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students that I tutor making absolutely no progress!

(26 Posts)
bananacarnival Sun 01-Feb-15 16:24:10

I'm despairing here. In a nutshell, I've been a primary school teacher for many years and have worked quite high up in education but am beginning to question my ability to teach!

Recently I've acquired about 7 new students (for private tuition) who have been brought to me by parents who desperately want their children to be able to write well (concerns raised by schools etc).

Limited vocabulary is the main problem here. All of the students communicate in their mother tongue at home. The school that they attend isn't the best of schools (trying to be tactful here!) so they're not picking up much in terms of vocabulary from their peers. Reading, despite my insisting that they aim for at least one chapter every night, is limited plus they're struggling with my recommendations.

I've asked each child what they're watching on TV, it's mostly things like Tiny Pop, American teen type - high school musical etc..Ben 10... these are children aged 8 and below and I'm making mental comparisons with the sort of TV my DC watch (similar age).

During the sessions, I guide them through their writing. Lots of emphasis on thesaurus work and sentence structure - adding clauses/adverbs/replacing the verb etc. Endless amounts of writing practice given each week. A new word for each day. Audio cds. Recommended tv (Blue Peter, newsround, Wildlife documentaries etc) Lots of practice around replacing overused words with better alternatives...the list goes on!

I do feel like giving up at times. I just look at their writing and wonder where on earth I go from here. I've stressed to all the parents that a one hour tutoring session with me in the week is not going to change their child's vocabulary and ability to write well unless they are exposed to good spoken English throughout the week in addition to what I do.

Does anyone have any further suggestions before I give up on tutoring altogether?

Finola1step Sun 01-Feb-15 16:27:12

Don't give up. You are absolutely on the right track. But you can only do so much on your own.

ouryve Sun 01-Feb-15 16:30:50

Are you basing the work you're doing with them on what they're coming to you able to do or on what you think they should be able to do? You probably need to be honest with parents about what you can expect to tackle, in 1 hour a week, from their individual starting points. Improving writing as a target is a bit vague, really.

plummyjam Sun 01-Feb-15 16:39:44

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of TV programmes have associated magazines. I bought a Something Special magazine for my 2 year old last week to keep her amused at the dentists and I couldn't believe how much she's got out of it!

There are more than likely to be magazines and books associated with their favourite TV programmes that would help with their vocab?

I remember when I was a similar age I got into reading by reading some books that had been adapted for the TV - The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first I remember. After that I read the whole series and my interest and staying power for reading took off from there.

Even now I quite like to read a book after I've seen it on TV or in a film first smile . If your aim is to get them reading and develop their vocab, rather than develop a love of literature that's where I'd begin.

Mashabell Sun 01-Feb-15 16:41:21

I agree with Finola.
And u ar right to tell the parents that unless their children are exposed to good spoken English throughout the week in addition to what u do their child's vocabulary and ability to write well won't change much.

If the parents are happy to continue paying and u need the money, the best thing u can do is make your tutoring as much fun as possible, for u as well as your pupils.

Bear in mind that learning to write English reasonably well takes at least 10 years (to roughly age 16), but often much longer, and lots of people never manage to get there at all, mainly because English has at least 4,217 words with one or more irregular letters, from 'said, head' to 'xylophone'.

CatieBlanket Sun 01-Feb-15 16:41:36

Lots of emphasis on thesaurus work and sentence structure - adding clauses/adverbs/replacing the verb etc. Endless amounts of writing practice given each week... Lots of practice around replacing overused words with better alternatives...the list goes on!

Aren't you just overwhelming them with work?

bobthebuddha Sun 01-Feb-15 16:52:30

I'd second what other posters have said and try to inject some fun into the proceedings. If all they're watching is rubbish television, perhaps you could show them some quality, classic UK programmes (with music & singing) that will still stretch their vocab and keep them engaged?

Hathall Sun 01-Feb-15 17:06:23

Does your local library have a reading session? Our local one has volunteers on a specific day that will read with children.

Instead of recommending a TV programme, could you set watching maybe 3 particular programmes over the week as h/w and get them to write a sentence or two about it?

bobthebuddha Sun 01-Feb-15 17:08:35

Also, reading to them, as much as expecting them to read (assuming you're not already)? It's probably not something they're getting at home in English and it's obviously valuable.

snice Sun 01-Feb-15 17:13:50

What about suggesting audio books to listen to? Might that help?

enderwoman Sun 01-Feb-15 17:17:13

My 8 year old watches some adult programmes on TV which naturally uses more complex words.
His friends and him enjoy Top Gear, Nature's Weirdest Events, Junior Masterchef, Deadly 60, Nature's Weirdest Events, Bear Grylls Born Survivor.

