Preparing Your Students for Classwide Peer Tutoring

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A major factor in running a successful classwide peer tutoring program has to do with how well students are trained to become effective peer tutors. We presented the scenario below to Dr. Sandi Ayaz of the National Tutoring Association:

Jane is an elementary school 3rd grade English teacher who teaches in a public school. She has a rather large class size and wishes she had more time to give one-on-one assistance to her students in order to help reinforce previously presented lessons. Jane wants to apply peer tutoring techniques and pair up her students so they can help one another with their reading while she walks around the classroom, providing assistance to struggling students during the tutoring sessions. She wants each to student to have the opportunity to be both a tutor and tutee. She needs advice on how to train her students to be effective peer tutors.

Below is an article written by Dr. Ayaz in response to the scenario posed:

Creating a peer tutoring program with 3rd grade students is challenging at best. Students this age are usually very willing to help, but will they understand the basic tenants of what we as tutors do with students? Tutoring reading is one of the most difficult areas for academic assistance as there can be many reasons why the student is disconnected from the reading experience. Usually, a tutor would conduct a holistic conversation with the student to decipher where the problem lies and/or how it began. I am concerned that 3rd grade students will not understand or be able to implement this strategy. But, does this mean that we count them out as potential tutors? Absolutely not! We know that students respond best to other students who are close in age and culture. So, in this case, a third grader could be more successful assisting a peer than the teacher or parent.

At this grade level, my recommendation would be to hold a simple tutor training to explain what a tutor does with a student and why. Then offer a few rules that they must follow, and each week or even every other week, provide the students with a new tutoring technique that they might try with their tutee. Provide tutoring sessions a minimum of 3 times per week with each student in a pair acting as the tutor for 15 minutes. The total session is 30 minutes. Monitor progress and expectations with one weekly open sentence completion:

1. I am a good tutor because ___________________________________.
2. I get frustrated with my student when __________________________________________.
3. I like tutoring because _________________________________.
4. I don't like to tutor because _________________.

Remember to instill in the students that their main goals are understanding and patience with their student when they are the tutor. Offer them examples of how to declare sincere praise. Let them know that negative comments will not be allowed. Above all, make sure that you recognize and celebrate the process: Tutor of the week! Greatest grade improvement! Most books read!

Author Bio:

Dr. Sandi Ayaz has dedicated 25 years to educating, training, and supporting tutors. She has served as an officer of the National Tutoring Association in every capacity for 18 years; currently as the NTA Executive Director. In 2000, Sandi earned the rank of Master Certified Tutor Trainer/Administrator. She is also a certified Academic Coach. Sandi is currently an adjunct instructor at Polk State College where she facilitates composition and literature courses.

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