Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tutoring Scenarios: Producing Independent Learners

Tutoring style or methodology truly impacts
who is doing the learning and how independent the
learner will be tomorrow when the tutor isn't around. 

Please read the two tutoring scenes below. Think about the following questions:

  • Who is doing the learning in each method? 
  • Which tutoring method builds an independent adult?

Tutoring Scene 1

Yesterday, a learner asked for help with a fraction problem in Khan Academy. The learner's task was: 

3/5 + 2/3 = n

The tutor immediately looked at the math problem in question and told the learner exactly what to do. The only thinking the learner did was to multiply two sets of numbers (making the denominators common) and adding the numerators. The tutor never asked what the learner knew or provided a framework for the learner to be included in solving the problem. No notes were taken. No examples were set up with annotations in the learner's notebook. However, the learner did get the answer correct in Khan Academy.  

Tutoring Scene 2

Around the same time, another tutor helped a learner examine a percentage-based story problem.

The sale price of a table was $123. 
This price was 20% of the original cost.
What was the original cost of the table?

After the learner read the problem aloud, this tutor asked, "How can you turn these words into an equation to solve."

The learner wrote:  x + 20 = 123

The tutor asked, "Will this equation bring you a reasonable answer?"

The learners said, "I don't know."
The tutor said, "Solve the equation."

The learner next wrote:   x  + 20 = 123
                                              -20     -20
                                               x  =  120

The tutor asked, "When you plug in your answer for x back into the equation, does the number make sense? Then explain it to me."

The learner said, "103 plus 20 is 123. That fits."
The tutor said, "I wonder what the numbers represent. Go ahead and label each number for me please."

The learner wrote:  original price        20%                 sale price
                                         120        +    20               =      123
                                                      marked down

The learner looked at the labels for a moment, then said, "The original price is cheaper than the sales price. What's wrong?"

Then the tutor and learner went on to talk about how sales in stores work, what the learner usually did with a sale, and built meaning around how to write 20% as a decimal, and the math operation needed to complete the equation. 

The learner then went on to write notes on a notes page labeled "Percentages" with examples and explanations for converting percentages to decimals and solving percentage equations. The learner wrote the page number in the index on the inside of the learner's notebook cover. 


  • Who is doing the learning in each method? 
In Tutoring Scene 1, the learner just followed the tutor's directions. The learner in fact learned nothing. The learner still didn't know what to do with the next problem because the learner didn't know what was being done with this problem. The tutor, on the other hand, reviewed her knowledge and selected what was appropriate to share based on the constraints of the problem.

What about in Tutoring Scene 2? The tutor let the learner explore and try out what she thought was correct. The learner showed what she knew. The tutor could see and hear the learner's "wheels turning" (mind working), but she still let the learner follow-through with her thoughts. The tutor offered questions that provided opportunities for the learner to step back from the work to make decisions. The learner was definitely the person learning. With help, the learner then went on to create a notes page that let her consolidate what she'd been doing. Now she has a plan for how to attack future percentage problems. 

  • Which tutoring method builds an independent adult?

Tutoring Scene 2 wins hands down! This scene describes the type of tutoring/teaching interactions we expect from our tutors as they facilitate academic growth. 

How can you tutor/teach more like the tutor in Tutoring Scene 2?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Results "tickle" us

"I get 'tickled' when I see our learners using
 their skills to teach their classmates! 
(Sometimes, I even choke up a bit.)" - KJL

This sentiment is felt by all of us who work with the adults who come to Literacy Action. 

Picture this - 

Prepared, Rob (an adult learner) is now at the board, but white board blindness has set in. 

Have you ever had white board blindness? 
You know, that moment in time when you 
know what to do but your mind goes blank?

Sal (another adult learner) steps up. She begins by finding out what part of the math problem is bothering him - where he's stuck. She asks Rob questions about what he's thinking, what he's trying to do, and what the problem is asking. He responds. When his written or oral responses are slightly off, she asks other questions to facilitate Rob's decisions.

