Seasoned tutors share insights into helping students improve their writing…
I always start with the assignment. Do they understand it? Have they met the basic
requirements? If not, do they understand why this is important and do they know of
resources/strategies for meeting the requirements?
Especially when we’re short on time, I ask what one or two things they want to focus
on. Then, assuming those make sense, that’s what we look at.
I really try to adhere to the idea of big picture things first, like structure, organization,
flow, thesis, etc. However, if those things look acceptable, I’m not opposed to helping
them recognize their patterns of grammar errors. This is often what students are interested
in, especially those who speak English as a second language. This is also a good opportunity
to model the use of The Everyday Writer.
I’ve found that it’s helpful to have several methods of explaining introductions,
conclusions, and thesis statements. These are components that often confuse students,
and it’s good to have several ways of explaining their importance and how to construct
them. Methods I’ve used include: pictures/diagrams, analogies, and simply stating
why they’re necessary in a paper.
I try to end the session by asking if what we worked on answered their questions and
whether there is something else they’d like to discuss or need help with and then
I can point them to the appropriate resources for that (Katie Jantzen, writing tutor).