First meetings: Breaking the ice in tutoring

So what’s the first tutoring session look like? I share some thoughts on activities to help the tutor and learner (I call the kids we tutor learners) get to know each other during the first meeting or two.

The Initial Meeting with a new Learner

We don’t begin tutoring right away, but suggest to tutors that they take time in the first meeting or two to get to know the learner and to begin by assessing the learner’s needs. Here are some ideas for “breaking the ice” and getting information during the first meeting:

  • Play a game or get-to-know-you activity. Ideas include creating an acrostic name poem. The tutor and the learner write their name vertically on a piece of paper and create words or phrases that describe their interests and personality using the letters of their name. As you share these together the tutor learns more about the learner’s interests. This can be helpful later in finding interesting books to read during tutoring.Or, you can play the memory game. The tutor and learner each share 10 things about themselves and they see who can remember the most things about the other. How about Truth or Lie? The tutor starts by telling three things about himself or herself. Two are true and one is a lie. The learner guesses which is the lie. Then the learner tells two truths and lie. Ice breakers help start the conversation and begin to build trust. They also provide information to each partner (tutor and learner) and help build a healthy relationship between the two.
  • Engage in an informal discussion. Get to know each other by asking, “tell me a little about yourself.” Ask about school, favorite and least favorite subjects, activities in and out of school, and about reading. You don’t need to pry into private issues but having an open-ended conversation provides a wealth of information. As a tutor, you need to be ready to talk about yourself. Be honest but keep the discussion professional.
  • End the first meeting with some read aloud. Near the end of the first meeting it’s a good idea to get the learner to read aloud to you, the tutor. This way you can begin to assess the learner’s reading. Pick books that you like and think the learner might like. Try bringing two or three and allowing the learner to pick one. Also, finish up by reading aloud to the learner. That way, you both do some read aloud. This models good reading and helps to build rapport and trust.

Don’t worry is you don’t actual do any tutoring in the first meeting. It’s more important to get to know each other, to establish rapport, and build trust. And one other thing: HAVE FUN! You can’t miss if you do that.


About bluegrassjb

I am an academic with a love for language, literacy and learning. The focus of my work is on student success at the K-12 and college levels. Outside of my professional interests I enjoy travel, photography and antiquing with my partner and wife. We like to hit the road in our travel trailer with the dogs and when at home party with the cats.
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