Characteristics of Successful Literacy Tutoring

By Leal, Dorothy | Ohio Reading Teacher, Fall-Spring 2003 | Go to article overview
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Characteristics of Successful Literacy Tutoring

Leal, Dorothy, Ohio Reading Teacher

Calling All Reading Tutors: The Characteristics of Effective Literacy Tutoring

With the call for reading tutors increasing around the country, it is important to know the characteristics of effective literacy tutoring. Children who have difficulty mastering the reading process are more at-risk for future academic failure (Rimm-Kaufman, Kagan, & Byers, 1999). The pressure is on to find ways to help these students "catch-up" to their peers in reading development (Klenk, 2000).

There are three common threads prevalent across successful tutoring programs,. These common threads include: (a) many opportunities to read authentic materials, (b) many applications of reading integrated with authentic writing experiences, and (c) highly motivating reading and writing activities related to students' interests and abilities by caring tutors. There are several critical factors that must be closely woven into the fabric of these three common threads, as seen in the Table 1. When these factors are seamlessly knit together with the three foundations for literacy learning, the results are most significant.

Critical Factors for Successful Tutoring

Tutoring is most effective when five specific factors are in place: one-on-one tutoring, supervision by certified reading specialists, intensive instruction, programs that are assessment based, and regular reflective evaluation on the part of the tutor.

One-on-One Tutoring

One-on-one reading tutoring has traditionally been one of the most effective forms of instruction because the sessions can be tailored to fit each individual child's needs (Quatroche, Bean, & Hamilton, 2001; Wasik, 1998). A number of studies have shown this one-on-one tutoring to be effective in raising reading levels of students considered "at-risk" (Baker, Gersten, & Keating, 2000; Hedrick, 1999; Invernizzi, Juel, & Rosemary, 1996-97; Rimm-Kaufman et al., 1999).

Supervised by Certified Reading Specialist

In order to provide a solid foundation, an effective tutoring program should also have a certified reading specialist or reading teacher to train tutors and supervise the tutor's work (Invernizzi & Quellette, 2001; Topping, 1998; Wasik, 1998). A reading teacher or specialist has the knowledge to assess and diagnose the children's reading problems and determine what concepts and skills need to be addressed as well as furnish materials and provide constant feedback. Most importantly, however, the reading specialist instructs the tutors in what strategies and techniques need to be implemented in order to have a positive impact on the children (Wasik, 1998).

Intensive, Structured, and Consistent Instruction

In addition, effective programs are intensive as well as structured and consistent. They build on tutors that are committed and faithful in attendance. In many tutoring programs, the number of sessions per week varies between 2 and 4, but they remain consistent over an extended period of time (Baker et al., 2000; Hedrick, 1999; Heins et al., 1999; Rimm-Kaufman et al., 1999; Taylor, Hanson, Justice-Swanson, & Watts, 1997). Wasik (1998) states a minimum of 1 ½ to 2 hours per week is needed to ensure that children will benefit from the intervention and that there is time to build a relationship. When the child has a relationship with and can trust the tutor, the child is more motivated to try and succeed for that person.

Assessment Based

Research on effective components of tutoring programs also advocates well-structured, systematic programs that are assessment-based (Invernizzi & Quellette, 2001; Topping, 1998), with a balanced approach to individual sessions (Hedrick, 1999; Heins et al., 1999; Wasik, 1998). Simply reading aloud to children is not enough. Well-planned, systematic tutoring sessions that include the components of reading, writing, motivation factors, and are assessment based often produce the greatest gain for children at risk.

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