I have been doing a good amount of tutoring of late, high school students wanting to have a better understanding of what is going on in French class, for the most part. During last summer I tutored a girl who was so motivated that she worked with me and skipped freshman year French classes and went straight into Intermediate French classes at Northwestern. She was amazing, had studied Spanish in high school and started Italian in her first year of college, transferring right after that. She worked it out with the professors and passed her oral and written exams to get right in the program.
Tutoring is an interesting situation. It is so easy when students are truly motivated and energized. In many instances, however, I am called upon to help them reach that point.
It is particularly hard when the students don’t have the willingness and desire to do the memorization. I spend a lot of time giving them devices to remember vocabulary. I try to have them visualize situations that might make it easier to remember vocabulary. I help them relate the words to their counterparts in English, when possible, something which may not be easy if their English vocabulary isn’t as rich as it could be.
Last week, in a particularly interesting vocabulary acquisition case, I had the young tutee actually stand up and walk around the room as I had her chanting things like the numbers (which she was having trouble with) and with verb conjugations. It really gets the blood going and helps them retain what they have learned.
I give them special rules which need to be memorized and I tell them why that is so. I truly try to clarify the concepts they have been given in the classroom but have not conquered, for whatever reason. I try to organize and streamline the information to make it easier to acquire.
When I tutor, I always take a laptop or my iPad with me so that I can take notes during the session and then e-mail the notes to them afterwards for some sort of permanent record. This may include assignments of both oral and written variety. My favorite aspect of it all, geek that I am, is my ability to use accents when I type, and I just found out that I can use all of the accents on the iPad keyboard I purchased!
More often than not, the addition of the tutoring session to what is going on in the classroom helps immensely.
I remind them that it is very important that they figure out their individual learning styles. Some people need to write out notes to acquire the concepts, others need just hear it, still others need to type it. Determining the personal learning style is helpful not only to the French acquisition, but for other classes as well.
I also tell them that some of the means by which I try to help them remember are quite silly. Frankly, the sillier the better when it comes to learning grammar and vocabulary. In the end the goal is to be able to learn material faster and thus get better grades while economizing time. While doing all this I always like to inject bits and pieces of culture as it could well be the carrot that entices them to do better and continue.