Planning Instruction

Critical Steps

What factors do I need to consider when planning instruction

Make sure when planning your tutoring sessions that you have an agenda for the day with clear objectives. Be realistic about what you intend to accomplish for the day and focus your lesson, rather than trying to touch on a number of different areas. The secret to an effective lesson plan for your tutee is understanding the unique characteristics that make your student tick and planning your lessons based on a combination of these factors. Remember that age, cultural tendencies, language experience, personal interests, and learning style can be valuable information to know in helping you plan instruction. Thus, it is important that you are familiar with a student’s background when planning instruction because this will help individualize your tutoring to meet the specific needs and/or characteristics of your student.

Of course, as tutors, it is important to understand that there are myriad factors that can impact a child’s ability to focus on a particular day, and we need to be sensitive to these situations and adjust the lessons accordingly. Furthermore, as a tutor, your primary role is to support the academic development of your student. You are in partnership with the child’s teacher and his/her family to help support the students cognitive growth. With that said, your input can be a valuable source of information for a child’s teacher and/or family in making decisions affecting the future of your student.

Using Assessment Data

Based on initial assessments, a tentative instructional plan for individual students must be designed. Ideally, this plan should include:

    • The tutee’s areas of strength (what he/she is able to do)
    • Areas of need (what they have to work on)
    • Objectives (specific skills, language, attitudes)
    • An action plan (specific activities that will lead to measurable outcomes).For instance, suppose a student had the ability to hold a pencil, write his/her name and had some concepts of print. In addition, the student had some basic survival vocabulary in English and was extremely motivated and enthusiastic to learn the language. With this type of student, tutors and teachers needed to begin literacy at the preschool level. This means assessing if he knows classroom vocabulary, colors or numbers among other topics. Assessment should also have measured if the student could maintain a basic conversation and speak descriptively by using verbs and adjectives in the present tense.

As a result of using the assessment data well, in this scenario, the tutor was able to target specific areas to focus on that would be the building blocks for future English language development. The tutor focused on developing oral language that incorporated more complex syntactic, semantic and socio-linguistic features (such as more tenses), more abstract vocabulary and the use of different contexts in which language is used.

Once the tutee acquired sufficient vocabulary to begin phonemic awareness, the tutor used picture books, patterned books, and books which contained high frequency words to help the student read. Again, what made this tutoring experience so successful was that the tutor developed a concrete action plan based on the findings on the initial assessments.

Tutors’ Preparation on Instructional Planning

One key element for the effectiveness of a tutoring program is the development of an individual instructional plan for the tutee. Based on initial assessments and with the help of the agency’s staff, the tutor should design a tentative plan that should include: a) the tutee’s areas of strength (what he/she is able to do); b) areas of need (what they have to work on); c) objectives (specific skills, language, attitudes); and, d) action plan (specific activities that will lead to measurable outcomes). If possible, the agency staff should provide input or at least be aware of the plan. Moreover, tutors and facilitators should discuss the challenges, successes, and progress that emerge in the process of accomplishing individual instructional objectives. Tutors should understand that instructional plans are dynamic in nature and can change as new knowledge about the tutees’ abilities and needs is gained through informal assessments or tutoring activities. For example, learning how to fill forms may have not been an initial objective for the tutee, but later emerged as a critical need for the tutee and his/her family to obtain welfare assistance.

Many of the activities for instruction and development of literacy in English may be the same as those used for assessment. For example, tutors may use the pictures and questions about the pictures they utilized for assessment, to teach the language the tutee did not know in the first place. The instructors should provide or guide tutors in finding many ideas for literacy development that are appropriate for different stages of language proficiency.

In addition, part of the discussion should be devoted to exchanging ideas and resources on games; basic skills exercises; oral, reading and writing activity templates; and on literature. If possible, the instructor may help tutors on an individual basis to brainstorm and design activities for their action plan. It is also important to encourage the agency staff to provide additional ideas, activities, and resources they are using, or they know are effective so they would like the tutor to try.

Tutors must be encouraged to check out children’s literature from their city, college, or K-12 school libraries and be shown how to use these books to capitalize on their tutees’ particular interests. Ideally, theory (i.e. key readings on second language acquisition), practical ideas, and key points covered during the preparation sessions, should be incorporated or summarized in handouts or a packet of resources for the tutors.

Instructional Strategies

When you begin designing instruction, there are several guiding principles that are key to student success. The following list is taken from the “Checklist for Effective Practice with English Learners” written by David and Yvonne Freeman in TESOL Matters Vol. 9 No. 6, December 1999/January 2000. Full text of the article is available by clicking the link below.

  • Is the curriculum organized around “big” questions?
  • Are students involved in authentic reading and writing experiences?
  • Is there an attempt to draw on students’ background knowledge and interests? Are students given choices?
  • Is the content meaningful? Does it serve a purpose for the learners?
  • Do students have opportunities to work collaboratively?
  • Do students read and write as well as speak and listen during their learning experiences?
  • Are students’ primary languages and cultures valued, supported, and developed?
  • Are we reaching all students? Are students involved in activities that build their self-esteem and provide them with opportunities to succeed?

Other points to consider include:

  • Are you considering the steps of language proficiency in the 4 skills (Oral, Reading, Writing, and Listening)
  • Is the instruction student centered? Is it relevant and geared around their life experience?
  • Are you taking into consideration individual /cultural tendencies, learning styles, and Multiple Intelligences by incorporating a variety of activities?
  • Are you employing the idea I + 1 (Independent Level + 1)? This means that you should always move them forward. Vygotsky said you have to teach at the developmental stage plus one. Take them a little beyond the level they are at.