Tips from Tutors and Teachers

Tips from Tutors and Teachers

It is back to school and back to the books. We asked local tutors and teachers for some ideas to help children be successful students.

My kids used to ask me for help with their homework, but soon learned that I’m not the best one to ask. (I have no patience.) So how can I help them with their homework, take-home projects and upcoming tests? I asked Upper Valley tutors and teachers their tips to make students successful, and here is what they shared.
— Laura Jean Whitcomb

If your child has a hard time holding on to more than one thing at a time, try offering just one instruction at a time. If it is a routine task, once the child has mastered the first, add a second instruction to it and so forth, so you are “chunking” instructions instead of making them distinct pieces to remember. For example, at home start with asking your child to change into PJs. Then when the child successfully returns dressed in PJs several nights in a row, try adding brush your teeth. When those two steps have been completed successfully together for several nights, you can add another step. The more the steps are tied together as consistent related actions (a routine), the more likely the child will remember them together that way. Center for School Success

Too many parents don’t say what they mean and mean what they say — and children know this. Children feel much more secure (and avoid learning manipulation skills) when they know they can trust their parents to follow through with dignity and respect. — Newport Montessori School

The purpose for reading is to learn from the passage, chapter, book, article. But many students struggle to get through how to read the words on the page; they give up on what they are reading about. Technology has brought us far, and listening to books is enjoyable and easy. Downloading books onto phones, tablets and iPods is quick, easy and often free. Encourage students to “follow along” with the printed text to learn pacing and intonation skills. — Stern Center for Language and Learning

Study using the format in which the test will be given. If it is an essay test, encourage a child to practice writing out his/her responses on paper. If it is an oral test, practice making responses out loud. If it is an open book test, practice ways to find information quickly or writing down key facts and terms on a reference sheet. In math, if a child will be asked to show his/her work practice, completing problems that way. Why? Because the brain has a way of ‘tricking’ you into believing you know information when maybe you don’t. The only way you will know is to practice showing what you know in the format you will be tested. — Center for School Success

Believe it or not, we actually can learn when we are sleeping. The brain files incoming information all day long in the equivalent of an “in basket.” Then when you are asleep, all that information is consolidated into memory in the order it was taken in. So, if a child studies math facts or spelling words or definitions right before bed (usually no more than 10 minutes), that information is at the top of the basket and will be consolidated last. The amount of sleep a child gets will depend how many times that information will be repeatedly consolidated in memory. A typical child who sleeps nine hours could have five to six sleep cycles (1.5 hours each) in which information is reinforced in memory. — Center for School Success

Use sticky notes or index cards to arrange ideas for a writing assignment or project timeline. Then you can easily move them around and find the right flow before committing time to the actual task of writing. — Center for School Success

Embed essential Executive Function (EF) skills — time management, planning and prioritizing, task initiation — into every lesson. Our EF skills help us plan our hour, our day, our week and beyond. The part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) in which EF lives does not fully develop until we reach our early-mid 20s, so many of our children, adolescents and young adults are still learning how to properly plan for major assignments and daily living requirements.

Work with students to develop strategies and skills to plan and prioritize larger assignments, how to organize their time and materials to get daily homework completed, and even how to get started when there is just so much to do. Look at larger assignments and work with students and their paper or digital calendar to establish due dates for smaller parts of the project. Then act as a coach, checking in with the student and reminding them to review their plans. — Stern Center for Language and Learning

Stop doing for children what they can do for themselves. For example, sometimes it’s easier for a parent to put the outfit for the day on the child or to make their bed or to take care of dishes after a meal. Children can do these tasks for themselves. Allowing them the opportunity to take the time it may take them (versus an experienced adult) and the way they may do them (the bed does not need to bounce a coin on it to be considered a made bed) will go a long way to fostering independence in your child. — Newport Montessori School

Over the past 15 years the Center for School Success (CSS) has worked with thousands of school-aged children and patterns have certainly emerged regarding strategies that give the biggest return with children of all ages. CSS is dedicated to helping students who struggle with learning achieve measurable success in school and in life, and promotes this success through a community model of collaborative support among individual students, their parents, teachers and health care providers. Learn more at

The Newport Montessori School is an approved nonprofit nonpublic school open to students ages 2.5 to 14 (prekindergarten through 8th grade). Newport Montessori has just completed its 12th year of operation and is proud to have worked with 17 teachers and 81 students in this most recent school year. The school offers traditional Montessori curriculum with specials, including music, Spanish, art and physical education at all levels. Learn more at

Since 1983, the Stern Center for Language and Learning has worked with learners to help them reach their academic, social and professional goals. We provide research-based learning evaluations and customized instruction for all students, including those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, language disorders, social learning challenges, autism, attention deficit disorders and learning differences. Learn more at

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