Payoff -

As volunteers/tutors, we know that we learn the most when we teach or guide someone else in discovering and understanding. 
As such, we encourage our learners to teach each other. In fact, when learners have enough skill, we aid them in the next step - building their mentoring and questioning skills as facilitators of knowledge. 

The payoff for them is incredible. Their self-esteem soars, their leadership skills grow, and their own learning excels. The payoff for us is priceless. Changes in learners keeps us coming back, back to help more learners. 

You can feel this same way when you join us as a volunteer tutor. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Volunteer Opportunities

Literacy Action Center relies heavily on volunteers. 

We'd love your help. If not as a tutor, then perhaps you are interested in one of the tasks listed below. Is there something you could do for us that we didn't mention? Or do you know someone else who would be good at one of these tasks? Please let us know.

  • Weekly:  donors -- create/maintain relationships with donors
  • Monthly: grants -- write/deliver grants; write/send thank you notes; write/send follow-up reports
  • fundraising -- set up other fundraising activities
  • January-August  -- set up and oversee annual August silent auction fundraising event; develop sponsors for annual fundraiser
  • August-December -- set up annual Barnes & Noble gift wrapping event; oversee scheduling & paperwork for gift wrapping event

Literacy Action Center Library:
  • Weekly:  catalogue library materials; call/contact people with overdue materials; check-in returned materials
  • Monthly: check-in new materials
  • March, August, October -- prepare purchasing information; order materials
  • December -- inventory library/sales materials

Office tasks:
  • Daily:   take telephone messages; talk to prospective volunteers, learners, & advocates; call learners/volunteers about attendance, events, etc.
  • Weekly: compile/enter data into databases; analyze data to tell "stories"; complete housekeeping chores
  • Monthly: create/prepare/send mailings; photocopy materials; file paperwork; setup/organize filing system

Public relations/marketing:
  • Weekly: seek out and talk to groups (or schedule executive director to do the talks); contact and establish connections with local media; collect stories from learners about changes in their lives; collect changes to be included in blogs; Send out PSA's about upcoming events; get articles written by reporters from different media outlets
  • Monthly: write/send public service announcements; setup & staff marketing opportunities; create/send monthly email to thank donors
  • Quarterly: produce and distribute posters; write and prepare quarterly newsletter for mailing; staff booths at events (get others to help); create materials for booths/tabling events
  • Annually: produce annual report

Recognition activities:
  • Monthly: write/send birthday cards/notes to volunteers & learners; create, prepare, distribute monthly volunteer thank you gifts
  • January-April: setup annual recognition dinner -- food, place, etc.; oversee annual dinner -- setup, cleanup, dinner crew; oversee production and distribution an annual Adult Learner Writings booklet (at dinner and mailings)

  • Daily: teach an adult to read/write/math; teach a group of adults to read/write/math; teach word processing, internet, typing, and/or email; help learner work through process of writing essays, papers, or letters
  • Weekly: review goal/task logs with learners; track test score changes; create/post tags on charts; frame pictures for hallway progress; re-test learners on TABE (note: must go through official TABE training held in May or June annually)

  • Weekly: Fix/update computers in office and lab; keep this equipment repaired and clean
  • Quarterly: refurbish older/extra computers donated to us to give to learners; deliver these computers to learners' homes (help them set them up)

Tutor Training:
  • Weekly: send out PSA's announcing training; create and check on web sites for volunteering; compile list of people interested in attending training; send out training materials; collect registrations; send emails/mailings, as appropriate; find sponsors for training
  • January, March, May, September, November: photocopy training packets; help set up training; help set up food
  • Become a trainer by taking the lead on several training segments (Note: Trainers must also be tutors. Trainers learn all segments so that they can eventually handle all aspects of training.)
Revised 9/2013

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Next Dates

Literacy Action Center 

Tutor Training Workshop

(You must attend both Saturdays to complete this training.)

