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Listening -Summarizing

Updated: Apr 9

Our July 2023 Tutor Talks featured two volunteers sharing their experiences with their students. The ensuing discussion focused on two themes I wanted to share.

"Listen to Your Client"

Although daunting to begin tutoring a student without the structure of a standardized curriculum, one of our tutors shared that he soon realized the true benefits of letting his student's needs dictate session content. This tutor, a psychologist by training, found himself using his listening skills as a tool to guide how he worked with his student.

The journalist Larry King (z"l) is quoted as saying, “I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”

Listening is a critical tool you can use to inform how you structure session content, approach, and emphasis to benefit your students. Listening will help you know when to push, when to expand on a topic, when to back off and perhaps return later to a topic or grammatical issue you believe is important to your student's English improvement.

Your relationship with your student is of primary importance, so we recommend taking a "soft" approach to corrections. For example, a tutor suggested that she makes "gentle corrections" based on notes she takes during her conversation with her student. Then she listens to where her student is open to such corrections and where he is not! For example, her student shared that he was open to being corrected on grammar and idioms but not to corrections related to pronunciation/accent.

If you believe that some aspect of your student's spoken English would be detrimental to being understood, then you can certainly raise the issue and explore if and how your student might feel comfortable working with you on a particular issue. One of our tutors with professional English as a Second Language experience shared, some students have "fossilized" errors in their English. We can sometimes build confidence in English fluency by addressing those fossilized errors with some targeted and useful grammatical corrections.

Summarizing and Sharing Back With Your Student

We recommend providing students with a summary of the learning session as a tool to extend the learning process. But what does that mean in practice?

  • What does a summary need to include?

  • Is it necessary to send a summary of every session?

  • Is there a "right" format for the summary?

As with most English B'Yachad structures, we don't require or prescribe any one approach but always want to provide suggestions that can inform your work with your students.

  • Summarizing new vocabulary, including phonetic pronunciation can be very useful. One tutor uses voice memos to record her pronunciation of vocabulary and sends the short recordings to her student through WhatsApp

  • You are the best judge as to whether a session summary, however brief, is necessary as some sessions may not lend themselves to any follow-up

  • Share links used to material from your session. Your student may wish to return to a particular reading or website you used during your work together. Sending the links in a brief email or WhatsApp message provides a reminder of the content covered and enables your student to review such content independently

  • Follow-up summaries are likely most useful when brief. You can format the message to make it easily readable through the generous use of spacing or using bold or underlining for emphasis

  • Depending upon your student's style and needs, you can suggest that the student take notes during the session. This approach may work better for more advanced students and help them with writing in English as well as reinforcing their role in the learning process

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