The Do’s and Don’ts of Tutor Planning
Written by Amber Marie | January 5, 2018
As a former teacher, planning lessons was required and essential to ensure things ran smoothly within the classroom. The same thing can be said for the CC classroom. There is a lot to consider when planning for CC and it can get a bit overwhelming (age of children, reading abilities, etc). But don’t fret, I’m here to share a few do’s and don’ts of tutor planning to help get you on the right track.
#1 – The Children
DON’T assume every class is the same! During my teacher years, I found that each new group of children were very different from the last. What does this mean? Not everything you used with earlier groups of children will work with the current group you have. A lesson or activity that you taught to one group may completely flop with another. In contrast, something you tried with a previous group that didn’t work may be worth a try with your new group. The point I hope I have made is that every child is unique and every group of children are different, which leads me to the first DO.
DO learn about the children you are teaching! What are their interests? How many boys and girls do you have? What are their abilities? What are their personalities? All of these questions and more can give you a nice picture of your class as a whole and how you can adapt certain activities to create an engaging learning environment. My one friend, a fellow CC tutor, had a class of all boys one year. You can probably guess that a lot of their activities and games centered around boys’ interests such as nerf guns (review game).
Currently, I have 8 children in my class (5 girls and 3 boys) and they love silliness. We use silly voice sticks (popsicle sticks with silly voices written on them such as pirate or cowboy voice) to complete a lot of the memory work and I can’t even express how excited they get when they pick their stick. Each child can’t wait to see what they get and what funny voice we’ll be using to repeat our memory work.
Another example includes my groups’ abilities. Most of the children in my class range from age four to six. With these younger ages comes the uncertainty of reading abilities. Only one or two of my children can read fluently. This requires me to use more visuals and songs along hand motions to help the children remember the memory work. Overall, its best to know the children in your class because, in the long run, it will help you tailor lessons for the group you have.
#2 – The Lesson
DON’T make things complicated! I heard this over and over again in my tutor training and I remember following this principle as a teacher. The more complicated you make something, the harder it is for children to understand or follow along. In my first weeks as a tutor, I wanted to keep learning engaging so I would try to incorporate movement into every other memory work subject. I found this over complicated the process of learning and took way too much time. One time I even tried having the students skip count while doing hopscotch…can we just say I won’t be trying that again. It was too much for the kids and I saw that immediately. Remember, think stick in the sand, which leads to our next DO.
DO keep lessons simple! You are able to get more accomplished when you keep your lessons less complex. CC harps on thinking “stick in the sand”. This phrase means you should be able to teach any subject with only a stick and some sand. Simple enough right. As my year progressed, I found the more simple I kept things, the more the students were engaged. Songs and silly sticks have been amazing in my class because the kids love them and they are easy to use. Hand motions are another way to get your class moving that doesn’t require much prep or materials. With so much technology and manipulatives at our fingertips, we can be tempted to incorporate too much into a lesson and take away from the true joy of learning. Keep it simple and you’ll thank yourself later.
#3 – The Planning
DON’T wait until the night before to plan. Okay, can I be real for a minute? I have done this once or twice. We’ve had some busy weeks and weekends, especially around the holidays, that have left me a few hours the night before to complete my planning. I DO NOT suggest this. It stressed me out because I didn’t have the proper amount of time to learn songs/hand motions or practice the science experiment/art lesson. The worst thing is that I created the stress myself through procrastination or poor planning. Come the next morning, I would have to review everything to make sure I was ready, where if I had planned right the first time, I wouldn’t be stressing about forgetting something. So what is the right way to plan? Let’s look at the last DO on our list.
DO spread your planning out or pick a day to get it all done. I have found that some weeks I like to spread my planning out. This system especially works for me when I have a busy week ahead and know I will not have a large chunk of time to sit down and complete my planning in all one sitting. I’ll tackle one part of our CC day on a different day of the week.
For example, maybe Thursday (the day after my CC community day), I’ll download any songs from CC connected or upload any CC songs to my phone for the upcoming week. This gives me almost a whole week to practice learning the songs. Then I might move onto the Science or Art lesson the next day and collect materials I may need to teach. When I use this system of planning, each day I only spend 20 to 30 minutes a day. Best of all, I normally have everything planned by Sunday and have two days to review, if needed, before community day.
Although this planning method works for me, I prefer to work during a long focused period of time where I can knock all my planning out (not the night before). Normally it’ll take me about two or three hours depending on the week. For me, the best time to sit down for that long is on a weekend or a free weeknight. I focus so much better when the house is quiet (not very often), which usually occurs during nap time or bedtime. I find the stillness of the house allows my mind to be solely focused on my work and not on distractions like TV, dinner, or my kids (they are like sharks that can sense when I need to get work done and attack).
So far, I’ve learned many lessons in my first year of tutoring CC and hope sharing the tips above will help all you CC tutors out there. Good luck and stay tuned for another CC tutor post later this month.