November 14, 2015 (9:00 AM - 2:00 PM)
   + November 21, 2015 (9:00 AM - 2:00 PM)
            Place: 3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City UT
 Closing Date: November 10, 2015

Registration is required. We currently accept registration delivered by mail, email (, or in person at our office. The cost of this training is $35 for anyone who tutors through our program. (This training is $135 for anyone tutoring for some other program or on his or her own.) Regardless of your tax situation, no part of this training fee is tax-deductible. The entire amount goes towards this 2-day training as well as five tutor talks, staff support if you're volunteering with us, and a one-year membership. (Some scholarship funds may be available--please call us (801/265-9081) for more information.) Click here for Registration Form.


Tutor Talks

September 26, 2015 (10:00 AM - 12:00 PM)
            Place: 3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City UT

November 21, 2015 (10:00 AM - 12:00 PM)
            Place: 3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City UT

Session format:

(a) Aha! moments (sharing of tutoring-related observations, insights, or discoveries experienced since last meeting.)

(b) Concerns (group discusses suggestions based on their combined experiences), and

(c) Specific training (Content emerges from previous discussions, observations, or other sources. Content addresses tutor/enrollee needs and concerns. Training may be led by learning specialist, group member, or outside professional.)  

All current tutors are expected to attend each Tutor Talk. Please mark your calendar.


Literacy Action Center Registration Form

Volunteer/Tutor Training Workshops: Information & Registration

We need many volunteers.  We are always in need of good volunteers to work as tutors, on our Board of Trustees, in our office, and on special projects (e.g., marketing & fundraising). We appreciate your help in whatever way you wish to serve. For more information, please check out this list of volunteer opportunities. While all volunteers are expected to complete volunteer training, you can read the "Job Description" of a volunteer tutor.


   We currently accept completed workshop registration forms (with checks) delivered by mail or hand-delivered to our office. The cost of our training workshop is $35* for anyone who tutors through our program. [Note: This training is $135 for anyone tutoring for some other program or on his or her own.]
   Regardless of your tax situation, no part of this training fee is tax-deductible. Your entire workshop fee goes toward this two-day training. You also receive a one-year membership with ongoing staff support.
   In addition to participating in this two-day workshop, we also expect you to complete several on-line trainings, attend tutor talks, and participate in at least one state-sponsored workshop as well as donate more than 100 instructional hours annually.

*Some scholarship funds may be available for our volunteer tutors in the initial two-day workshop. Please call us at 801/265-9081 for more information. 

Below is the registration form.  Please complete the form and deliver it to our office with your check.  We will send you confirmation of your enrollment and further instructions a few days before the workshop begins. If these dates do not meet your schedule, contact us for future workshop dates. [Note: If we do not fill a training session, then your enrollment will transfer to the next training workshop.]

Literacy Action Center, 3595 S Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Phone: 801/265-9081   -   Email:
Our office is open Monday - Friday from 8:30 AM - 4:00 PM
If no one answers the phone, please leave a clear, detailed message.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

Literacy Action Center 
Volunteer/Training Registration Form
(please print)

I am interested in attending training on:  

___ Two-day Tutor Training Workshop (9AM - 2PM on both Saturdays)
        Workshop date applying for:


Mailing Address:

City, State Zip Code:

Phone number: 


Amount of fee enclosed: $

Please make your check payable to: Literacy Action Center
Mail this form and your check to the address above or bring it in. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Changes in My Life: Ellen & Trevor

Do you sometimes wonder about the impact 
we are having on learners' lives? 

Three learners working together to share information with others.
Three learners creating a group presentation.
Volunteers who come in regularly see measurable differences in learners' abilities to perform specific literacy tasks. From an observer's point of view, the changes in learners become quite self-evident.

We're not always sure however if the learners recognize the changes in themselves. As such, for the third year, we have asked learners to write “2-minute”* speeches heralding the impact instruction is having on their lives. The format of these speeches is pretty simple - three paragraphs focused on three questions: Who am I? How have I changed? Where am I headed next?