TalkinPeace Sun 01-Feb-15 17:19:27

Spend £50 in a charity shop on childrens' books and give them each a shelf full

PUt a quiet word out for back issues of
- BBC Wildlife
- RSPB young exploreers
- Aquila
- ANY food or drink magazine
- and sports magazine

and start to fill their homes with English reading material

stuff the thesaurus
make reading part of every hour of every day

1/3 of households own no books ....

bananacarnival Sun 01-Feb-15 17:20:30

Thanks for the replies all. Yes, maybe I am overwhelming them. I do try to inspire and inject some fun into some -not all- of the sessions. It's the lack of progress that's bothering me the most. A year on, the writing is more or less the same..

Keep making the grave mistake of comparing to my children - both bookworms - both excellent writers without much support from me.

DrankSangriaInThePark Sun 01-Feb-15 17:20:32

Are you saying that English isn't their first language/not the language their parents use? Your Op isn't clear...wink
If these children are 8 that sounds like a heck of a workload you're asking them to do, in addition to their homework and their extra tuition from you.

TalkinPeace Sun 01-Feb-15 17:26:13

Restaurant menu reading
Food label reading
Clothes label reading
Computer game instruction reading
Business letter reading

the things that their parents will value and reinforce

Hathall Sun 01-Feb-15 17:34:27

Most of the children will probably have a computer at home. What about some websites?
BBC bitesize have interactive games for English

TalkinPeace Sun 01-Feb-15 17:36:08

Most of the children will probably have a computer at home
Don't bet on it.
Internet access among the children of certain religious groups is diddly squat

nagynolonger Sun 01-Feb-15 17:37:11

When mine were struggling with reading I made sure they had a good collection of Audio CDs and the books to go with them. Maybe encourage them to borrow some from the library.

YeGodsAndLittleFishes Sun 01-Feb-15 17:41:08

Are they all at the same school? Are you teaching at the same school or free during the day?

They need daily conversation classes and mini grammar lessons. One lesson a week will not be enough for the stage they are at.
The school SENCO should be able to help.

If not, are there any TEFL courses locally where you could get help from some stufents to help run after school conversation classes at the school?

thehumanjam Sun 01-Feb-15 17:42:35

Ds was tutored in year 4 and he made no progress at all in writing. He ended year 4 on level 3c and if I'm honest I think he was probably still a level 2 but it was less controversial to mark him as a level 3. The teachers said that verbally he was advanced and his reading was above average they just felt that his writing skills had not reached their maturity yet. Year 5 he really picked up and he left year 6 on 5a.

It was frustrating at the time and we tried lots of different ways of encouraging him but in the end he got there on his own.

Hathall Sun 01-Feb-15 17:59:46

If they've made no progress in a year then the school is surely to blame?
It's a big ask to improve their English in one hr a week.
They really need some proper English exposure every day. Watching some decent TV every day would help.
Give them easier books to read if they're struggling.
Give them a worksheet for each day. The schofield and sims books are good or there are tonnes of free resources. TES and primary resources are good but you probably already know that anyway.
I also agree with making the lesson fun rather than thesaurus based.
Read to them.
Get a discussion going.
Show them a part of a film every week and get them talking about it.

taeglas Sun 01-Feb-15 18:13:57

How about free rice for vocabulary building.
I work as a TA with key stage 1 children and run speech and language intervention groups.
One idea that you might like to try is word maps or word wizard (Elkan) .
Look on TES resources for vocabulary word maps.
There are lots of games you can play to improve vocabulary for e.g. a matching pairs game where the children have to say the word/meaning when they turn over a card. To win a matching pair you have to say the word/meaning.
I am also a parent to children who were and still are (now teens) bookworms. I tutored a year 5 child a few years ago, who was an eye opener to me, having very little interest in books. His writing did improve but it was hard work. I used lots of printable resources including for e.g. wow words from TES. BBC and Woodlands junior school also have lots of games and resources if the children have internet access.

taeglas Sun 01-Feb-15 18:37:48

Also worth looking at the book trust for writing games.
I have also seen Pie Corbett literacy used successfully in the school where I work.

bananacarnival Sun 01-Feb-15 21:34:33

Aha! I've just clicked on your booktrust link taeglas - fantastic ideas on there. I've downloaded some of the writing games. Will look at freerice in a mo. Thanks.

Thanks again, these replies are so helpful. Just to hear some of my thoughts being echoed ie that they need exposure to spoken English. Hathall and Yegods, like the suggestions.

elfonshelf Mon 02-Feb-15 15:22:42

Dr Seuss books are good for extending vocabulary.

Could you buy some DVDs to lend - James & Giant Peach, Charlie & Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Secret Garden, Narnia series, 5 Children & It, even Harry Potter? All have advanced vocabulary.

I've never been keen on kid's tv - no concentration required and very basic. I'd rather DD watch a proper film.

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