Sunday, July 20, 2014

Getting Started as a Tutor

I've had several people ask me about how I set up my tutoring business, and what I do when I am meeting with the parents for the first time.  Being a tutor is a great way for teachers to make a little extra cash, but getting started can require a lot of extra time and work- something that is scarce for many teachers.  This post will hopefully answer your questions about getting started, and one way to approach that first informational meeting with parents.


  • Craigslist can be your best friend!! Just be smart with it. Craigslist is a free way to get your first clientele. I was surprised at the number of people who contacted me from the craigslist ad. Just make sure you are being safe about it and use common sense. Don't post more contact information than is necessary, but give enough information to let them know that you are legit and not just after their money and their child. Always choose a public place for the first meeting. 
  • Get some business cards made (Vistaprint is great for that!). Leave your business card at your local library, on community bulletin boards, and give them out to family and friends to help spread the word. 
  • If you're not in a school, contact local schools and ask to be added to their suggested tutoring list. Don't forget to reach out to private schools too!
  • Think- if you were looking for a tutor for your child, where would you look?
Think through the basics before the first meeting.
  • Rates: How much will you charge? How much are other tutors in your area charging? How much experience teaching do you have? Will you have discounts for meeting multiple hours/week? 
  • Location: Where will you meet? Will you travel? If you do travel, how far? Or how much extra would you charge for travel?
  • How will you track student growth? (I will be making another post on this topic soon)
  • What subjects are you comfortable tutoring?
  • While I am talking to the parent, I will get the student to do a "brain teaser" activity in which they try to tie a knot in a string without letting go of the ends. The two rules are: 1. Once you pick up the string, your fingers are "super-glued" to it; and 2. It's okay to ask for help. (Once they ask for help, tell them to cross their arms, and hand the string to them. When they open their arms, they will have formed a knot). This is a great initial assessment of their problem solving skills, and how easily they will give up or ask for help. After teaching the student how to do it, I then let them teach their parent the trick to assess how well they can repeat the instructions and help another person. 
  • I also give the student a questionnaire to get to know them better. It includes questions about their interests and hobbies, and a few other fun questions that help me determine what kinds of activities they may be interested in doing during tutoring. I get older students to fill it out themselves, and verbally ask the younger students the questions while I write the responses. 
  • With the parents, I want to know what specifically their child is struggling with, and usually ask parents to bring in copies of tests, assessments, IEPs, and anything else that might be helpful for me to know. What are your child's (academic/nonacademic) strengths? How does your child respond to stress and frustration? Have you had previous tutors? If so, what went well or what did you not like about it?
  • When leaving the initial informational session, I don't usually ask to set up the first session right away, and encourage parents to talk it over with their child to make sure it is the right decision.  Parents usually respect this freedom and almost always call back within a few days wanting to set up a meeting.

First Meeting with Parents:
The first time I meet with parents, there are several things I bring (most of these are in my Tutoring Forms Packet on TPT). I always bring an information sheet about my tutoring services, information about my expectations for the student and parents, and a student questionnaire. 

Organizing your files:
It is very important to keep your files organized! Especially as you start getting more students. Here's what I do:
1.     Keep a file folder for each student you work with, whether you only have one student, or if you're thinking of tutoring full-time.
2.     On the left side of the folder, keep the Student Information sheet, student questionnaire and the Session and Payment Log.
3.     Other documents to keep in the folder: Assessments, Prize charts and stickers, any communication from teachers/parents
4.     Label another folder "General Information". In this folder, keep a Payment Log to track all students, Students at a Glance sheet, Tutor Information and initial session ideas, and copies of prize charts, student questions, and invoices.

