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the lazy person's guide to being a good tutor

Page history last edited by Fernanda Rodrigues 7 years, 7 months ago

This is just a first brain-dump. please feel free to edit or add!


It's tempting to leave this page blank, because a lazy person wouldn't bother to create a wiki page on how to be a tutor. A lazy person doesn't spend any time on unnecessary tasks. That's what makes them efficient.


It seems that a lot of people who could be tutors don't want to be, because they think it will take up too much of their precious time. This page is intended to give our hints and tips on how to spend as little time and effort on being a tutor, in order to encourage more people to give it a try.


Being a tutor earns you points which you can then spend on conversations with your own tutors or on having your writing corrected. If you are a Basic member you can easy earn points equivalent to being a Plus or Premium member, through holding a few conversations a week.


To become a tutor you need to:


  • Ask LingQ support to set you up as a tutor in your native language.
  • Get Skype installed on your computer. It's a free download from http://www.skype.com/ 
  • Buy a headset (you can use speakers and a stick microphone if you work in a quiet place).
  • Figure out how to use Skype.
  • Offer some conversations. One-on-one conversations are easier to start with, hosting a group conversation takes a little more practice.
  • You don't need a webcam unless you want to use one (and you can't use them in group conversations anyway).


Tips on making tutoring easy:

  • When someone signs up for a conversation with you, add them to your Skype contacts list. You may or may not be able to Skype them if they are not a contact, but it will make it much easier to find them again for the next time they sign up.
  • Have a quick look at their profile before you talk to them if it's their first time with you. It puts newbies at their ease if you can say "I've been to [their hometown[! What a great place to live!"
  • Introduce yourself, ask them to introduce themselves. Check how they pronounce their name.
  • Buy yourself a notebook. Use one page for each conversation, this gives plenty of doodling room. Make a note of who you talk to, when, and for how long. Keep short notes or doodles about the conversation while you are talking. People like  you to remember what they talked about last time, and if you have talked to 20 people since then, being able to flick back through a note book helps.
  • You want the student to talk as much as possible, this makes your life easier as well as making the student feel good. Get them talking about their interests, then you have time to make notes on the conversation report and in your notebook.
  • Remember that people do not sign up for a first conversation with you because you are a good tutor, They don't know if you are any good untill they talk to you two or three times. They sign up because you speak their native language, or because you are their age and gender. Maybe you just look interesting. If you don't fill in your profile page, how will they know?
  • Students do not want their tutors to correct all their mistakes. They want to feel good about learning their target language. They want an interesting conversation with a native, and to feel a sense of achievement that they were able to have that conversation. They like feedback to be specific and personal. If you give it during the conversation then it gives the student time to respond. About 9 minutes into a one-on-one is a good time to say: "Well, you clearly understand me, you express yourself well, your accent is good [etc etc]". When pointing out what they are weak at it's good to say why you think they are weak and how they can improve. eg: "You speak well but have trouble understanding me. Maybe my accent is unfamiliar to you? If so I can recommend some listening practice which should help."
  • Write the conversation report DURING the conversation and send it IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS. If you don't you will get a huge backlog of half-written reports. I speak from experience.
  • Don't correct people DURING the conversation unless you want to put them off what they are saying. (Someone is bound to disagree with me on this one!)
  • Keep your timetable simple or YOU WILL FORGET TUTORIALS. You can book up a month at a time very easily on the sign-up page. Doing the same timeslots each day for at least a month helps you keep track of when you are "on".
  • It is really easy to forget when you have offered one-on-one sessions. They don't show up on your Tutor Home page until they are taken. It helps to block out your time (e.g. Thursday evenings from 6pm to 8pm) and to make at least one of these slots a group conversation. These show up on your Tutor Home page even when no-one has signed up, and will help you to remember that you are "on" on Thursday evenings.
  • When you decide to try offering group conversations, remember they can be 30 minutes (2 students), 45 minutes (3 students) or 60 minutes (4 students). They don't have to start or end exactly on the hour. You can do 11.15 to 11.45 if that suits you.
  • Give each group conversation a title. You can give a topic and ask the students to do some preparation beforehand (eg study a lesson from the library). Or you can call every conversation "General conversation" and do no preparation at all.,
  • If you forget a conversation that you were supposed to be hosting apologise sincerely (you have wasted someone's time), give them an interesting excuse and offer to reschedule at their comvenience. This is easier for everyone than them claiming their points back from LingQ.
  • If you are sick, CANCEL ALL YOUR LESSONS for the day. Don't drag  yourself out of bed, and anyway if you are feverish you are likely to forget a conversation. LingQ sends the students an automatic cancellation e-mail and refund their points. If you are up to it, write an apologetic e-mail to your students and tell them you are ill.
  • If a student contacts you to say they won't be able to make their one-one-one because they are ill, it is a nice touch to cancel the lesson for them. This refunds their points for them. (You can't cancel one member of a group conversation, if a student can't attend you just have to carry on without them and they lose those points).


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