
  • Tell your child that after a word with the –ook sound, just a “k” is used, as in book and look, two words the child might already know as sight words.  You could create a set of flash cards with the –ook family words on them and use them as sight words if that helps.
  • If you have letter tiles, practice moving them to show –ook family words and ask the child to read them after your example.
  • When the child seems comfortable with the difference in sound, practice moving tiles to show the difference in spelling.  For example, construct l-o-ck, and under it construct l-oo-k.  Say each word and ask the child to tell what he notices.  Do the same with other word pairs such as cr-o-ck and cr-oo-k; h-o-ck and h-oo-k; r-o-ck and r-oo-k; and t-o-ck and t-oo-k.
  • Practice moving tiles so that just one word—lock—appears.  Ask the child to pronounce it.  Take out the -ck and put in –ook and ask the child to pronounce the new word.  Keep moving tiles around until the child grasps the correct pronunciation of each word.
  • When you are reading –ck and –ook words, reinforce the spelling.

At this point the child usually hasn’t learned how to read long vowel sounds, so there is no need to add to confusion by introducing words like bake and smoke now.

How can I teach my child vowel sounds?

I have followed a low tech system somewhat similar to teaching consonant sounds, but a system that is a little different too.  This phonetic approach works well with ESL students, young native English speakers getting ready to read and even adults because it makes learning fun.

Looking "over the shoulder" of a young girl sorting pictures of things that have a short A sound when spoken.

To enlarge, click on the picture.

  • I make a set of a dozen or more picture cards for ă:  apple, astronaut, alligator and ax (which begin with ă sound), and other CVC words using ă such as hat, man, dad and bag.
  • I also make one card with ă written on it.
  • At the same time, I make picture (flash) cards with pictures for the other short vowels, and I take some of those cards and temporarily add them to the ă deck.
  • Knowing that discerning vowel sounds is hard, I put the apple card next to the ă card and say the word apple many times, focusing on the vowel sound.  Slowly I help the child say the words in the deck of cards and place the cards near the ă card or in a discard area.
  • When the ă sound is learned (usually this takes several sessions), I take ĕ, ĭ, ŏ and ŭ words, and one short vowel at a time, go through the process with each sound.  Because ĕ and ĭ are hard to distinguish, I do them after ă, ŏ and ŭ, and spend more time on them.
  • Then I start mixing up two of the sounds, such as ă and ŏ.  I put both the ă and ŏ cards on the table, and take the picture cards for only those two sounds, shuffle them, and go through them with the child.  Once the child can distinguish those sounds, I gradually add ŭ to the mix and have the child sort ă, ŏ and ŭ.
  • I leave ĕ and ĭ to last and do those two letters together before I include them with the other short vowel sounds.  It takes many weeks of practice to distinguish ĕ and ĭ sounds.  When the child has mastered them, I add the other three vowels to the deck and the child sorts all five short vowel sounds.
  • When the child has mastered all five short vowel sounds, I go through the same process with ā, ē, ī, ō and ū.  The process for the long vowels goes quicker than for the short vowels.
  • As I move on teaching the child other sounds, I review the vowel sounds if I notice the child is forgetting some of the sounds or mixing up any of them.  This happens with every child I have taught.

Preschoolers and primary school children like this method of learning because they are learning through a game.  They like the control they have—holding the cards and placing them.  They like working one on one with an adult tutor who is paying special attention to them.  Sometimes I do one card and the child does one card to emphasize the fun of learning.  No worksheets, no writing—just fun.  Yet children learn their letter sounds.

My child seems behind his first-grade classmates who are already reading. What can I do?

Check to see if there is a Reading Recovery program in your school.  It is designed for just the kind of situation you describe.  Reading Recovery identifies children having trouble reading at the beginning of first grade, intervenes with a private tutor, and, for 75 percent of the students who complete the program, gets them to grade level reading within 20 weeks.

At the start of first grade, or around students’ sixth birthdays, children in schools with a Reading Recovery program are evaluated for their reading abilities.  Those who rate in the lower 5 to 20 percent compared to their classmates are offered a specially trained tutor who works with an individual student for a half-hour daily for 12 to 20 weeks.  Then the students are reassessed.  The great majority of students going through the program read on grade level after 20 weeks and no longer need intervention.  For the few who don’t, specific data collected on those students can be used to plan other interventions.

Since reasons for not reading well vary from child to child, each tutor tailors a program based on her student’s strengths and weaknesses.  During a typical lesson a child reads one or more tiny books (just a few words on each page and only a few pages) with comprehension the primary focus of the lesson.  The books are chosen by the tutor based on the child’s interests.  A student also learns phonics, fluency and other reading skills, and writes in a journal-like notebook.  Each day the child brings home a tiny book which she is encouraged to read to her parents.

Reading Recovery intervenes early in a child’s education before problems consolidate and before the child develops a self-concept as a poor reader.  It was started in the 1970’s by a New Zealand developmental psychologist, Marie Clay.  New Zealand is the only country to offer this program in every school, but it has spread to the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Reading Recovery began in the U.S. in 1984, and last year was offered to 50,000 first graders in 4100 schools in 41 states.  It is offered only in schools (not privately) which pay for the training of Reading Recovery teachers.  Teachers are trained for a year, and during that time they observe experienced teachers working with students and begin to work with students themselves.  This is to assure there are highly skilled tutors able to plan a program that will lead a student to successful reading.

Data is collected on every child who takes part in a Reading Recovery program.  In 25 years, in the U.S. 1,551,444 students have completed the program, and of them, 1,209,577 have achieved grade level reading abilities within 20 weeks.

To find out if there is a Reading Recovery program near you, go to the Reading Recovery Council of North America (www.readingrecovery.org).  On the home page, under Quick Links, click Directories.  Then click Teacher/Leader Registry, and put in your city or state in the appropriate blanks.  A list of Reading Recovery teachers and their school email addresses appear.  If you contact a local one, that teacher can tell you what schools in your area participate.