Giving support, without always giving the answer

Challenge:
Giving support, without always giving the answer

Scenario:
On Friday morning, I had my second meeting with my tutee. It went really well, and I am learning a lot more about her. I started out doing more assessments with her, because she is very behind in class. Her teacher said she doesn’t even know all of her letters, yet. I did the letter identification assessment on pages 379-380 of the reader. She did pretty well, except she mixed up upper case “I” with lower case “l.” She also mixed up her “b,” “d,” and “q.” We also did the “concepts of print assessment” on page 381, so I could get an idea of her familiarity with books, and reading. She fared really well with this. Other than the assessments, we worked on her rhyming by using some books I picked out. Whereas she didn’t seem to understand rhyming at all in our first meeting, this time she appeared to have no problem. She picked out most of the rhymes, and even made some up on her own.

The next activity we did was a lot of fun, and she really enjoyed it. I wanted to do something that would be entertaining for her, but where we could also practice her sound-letter correspondence, and her writing. Her teacher stresses the idea of meaning in writing, so I tried to add this in as well. I brought in a big drawing of the ocean, with lots of sea mammals and birds in it, such as dolphins, polar bears, and penguins. I asked her to name the animals, and tell me what was going on in the picture. Then, I had her write her thoughts down on paper. She loved this. I could tell it was challenging for her, but she did great. She came up with sentences like, “The dolphins are jumping,” and the polar bears have a baby.” I had her write them herself, and sound the words out the best she could. Then, I had her read the sentences back to me. The drawings were done with watercolors, so she can paint the picture to correspond to her story. One thing I was confused about, though, was how much, or how little, help to give her when she is trying to sound out words. She kept looking up at me after every letter for some guidance, or to ask me if it was right. I told her to just sound it out and do the best she could, but other times I would tell her. However, I didn’t want to tell her every single letter that was wrong, because I wanted her to do it herself. What is the best way to handle this? How much help should I give her?