This summer, I’m volunteering at the St. John’s Senior Center by tutoring elementary school kids. The problem is that I’ve never really tutored anyone before. I have helped some classmates with math problems or proofreading an essay, but that doesn’t really count. So, basically, I have no idea how to teach.
A few days ago, I worked with a boy named Zachary who is going into 1st grade and needs reading help. I had him try to read Young Cam Jansen and the Baseball Mystery:
At the Senior Center, there is a long table covered with elementary level books. I had no clue what a rising first grader would read, so I just snatched the first thing I saw, which was the Cam Jansen book. It proved to be too difficult of a read. Zachary attacked every word by sounding out individual letters. For example, bench becomes “buh eh en kuh huh.” Now, obviously you can read… since you’re on my blog – you know that doesn’t work. So I abandoned the Cam Jansen book after seeing Zachary struggle with the first two sentences. I began a mission of teaching him how groups of words would sound.
When I started, I thought it would be easy. Just have him memorize the sounds “ee,” “all,” “kn,” etc. Okay, no. It is so difficult. After teaching him “ch,” “sh,” and “th,” he forgot all of them. So I resorted to drawing pictures and making up stories (I thought they were clever, actually). I scribbled a little guy with his index finger to his mouth saying, “Be quiet!” next to “sh.” To help him remember that the K is silent in “know,” I told him a story:
“Okay, so, you are a spy named Agent Z! The letter K is Agent K and she’s on your side. But the letter N is on the other side. He’s bad. Agent K is spying on Agent N so don’t say K because you don’t want Agent N to know that Agent K is there. You guys are spies so be secretive about everything.”
I asked him if he understood the story and he nodded yes. “So what sound do k and n make?” I asked.
“Kuh nuh,” he said. Agent K is very disappointed. I was too. But I smiled and said, “Almost!”
I had to retell the story (blah :(). And then I asked him, “So now, what do k and n put together sound like?”
Nuh. Nuh. Oh my God, he just said, “Nuh!” That had to be the sweetest thing I heard all week. “Nuh.” I would have scooped him up from the metal chair that’s too big for him and held him like Rafiki held baby Simba… if that didn’t make me look like a pedophile. Yes, I was that proud.
The tutoring sessions are only one hour long a day (not counting the half-hour bingo games). From just that one hour, you cannot believe how much I appreciate teachers now (the good ones, at least). I’ve always regarded teachers as adults who take attendance, give detentions, pass out assignment sheets, and keep order in the classroom. No more of that. They have to teach and teaching is hard work.
And it’s rewarding. Remember how excited I was when Zachary mastered the “kn” sound? That explains it all. 🙂
Dang it, I have tennis camp so I won’t be able to volunteer next week’s sessions. But I am so looking forward to finding more rewards in the little kids I teach (yeah, that sounds wrong) the following week! Did I even mention how cute they are?
I’ll keep you updated about tennis and tutoring! See you later!