How to find the right resources as a tutor.
There never seems to be a middle ground. Either you have hundreds of resources at your fingertips and can’t possibly choose which one to use, or you find it incredibly hard to get your hands on even basic resources. How can we find and choose the best resources for what we need?
As a tutor, you really need to have an idea of what you’re looking for in a resource. Otherwise, you’ll spend an age trawling the internet to no avail. Or even worse, you’ll choose resources that fall short, and your sessions won’t hit the mark.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
● A good resource will reflect the outcomes you want your student to achieve. (The outcomes will most likely be a combination of what you know they need to work on, and what the syllabus or curriculum specifies.)
● It should have clear instructions!
● Fun and engaging resources help maintain student attention.
● Ideally, exemplars and marking criteria should be provided.As a tutor, you really need to have an idea of what you’re looking for in a resource. Otherwise, you’ll spend an age trawling the internet to no avail. Or even worse, you’ll choose resources that fall short, and your sessions won’t hit the mark.
This resource asks students to determine the quantities of each ingredient needed to make pancakes for multiple people. It’s basically teaching ratios. But because the scenario is relatable, engagement in the question will be higher, and your student will be more motivated to work out the answers. This resource comes from ACARA, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. You’ll notice that this is a sample of student work of a Year 8 student performing at grade level. This gives you an idea of what you’re looking to see your student achieve.
This is a tarsia puzzle. You print out and cut up the puzzle before a session, and ask your student to put the puzzle back together again by matching up equivalent expressions on the edges of each mini triangle. I like this resource because it’s much more interesting than repetitive questions from a textbook. By making individual questions part of some bigger problem to solve, instead of just asking students to solve standalone problems one after the other, you keep engagement high. For students with long attention spans, this won’t be such an issue, but in my experience every student wants something interesting to work on during their time with you. Don’t assume that the hyper-diligent students don’t get bored - they do!
Firstly, including a space at the very top of the page indicating ‘score’ tells the student this worksheet is not for learning, it’s for being judged or assessed. This also tells us, from the lack of instruction, that this resource alone will not teach a student anything, merely test their ability. Second, there is no instruction given, merely the title ‘equivalent fractions’. Upon closer inspection, a student who may not understand equivalent fractions could get all of these correct as they would could work out the numerators in each question are simply ascending by 1. This is not a challenging or effective resource.
2. Cramped and no space.
I have chosen to highlight the graphical shortfalls in this resource. Consider the age of the student completing this resource. Possibly year 3 or 4. The handwriting of a year 3 or 4 student would not fit in the spaces provided here. Furthermore, by leaving 5 short lines for writing, they are left no room for extension and further thought or correction. Formatting is inconsistent and there is very little scaffolding given to the response, suggesting that limited answers are expected. Students should feel they are able to contribute as much to an open question as they can. Why restrict them?
Sometimes, a resource is fantastic in all respects except one or two. If this is the case, you’ll want to modify it slightly so that it is perfect for your student.
Reasons to modify a resource include:
● It is not at the student’s level - too easy or too complicated.
● It does not match the student’s needs - perhaps there are sections that are irrelevant, or inaccessible for the student.
● It is going to bore your student to tears. If you’re still set on using it, you might want to think of a way to jazz up the resource a bit. For example, questions on a worksheet can be cut up and put into a jar, or written on a bathroom mirror with a whiteboard marker.
In general, no. There are so many great resources on the internet that are free. Plus, your student will have access to resources of their own through school, so you can request to see those and make selections as needed.
I would be wary of companies trying to sell you notes or resources. Unless you have access to a sample and you’re convinced the entire product is of a high quality, I wouldn’t part with your money.
Remember that your main goal is to approach planning for each individual student in a way that meets their needs. The resources you use should be specialised and well thought out. Don’t shortcut this process. If you do, your student will definitely notice, and you won’t get the best version of them in your sessions as a result.
Don’t forget to make lessons enjoyable for your student. If you find a resource that bores you just by looking at it, chances are your student is going to find it boring as well. By selecting fun and engaging things to do with your student, you’ll ensure that your resources are working for you, and not the other way around!
Want to know more about lesson planning? Take the Sponge Tutoring Course. I wrote it for tutors like you, and it’s free.
Visit spongeeducation.com/courses for more information.