Why establish a consistent tutoring session structure?
When students know what to expect, they can better internalize what is expected of them. If each session has a consistent rhythm, students will feel safer and more engaged, and tutors will deliver more consistent and effective sessions. Instead of spending prep time internalizing directions and pacing, they can focus on content.
Example Tutoring Session Structure
Below is an example of a structured session plan. Programs can adapt it as needed to suit their Model Design.
1. Session Opening: Relationship-Building
- Invest significant time at the outset building a strong tutor-student relationship. Students are more engaged in the work and tutors can spend less time addressing behavior issues during sessions when the tutor-student relationship is strong.
- Examples: Check-in about the student’s day or week; have a conversation about hobbies, interests, or extra-curricular responsibilities; start with an icebreaker or age-appropriate game (if Student-Tutor Ratio is Small Groups).
2. Data Touchpoint
- Shift the conversation smoothly to a follow-up from the previous session, culminating in an “entrance ticket” that assesses the student’s current mastery of a relevant skill they learned previously or a new skill they will use today.
- If necessary, use this time to remediate any unfinished learning that students will need today. Refer to Personalizing a Tutoring Session for more information on how to plan for remediation.
3. Framing & Objective
- Introduce the session’s topic or focus. (Optional: give students a preview of the specific work they will do today.)
- Activate relevant prior knowledge with leading questions that guide students to make connections to today’s topic.
- Clearly state today’s learning objective aloud and keep a written version on display in an accessible location throughout the session.
4. Mini Lesson & Explicit Model
- Explicitly model the step-by-step process that students will use to reach the session’s learning goal:
- Model examples: List out steps in applying a formula, use a written exemplar to demonstrate how to write or analyze a particular type of text, or articulate a thinking process through a series of questions.
- Use these criteria to evaluate the model’s effectiveness:
- Was my model clear and concise?
- Was my model aligned with the student practice and the formative assessment?
- Did I make all my thinking visible?
- Did I place intentional emphasis on the most important step?
- If Student-Tutor Ratio is Small Groups, let students work collaboratively on a second model (guided practice).
- Students should participate in naming steps of the process and have ample opportunities to ask questions.
5. Purposeful Independent Practice
- Provide plenty of time for multiple “at-bats” — opportunities for students to practice the skill or concept.
- Practice should be as independent as possible. If students get stuck, ask guiding questions; don’t provide answers.
6. Formative Assessment
- Let students demonstrate their progress towards mastery of the skill or content. Did they reach the learning goal?
- Formative Assessments should be short, and should ask students to do only what was modeled and practiced.
- An exit ticket is often used as a formative assessment at the end of a tutoring session.