Whether you’ve been teaching for years, or haven’t landed your first full time gig yet, tutoring can pose some unique challenges which are much different than being in a classroom setting.

I’ve taught third grade, first grade, worked as a teaching assistant and substitute, and still I sometimes get a little nervous before tutoring.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to make getting started easier and communication a breeze.


Clarify all expectations early-

Usually when you are privately tutoring, you are supporting a family. This means you are working for the parents in this situation, not a principal. This is a shift from the place you have in a classroom. It is really important to ask questions and be realistic about your expectations and goals. For example, you’ll want to make sure the parent knows that learning is a process… and you’re not sure exactly how much progress the child will make. You’ll want to make sure you know the specific areas that the child has been struggling in,  a little about their learning style, and what the teacher has reported as being areas of focus. With this information before the first session, you’ll have already demonstrated an interest in the child and his/her progress as well as set the stage for positive learning!

Plan to Work in a productive space at a productive time

I have tutored at my home (for friends), in a public library, and in the child’s home. I have found going to the family’s home is typically the most productive for the child as long as there is a quiet place for you to work. Discussing the need for a quiet learning space is also a great expectation to set early on! I have personally found that places like the library tend to be a little too chaotic for the kiddos I work with. They are also often places where you feel the need to whisper or be quiet yourself, which can pose its own challenges.

Also always check which time the parent thinks is their child’s prime learning time. If you are flexible in your scheduling, it will work best to use this time for both you and the child!

Plan meaningful instruction- Make curricular connections

If you are working with a student individually, think about how you can connect the activities you are working with so that the student has a meaningfully experience. Sometimes, in the classroom setting, we are kind of forced to abruptly switch gears between subjects, and the connections aren’t always there. Think about the objectives you’d like to work on and then use this opportunity to practice them in a number of ways and connect them to other objectives you’re working on.

Vary your activity type:

It can be really tempting to head over to TeachersPayTeachers, print a bunch of worksheets and head off to your tutoring session… but as you’ll read next, this probably won’t be enough. If you’re working with a young struggling learner, this is definitely not going to be the most effective.  I like to vary the type of activity that I do with my students. Some of the types of activities you might rotate through are hands on games, practice pages (worksheets), journaling, reading and discussing. Think about how you can vary these activities during your session!

Do a practice run- and then add some:

An hour is a LONG TIME, especially for an early elementary student. You do not want to be in a situation where you do not have activities that will take enough time. Especially if you haven’t worked with a child 1:1 or planned instruction in this way, it is important for you to sit down and really pace out your activities. See how many different activities you’d like to do… and then double it. 😉 Well you probably don’t have to double it… but as a general rule, I always bring about 50% more  than I plan to get to, especially in beginning sessions. A practice activity that may take a class 15 minutes, will probably take a child you are working with individually much less time!


Continue to communicate with the family after each session! This is so important. First, it will help them to know that you know how to help their child. It also offers an opportunity to share with parents little ways they can help their child throughout the week! I never leave a packet of stuff to be done unless a parent specifically requests it… generally I like to leave the materials for a game we have practiced or a routine we have practiced that can be more naturally incorporated throughout the week.

Here’s the communication sheet I use (Click the image to get it for free:-) )

tutoring report