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.  We have a library of books and manuals in our Loyola Hall location for in-person tutoring and also an online library to be accessed when we are tutoring online.
  2. Ask advanced learners to bring in material such as an article (a short one) of interest, read it with them, and discuss it. Ask them to write something about it—first of all, what it says, then 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 wish to have assignments, some learners are eager 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 vocabulary and English sentences but clearing up confusion, discussing cultural issues, 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 focus on 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 session reports.  Each session's activites are recorded by the tutor and placed in a file for each learner, to be accessed by that learner's tutors.  Also, be sure to exchange information with the other tutor—including phone number 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 orientation sessions during the second week of the semester and you are required to attend one session if you have never tutored at the LCLC before.  Once you begin tutoring, you are supervised and assisted every evening by an experienced staff. 

As LCLC Founder Professor Allen Frantzen used to say, to become a tutor, what you need is time, patience, and a good heart.

Orientation sessions for tutors new to the Literacy Center are held the second week of the semester.  You are required to attend one session from 7 pm to approximately 9:30 pm; 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 session report is reviewed by a staff member who will record comments and suggestions to give you further insight and assistance. If you are enrolled in the English or Honors class for tutors, you will receive extensive instruction in teaching English, linguistics, and other topics relevant to your work with your learner.  The course instructor and the staff are always available to answer your questions and give advice at any time.

When we are tutoring in person, tutors arrive around 6:50 and, if they are working with the same learner they've worked with before, they review their learner's file and select materials from the Center library.  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 prepare 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.

When we tutor online, we adjust the schedule in this way:

  1. Tutors join our Zoom community session with other tutors shortly before 7.  The manager and lead tutor tell each tutor which learner is assigned to them for the evening and suggest materials to be used (we hope to keep learner and tutor pairs or small groups together all semester).  We have a good online library of materials that tutors can use.
  2. At about 7:15, each tutor is placed in a private breakout room to prepare the lesson. 
  3. Meanwhile, the adult learners are gathering with the staff.  At 7:30, each learner will be placed in the breakout room with the tutor who has been assigned.  Tutors and learners always spend a few minutes talking and getting to know each other (introducing themselves at the first session in an ice breaker session, just catching up with each other afterward), and then the tutor will begin the lesson. 
  4. At about 8:15, the manager tells tutors and learners that they may want to take a break.  After this, everyone resumes tutoring. 
  5. Shortly before 9, the managers ask the tutors to bring their sessions to a close.  Tutors say good-bye to their learner, thank the learner for coming, and then join the rest of the tutors to prepare the written session report on the evening’s activities. 
  6. By 9:30, everyone should be finished, submit their session report to the manager, and will sign out of Zoom. 


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 may have a clear idea of what they would like to learn or what skills they need to focus 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 a lower priority.

If we do not have enough learners on a given evening, tutors will be asked if they wish to join a session with another tutor.  Observing a session has proven to be an excellent way for a tutor to gain insight into different methods of tutoring.  If that is not an option, then a for-credit tutor will be given other tasks for the LC and volunteers can return home or leave the Zoom session.

We usually have more learners than tutors, but sometimes, especially early in the semester, close to holidays, and near the end of the semester, we may have fewer learners than tutors. 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 volunteer tutors are asked if they would like to return home or leave the session or stay and observe another tutoring group.  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 another week, and then have the learner return. For-credit tutors are asked to observe another tutor-learner pair if they do not have a learner on a specific evening or asked to perform some task for the Center.  Volunteers can return home or leave the session on that evening if there is no learner available.

If you are ill or are unable to tutor for another reason, please email  literacy@luc.edu as soon as you can so we are able to make other arrangements for your learner.  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 or make the time to join on Zoom, 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 we are tutoring in person and 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 9:00 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 and beginner 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 document 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.