Megan writes about health and wellness issues, among other topics.
My daughter recently started 5-year-old preschool (kindergarten), and although we worked a lot on math and reading over the summer, and I see progress since school has started, I still felt like we could be doing more. A few weeks ago, she took her first standardized test, and although she is not behind by any means, I realized that school is getting harder—things rapidly progress from ABC’s to reading and comprehension, and from simple counting to addition and subtraction.
We have spent the last few weeks since then exploring some tutoring options, just to make sure she is keeping up and maintaining confidence in school. We contacted Sylvan Learning Center, Kumon Math and Reading Center, and signed up for a premium membership on Care.com to look for local private tutors. Sylvan was definitely out of the price range for us—a $95 one-time assessment fee, plus a registration fee of $68, plus tutoring sessions of $49/hour. Kumon was much more reasonable, and I liked them much more—it would be around $120 a month per subject, but we would only do reading—and we may explore it in the future.
For the time being, however, we have decided to hire a private tutor, someone who is a certified teacher who can come to our home weekly. The idea of being accountable to someone each week seems to really work for my daughter, and for most kids—they are more likely, I feel, to want to work hard for someone else rather than their parents. This way, with a private tutor, I can also control the lesson plans and objectives myself, and provide the materials I want to use.
I am creating this plan that I intend for the tutor to use with my daughter, and thought it may be useful for other parents or tutors out there as well. It starts assuming that the student knows all of their letter sounds, both soft and hard consonant sounds and short and long vowel sounds.
First, Set Objectives
What would you like to get out of this supplemental work with your child? Do you want them to score better on a test (short-term goal), reach a certain level of reading, or just keep progressing from where they are (long-term goal)? For me, I have the following goals with this tutoring schedule:
- Improve standardized test scores, to score in the"proficient" or “above proficiency” range
- Be reading more fluently at a 1st grade level: Read “I Can Read” Level 1 books with little or no help
- Learn to enjoy, rather than loathe, reading practice
The last objective is the main reason I would like to bring in outside help. I began doing many of these things with my daughter, and at first she was very excited. Now, the “newness” of learning to read has worn off, and she has become a little lazy. I want to spark her interest and motivate her to keep progressing without being forced. I feel that a structured program with goals can do that.
Set Expectations and Incentives for Your Child
Ultimately, it is better for kids to be self-motivated to keep getting better, and not externally motivated by tangible incentives. To get the ball rolling, however, rewards can be a good thing. Let your child know what will follow if they continue giving effort and progressing. Focus any reward, at least at first, on effort and completion of the tutoring session. Later, you can focus on actual academic progress.
Rewards can be anything, but ideally something very small except for huge accomplishments. For violin lessons, we have a simple star chart where we color in a star each day we finish practicing everything we were supposed to. Just the act of getting to color that star and showing it to her violin teacher each week now motivates her to keep practicing every day. If she does something monumental, like learning a new song in just one day, or a great performance at lessons or a recital, we do something like ice cream or a dinner out, her choice. For tutoring, I plan on using a sticker chart, where her tutor can give her a sticker for each session she focuses and completes all the work I leave for them. Once the chart is filled up, we’ll pick a larger reward.
Again, after these early years, I am hoping that she will just be intrinsically motivated to keep reading. For now, though, I think a reward system can really help.
Our tutoring sessions will be one hour. We will break that hour up (roughly) into the following segments:
- 15 minutes: review reading concepts learned in the previous week
- 15 minutes: learn the next concept
- 15 minutes: writing prompt
- 15 minutes: reading out loud
At least for my daughter, I know that it will be quite difficult to sit still for an entire hour with no breaks. It is a good idea to permit small breaks to walk around for a minute or get a drink.
Reading and Phonics Progression of Concepts
The following are the reading concepts I hope to cover in our tutoring sessions:
Words that End in “e”
Words that End in “ing”
Words that End in “ed”
Words that End in “er”
Plural Words that End in “s”
Vowel Blends: “oa”
Vowel Blends: “ai”
Plural Words that End in “es”
Vowel Blends: “ie” and “ei”
Sight word work will continue throughout. We use Fry’s List.
I also will incorporate these concepts:
Writing the days of the week
Writing the months
Writing out numbers
Kumon Reading Workbooks
Writing prompts will be like a journal entry: a special notebook will be dedicated to these. I will ask the tutor to have her respond to the writing prompt, encouraging her to use words that fall under the concepts learned that week. I’ll also have her to illustrate a picture to go along with it. The following are some writing prompt ideas that are appropriate for this age/reading group:
If I could have one wish it would be…
My favorite food is ________ because______...
My favorite color is ________ because______...
Describe one fun thing you did at school today.
What do you like to do with your friends?
My favorite season is ________ because_______......
You can find 357 more first grade level journal writing prompts here.
Books for Reading Out Loud
After learning new reading and phonics concepts, the goal is to be able to put all of that together and begin actually reading, of course. There are few things more exciting for beginning readers than to be able to say “I read the whole book by myself” In my opinion, even a lot of the first level of the leveled readers are not easy enough for a very new reader to grasp on their own. During this portion of tutoring, which for us will hopefully be about 15 minutes, I want to include a mix of books she can read on her own completely and some she can read with just a little help. The following are some books that you can easily find at your local library, or at a book store:
Books for student to try reading independently out loud:
Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
BOB Books Sets 1-4 by Bobby Lyn Maslen
Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Mittens at School by Lola Schaefer
Biscuit Finds a Friend by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Any “Elephant and Piggy” books by Mo Willems
Books to read together:
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber
Curious George by H.A. Rey
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (or any other “If You Give a Mouse a”…book)
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? By Jane Yolen
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
These books were taken from a combination of my personal preference, the Kumon Recommended Reading List, and the Books Your Child Should Hear Before Kindergarten list. They are just a small sample of books that you could read out loud.
Any “I Can Read” Leveled Readers in the “Shared Reading” or “Beginning Reading” levels are great for students who are just starting to read. These books use well known characters with easy-to-read plots.
Finally, I plan on keeping track of what we did using sheets I created on Microsoft word. I will print a new one each week and write down what we need to practice in each area each day. Below is a photo of the template I am using.