Thursday, August 21, 2014

Middle School Math Tutoring Strategies...or How to Keep the Eye Rolls Away

Oh middle schoolers.

Too old to still possibly want to go to tutoring and too young to have any choice on the matter.
Chances are, if you have a middle school student who requires your tutoring expertise, then you will most likely be working on their homework with them during the school year. This is when they want to sit in the library with you. This is when they need you.
That may not always be the case, though. There will be a day when they walk in without any homework, test to study for, or even a long-term project to work on.  And then there are the summer months.
What do you do?
Below are five strategies to help you get through your journey with the least amount of adolescent eye rolling.

First, be prepared.

You may be a skilled educator who can come up with an excellent lesson on the spot using only a broken crayon and a piece of paper, but a middle schooler will see right through it. Be prepared.
All you really need is a file folder with library pockets filled with task cards you would like to work on with your students. That battered example above has been in use for two years now and is still going strong! The categories I chose for middle school math tutoring were logical reasoning, patterns, functions, & algebra, numbers, and fluency.

Second, give them a choice.

This age, and most ages for that matter, needs to feel like they are doing something because it was their idea. Yes, you put the tasks in the pocket, but they pulled it out. If they really are grumbling about the card they pulled, let them put it back and choose a new one.
As for the tasks, this lady knows what she is talking about.
One of the few books from college that I have found useful in my professional life. This textbook is filled to the brim with great ideas and games and I relied heavily upon it when creating my task cards.

Third, games.

One word says it all. The fluency pocket is almost exclusively games that use regular old playing cards. We actually use two decks. These guys are older. They can handle a longer game.
When we have extra time during a tutoring session, I always get out the file folder and have my student choose a card from the fluency pocket. 
Many of  our games came from HERE. Check it out. You won't be sorry.

Fourth, time them.

Sometimes you just need them to work on their multiplication facts without any muss or fuss. Maybe you need to assess for any weaknesses. Or maybe, just maybe, you have five minutes at the end of your session and you need something to do. 
Time them.
This creates a challenge they need to conquer, which in turn becomes intrinsic motivation.
[insert happy dance here]
A page of full of problems is no longer cringe-inducing when they have to finish it before the timer on your iPad goes off.
I like to finish my hour with a middle schooler with something called a "five-minute frenzy". You can find them HERE for free along with many other math drills that lend themselves beautifully to becoming a timed task.

Last, talk to them.

Let them talk to you. Let them tell you something they are excited about. Share something with them as well. Yes, it is taking a little time away from the work you are getting paid to do, but it is also an investment in your future times together. It is just you and your student. Probably for an hour. It would be weird if the only words you said to one another were slope, coefficient, or perpendicular. 
Also, a student will be more likely to agree to do a not-so-pleasing task for you without the eye rolls if they really like you. Easy as that.

The Five Strategies again are:

1. Be Prepared: middle schoolers can see through your seat-of-your-pants planning
2. Give Them a Choice: they need to feel like they are controlling their learning
3. Games: if it is fun, they will not grumble
4. Time Them: timer=challenge=intrinsic motivation
5. Talk: if they like you, they will not grumble

1 comment:

  1. Such great ideas! Love it and I have found the same to be true for my middle school math students.