Loyola University Chicago

English Tutoring at the Literacy Center

Tutor's FAQs

Some important points and tips

  1. This is our policy:  Identify the learner's interests and goals and then locate suitable resources in our  library or on the web which will be useful.  You may also choose to use one of our machines 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 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. When working with errors, notice patterns rather than individual errors and those that affect clear communication.
  7. If your learner works with another tutor, pay close attention to what happens in those sessions by reading the sessions reports and be sure to exchange information with the other tutor—including phone no. and/or email address. You might not be able to meet, but you should agree on the learner's objectives. 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.


No.  We hold an orientation evening to begin training you and you are supervised and assisted by an experienced staff every evening.  You attend one orientation if you have never tutored at the LCLC before.  As the LCLC Founder used to say, to become a tutor, what you need is time, patience, and a good heart.

Orientation is held on one evening for  2 1/2 hours; the same program is offered on three separate evenings. You choose the evening that is convenient.  During tutoring hours once the Center opens, the LCLC is supervised by two 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 she or he is interested in learning.  In addition, your training continues in this way:  Each evening you will complete a sessions report that records what you and your learner studied.  Each sessions report is reviewed by a staff member who will record comments and suggestions to give you further insight and assistance.  

This was the schedule when we were tutoring in-person.  We will try to maintain the same sdhedule as best we can while we tutor online.  Special instructions will be added later and emailed to all our tutors.

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 each evening.

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 challenging 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. 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.

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. If we match up all learners following our usual protocol, and there are more tutors than learners, then extra volunteer tutors are released as soon as possible.  For-credit tutors are assigned other duties at the Center or are asked to observe another tutor-learner pair.

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 or to perform some task for the Center.  Volunteers may be sent home on that evening if there is no learner available.

If you are ill, 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 LI teracy 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. 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.

Many of our pairs are stable, although a few tutors work with three or four people over the course of the semester. It's good for learners and tutors to have regular pairings.  However, it is also good to experience change—for learners to listen to another tutor's English, for tutors to adjust to another learner's style and level. Everything is potentially useful, instructive, important.  While our goal is to have one-on-one tutoring pairs, a tutor may have to work with more than one learner if there are not enough tutors present on a given evening.

We expect you to start tutoring as soon as you are assigned 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. Always begin with a conversation before moving on to the other skills.  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 or shortly before 9:20.

When we are tutoring online, tutors meet with the manager and lead tutor at 7 pm to review the evening's schedule of learners.  Each tutor is placed in an individual breakout room at about 7:15 to prepare a lesson for the assigned learner.  At 7:30, the learner joins the tutor.  Usually the tutor works with only one learner, but there are times when a tutor may be assigned two learners.  There is a short break at 8:15, and at 9:05 the learner leaves the session.  The manager and lead tutor meet with all the tutors once again to review the evening.  The tutors begin their evening session reports, and at 9:30, the evening comes to a close.

The staff will supervise your work and communicate with the LCLC Director in real time.  You keep track of your activities in the learner's file (which never leaves the LCLC) by making careful notes on a session report during and after each session. These notes are reviewed by LCLC staff every day. The staff members make suggestions, look for your questions, etc., and when you return you should always look at the comments that the staff has made on your notes.

Your tutoring will be assessed on an on-going basis primarily by the Center staff, both as you are tutoring and in terms of the records you create based on your sessions.  The staff members observe tutoring, discreetly and unobtrusively, and periodically sit in on the sessions of ALL our tutors.  From time to time a manager or lead tutor will stop by your table, say hello, and sit in for 10 minutes or so.  Friendly and supportive supervision is part of what the Literacy Center offers both learners and tutors. Other tutors may also observe working pairs in order to gain valuable insight into the tutoring process. This is ROUTINE PRACTICE.  In addition, after each evening of tutoring, you will fill out a session report on the work you and your learner completed and note suggestions/lesson plans for the following session.  Each session report from all tutoring sessions for all learner/tutor pairs is  reviewed by the Center staff; the reports constitute very important evidence of your tutoring skills, including the regularity and reliability of your attendance; promptness; willingness to adapt to the LCLC's needs; responsiveness to staff suggestions; thoroughness; resourcefulness; and attentiveness to learner's needs. 

You can start to identify learners' goals by talking to them about their plans, listening to their spoken English, determining whether they understand what you are saying to them, hearing about their experiences using English, reading their writing, checking to see how well they understand what they have read, and by putting all this information together, discovering what their ambitions and goals for the tutoring sessions are. It's easier to work with returning learners, since previous tutors have identified their needs and goals and these are recorded in the learner's file;  the history of tutoring in that file also helps. Basic learners will probably not understand "goals" or "objectives," and their goals might be fairly obvious:  They want to learn basic communication so that they will be able to function in their community.

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