Writing these speeches helps our learners reflect on their progress as they head towards their ultimate life goals. Here are two of the 2015 "2-minute" speeches shared on June 18, 2015, at: 

A Benefit for Literacy Action Center

Here's proof that what we do matters - from the mouths of Ellen and Trevor.

Ellen's speech -  Picturing Myself

      I am a single, young adult, who is highly motivated to make a better life for myself.  I have been living on my own for three years. I really enjoy living on my own. I can tell you that it is different than living with parents or roommates. I have been attending Literacy Action Center (LAC) for 8-1/2 years. I have improved in math and reading a lot since getting involved in this program. LAC has given me the skills to live independently.
     Before I started LAC, I couldn't comprehend what I was reading or work the math problems on the board that we do every morning. Ever since I started the program, I have been taught how to do the math on the board. Last fall, I started learning equations, like 2r = 14. Because I was taught by the fantastic volunteers and Deb, recently I was able to teach one of the students to work out a similar problem on the board. While I was teaching the student, for the first time I pictured myself as a teacher, just like Deb. And when I finished that problem with the learner, one of the volunteers, said, “Wow! You’re already teaching!”
     I want to go to college to become a special education teacher. With all the help from everyone here, I know that I can reach my dream! With my progress, I can picture myself teaching special education and helping to enrich the lives of others.

Trevor's speech - Stepping Up

     I'm the oldest of three children. I have a brother who is fourteen years old and a sister who is eight years old. I like to play contact sports. I like wrestling, rugby, football, and street basketball. I like to watch the Utah Utes play football.
     I'm passionate about racing and building race cars and trucks because I did it with my grandpa Sacre. We went to the track every other Saturday. I was on my grandpa’s pit crew. I checked the tire pressure on all four tires and then I sprayed water on the radiator to cool the motor for the next race. I helped Grandpa in the shop every weekday and every other Saturday. I spent four summers building a truck to race. The truck is an '85 Chevy S10 with a v8 350. My truck is a flat grey color. I want to start racing my truck at Rocky Mountain Raceway in the summer of 2016.
     When I was a freshman, my dad showed me how to weld. He helped me weld a roll cage for a remote control truck. Later, in high school, I took a welding class and made a pooper scooper for my mom and dad. I really liked welding, and I thought that it would be a good career.
     I want to be accepted into a welding program by fall 2015, so that I can become a certified welder. To get accepted, I need 8th grade reading and math skills. Currently, at Literacy Action Center, I'm focusing on reading comprehension and math. I have improved in both language skills and algebra since coming to LAC. I have scored 2.5 on the 10E language test and 3.3 on the 10D math test. So, I have a lot of work to do because I have to go up five grade levels in five months. I intend to step up into the ring and put up a fight. 

*This means that each speech must be able to be read aloud comfortably in two minutes. 


   Help these adults Make a one-time or recurring gift through Paypal. Volunteer with us. Like, follow and share information about us via Facebook.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tutor Tip #1 - Facilitating Learner-to-Tutor Transformation

How we approach learners impacts how much they learn. Meaning, if we ask learners, “Did you get the right answer?” We get an answer of yes or no. No learning occurs.

If instead, we say: “Teach me what you just learned.” Learning takes on meaning, and misunderstandings can now be reviewed, renegotiated, and rectified.

As tutors, we know that we can’t truly teach something well if we don’t understand what we are teaching. The same theory holds true for our learners. Until they know the concept or task well enough to explain it to someone else, then they haven’t truly learned it.

So, let them teach you. 

When you are comfortable that they understand, then please notice when another learner needs to learn the same concept or task. Let the knowledgeable learner do the teaching. Feel free to hover nearby – for (moral) support – but let the learner do the teaching.

Herein lies power – this simple moment in time then adds to the learner’s feelings of self-esteem and empowerment!!! And, you were the one to facilitate this transfer of power. Bravo!