Organizing Your Tutoring Activities
Depending on how many students you have and how many activities you will use, there are several ways you can organize your files.
1.     Organize by subject only. If you tutor several children in different grades for math, all of the activities would be in the same folder labeled "Math". Good if you only have a few students, but can quickly get overwhelming.
2.     Organize by grade, then sub categories of Math, Reading, Writing, etc. This is my preferred method. I also keep a section in my files for grade level instructional books.
3.     Organize by level (esp. useful for reading). This way, if you are working with a 6th grader who reads on a second grade level, you can choose activities for his level instead of his grade.
4.     Digital files (Dropbox is excellent for this- scan documents and use as many folders as you see necessary to get organized!)
5.     Having Plastic storage drawers would be great for organizing games or bulkier items that don't fit as easily into a filing system. 
6. If you make lots of your own activities, consider becoming a seller on TPT

If you are interested in starting out as a tutor, please consider purchasing my Tutoring Form Packet from TPT. It includes Word documents so that you can edit the forms, and I've provided many examples and suggestions on how to get started. 

Equivalent Fractions

Fractions can be hard for many kids. Here is a lesson that I used to help teach this concept to one of my students.

Introducing the concept:
To introduce the concept of equivalent fractions, I first used an example with colored Easter eggs across a pole. On the top, I put one yellow egg, and on the bottom I put two blue eggs (for the fraction 1/3). I also put a number with each ("1" on top, "3" on bottom), explaining that the bottom number is the total number of eggs. I explained that for every ONE egg on the top there would be TWO eggs on the bottom. I then added another yellow egg to the top, and changed the top number to "2", and asked how many more blue I would need to add to the bottom. They said they would need two more. I then changed the bottom number to reflect the total number of eggs, 6. I then explained that it's still the same fraction as the first, which we call equivalent fractions.

After a few more examples of this, I started introducing the math of the fractions. What did we need to multiply the top and bottom number by in this example? (2)

Next, using my Equivalent Fractions Activity, I walked them through solving equivalent fractions problems.

After lining up the fraction (as shown below), students figure out what they must multiply the fraction by to get the second fraction. In the example, it needed to be multiplied by 3. They slide the "3" into the proper spot. Then they multiply across to solve for the equivalent fraction, and write their answer in. (Laminating works great for this- write with dry erase marker and wipe away for next use!) 

This really helped my student understand why equivalent fractions work the way they do, and was a great springboard for adding fractions with unlike denominators. 

If you would like to purchase this activity, click on the picture below to be taken to my TPT store!

Equivalent Fractions Hands-On Activity

Welcome to my tutoring blog!

Thanks for visiting my tutoring blog! I have been a tutor for about six years, and am very passionate about helping kids succeed. I believe that in order for kids to be successful, they must first learn to believe in themselves. Tutoring offers a unique experience for kids to learn at their own pace, with a person who will listen to them and try to understand where they are struggling. I have seen too many tutors who insist on completing one worksheet after another, then complain that students are not paying attention or can not focus during the session. One easy way to combat that problem is to give them hands-on activities where they can truly engage with the new material that they are learning! I hope that this blog will give you some insight into ways that you can revamp the work that you do with children to create a more lasting impact.

Why did I become a tutor?
I began tutoring during my second year of college as a way to earn a little extra dough to pay for things that college kids like (ahem- Ramen Noodles, Starbucks, clothes...). I also thought it would be a great way to boost my resume. I got my Dual Bachelor degree in Elementary Education and Special Education- General Curriculum. It didn't take me long to discover my passion for working with the students who were struggling academically, and the ones that had the tendency to get on most other teacher's nerves- the ones that REALLY required patience, persistence, and compassion. Once I was able to spend a bit longer with these students and truly get to know who they were and what mattered to them, I was able to really help them understand school. However, I also learned that as a teacher, it is very difficult to take the time with each student to discuss important issues at home and with friends, and the focus ALWAYS had to be on academics, and on the BIG TEST coming up. It was this realization that led to pursue my Master's Degree in School Counseling.

Now, as a person with a School Counseling, a Special Education, and an Elementary Education teaching licenses, I feel that I am truly gaining the skills that I need to better help my students. When one of my students is dealing with bullies at school, for example, we may do some reading activities about a character who stood up to a bully.

Are you a tutor? I'd love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and any ideas that you use with your students! Connect with me on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers!