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Loyola University Chicago

English Tutoring at the Literacy Center

Tutor's FAQs

Some important points and tips

1. Most tutors may try to match LCLC materials to learners' needs and interests, but some of the most successful tutoring works the other way around: Identify the learner's interests and then locate suitable resources. Don't let the limits of onsite materials hinder your creativity.  We have machines you are able to use to access the Internet to help your learner find materials.

2. Ask advanced learners to bring in an article (a short one) of interest, read it with them, and discuss it. Ask them to write something about it—their opinion of it, a parallel idea or experience, etc. This is a good strategy for learners who are willing to do homework (although not many are, some learners are very keen to do just that).

3. Ask your learner to describe in some detail a problem he or she had with English during the week or during the last few days—for example, something that came up because of the language barrier. Such a discussion reminds both of you why you are at the LCLC, and it becomes a rich source of ideas for lesson plans. You can tailor lesson plans very specifically to the learner's needs once this pattern is set. The learner can ask for help simply by saying, "I wanted to say/do this and couldn't figure out how," and you can take it from there, not only supplying the needed English sentences but clearing up confusion, etc. Such discussions will overlap as key issues come up from one week to the next.

4. Many tutors find discussions with other tutors to be very valuable opportunities, usually held informally before the LC session starts. For-credit tutors discuss their experiences during class meetings as well. 

5. We use writing as a learning tool at the Center.  Encourage your learner to keep a notebook with various categories: new vocabulary, verb tenses, idioms, etc. It's important to keep notes, but it is also important to keep notes in categories so they can be accessed at the right time.

6. Review topics that the learner has more or less mastered, at least briefly, at the start of a session (when you've made this much progress, of course; not before). Then if the learner runs into difficulty with new material, he or she can think back to this discussion and take heart. Emphasize what the learner has done well.

7. If your learner works with other tutors or another tutor, pay close attention to what happens in those sessions by reading the sessions reports and take it on yourself to exchange information—including phone no. and/or email address—with that tutor. You might not be able to meet, but you should agree on the objectives the learner is working on. The LCLC staff reviews every file after each session in order to give advice and watch for continuity when one learner has two or more tutors, but it helps a great deal if the tutors themselves are in communication.


We hold an orientation evening to train you and you are supervised and assisted by an experienced staff every evening.

Orientation is held on one evening for  2 1/2 hours; the same program is offered on three separate evenings. During tutoring hours once the Center opens, the LCLC is supervised by two or three staff members who have had extensive experience teaching English to adults. The staff and our library are your main resources—but don't forget to talk to other tutors about what they do, and don't hesitate to be creative. The most important thing is to get to know your learner and find out what the learner needs and what he or she is interested in learning.

Tutors arrive around 6:45 and, if they are working with the same learner they've worked with before, review that learner's file.  If a learner has not been assigned, then the tutor waits until the staff will assign a learner.  Tutoring begins at 7, always with an ice breaker conversation and some review of previously learned material, moving on to new lessons and always using writing to learn as a tool to help the learner retain the material.  At around 8:15, the manager calls a 10-15 minute break.  Tutoring resumes afterward.  At approximately 9:15, the manager will announce that the session is ending, giving tutors and learners time to complete the lesson and tutors time to finish the session report.  Tutors maintain a session report for each evening to serve as a guide for that learner's next session, and each session report is reviewed with constructive comments by staff.

Some tutor-learner pairs have been formed in previous semesters. We always renew those matches if we can. We assign more experienced tutors to newer, more basic learners, who are more difficult to teach, and, as a rule, less experienced tutors to learners who have a surer idea of what they are working on (especially those who have attended the LCLC previously).

We first assign for-credit tutors (those enrolled in English 393 and Honors 290), beginning with those who tutor twice a week, then once a week, and then volunteers who tutor twice a week. After those considerations, everything is much less certain. We consider prior experience at the LC or comparable experience elsewhere, but new tutors who have participated enthusiastically and creatively in orientation sessions are almost certain to be given assignments, and lack of prior experience does not work against them. We also consider language expertise (if relevant). Tutors who attend irregularly, or who consistently arrive late and/or leave early, might be assigned learners, but those tutors have the lowest priority.

If we match up all learners following our usual protocol, extra tutors are released as soon as possible. We usually have more learners than tutors, but sometimes, especially early in the semester, close to holidays, and near the end of the semester, it's the other way around. We cannot control our learners' attendance patterns, and many of our tutors are volunteers.

We almost always need tutors to work with the learners who do come. Learner attendance can be very irregular (and this is beyond our control). You might have a great session one week, not see the learner again for two weeks, and, if you arrived a little late, come in the fourth week to find him or her working with somebody else--although our hope would have been to match you yourself with this learner. For-credit tutors are asked to observe another tutor-learner pair if they do not have a learner on a specific evening.

If you are sick, please call to cancel as soon as you can (773-508-2330) or email the staff at locolice@gmail.com (an easy address to remember:  LO yola  CO mmunity  L Iteracy  CE nter. Do not contact the course instructor. Please do not fail to call. Your learner will be expecting you and will be waiting and waiting, and perhaps we could have assigned him or her to another tutor right away and saved time and good will. For-credit tutors will also be able to report absences via Facebook. If you are tutoring for credit, you have to make up any sessions you miss by tutoring on other evenings.


And? Do you know anybody who is not busy? Please don't cancel because you are busy. Of course you are busy--everybody, including each learner, is very, very busy. Do not stay away because you have an exam, quiz, or paper; manage your time carefully. You're probably a student at Loyola University Chicago; of course you will have exams, quizzes, and papers. You can see these tasks coming and you can plan for them. Your learner makes a sacrifice to get to the LCLC, just as you do. Everybody at the LCLC could be someplace else, doing something else. We need you for 2½ hours once or twice a week; that's our agreement. If we can't count on you, your learner can't count on you—which means your learner can't count on us.

About 60% of our pairs are stable, although a small minority of tutors work with three or four people over the course of the semester. It's good for learners and tutors to have regular pairings, but it's also good to experience change—for learners to listen to another tutor's English, for tutors to adjust to another learner's style. Everything is potentially useful, instructive, important.

We expect you to start tutoring as soon as you are matched to a learner. If you were matched to a learner the previous week and you see that person arrive, you should get the file (you'll learn about that at orientation) and get started right away. If it's 7 and your learner has been waiting, and then sees that you continue to talk to other tutors when it's time to start work, the learner might conclude that you're not very interested in helping him or her. Tutoring runs from 7 or so to 8:15, which is break time, and then again from 8:25-9:30. You should start wrapping up the evening at 9:25. During the break, those who wish to can go out to smoke, get coffee, etc.

You keep track of your activities in the learner's file, which never leaves the LCLC, by making notes (on a session report) during and after each session. These notes are reviewed by LCLC staff every week. They make suggestions, look for problems, etc., and when you return you should always look at the comments that the staff has made on your notes. The files kept by those tutoring for credit are reviewed by the course instructor on a regular basis.

It's easier to work with returning learners, since previous tutors have identified their needs and goals, and the history of tutoring helps. Basic learners won't understand "goals" or "objectives," and their goals might be fairly obvious. You will find that you start to identify our learners' goals by talking to them, listening to their spoken English, reading their writing, hearing about their experiences using English, and discovering what their ambitions are.

Most tutors need to review the basics, which is easy to do—parts of speech, main verb tenses, etc. Our grammar tutorial during orientation gets you started. Tutors who have studied foreign languages have a head start on this topic.  And remember:  In English, native speaker intuition rules.


Loyola Community Literacy Center
Lake Shore Campus · Loyola Hall
1110 W Loyola Ave, 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60626
773.508.2330 · literacy@luc.edu
Supported by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, and the Paul Glassco Endowment.

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