Good struggle

I’ve been tutoring young students for over a year and with each new student, I gain more knowledge about how to tutor and how to make the most of the hour I spend with each student.

One thing I’ve noticed in some of the students I tutor is the lack of decoding skills when encountering a new word. Most of the time, a student will either substitute a similar word, or attempt to sound out, but give up too quickly. It’s hard as a tutor to allow a bit of struggle (at first) because a good tutor knows that there’s a fine line between struggle and frustration. And it takes some time to help a student unlearn the fear of struggle and instead to face the struggle a little bit at a time.

It’s in the struggle that a student can gain confidence. But, in order to face the struggle, a student must first be taught how to use strategies for decoding. One way I found to teach strategies is to deconstruct words. I show a student a “difficult” word and show them how to divide by syllables or to see if there are any pre-fixes or suffixes. But also, it helps to use pieces of nonsense words to practice sounding out. Like putting consonants and vowels together and saying letter sound by letter sound. P-r-o….or f-l-a…

I am encouraged when a student pronounces, even incorrectly a difficult word. This is okay and should be encouraged. Sometimes when a student does this, I say, “hmmm… try that again,” or I say, “Does that sound like a word you know? And other times, I encourage a student to re-read the sentence and when the word is reached again, the word can often be decoded by combining the meaning of the sentence with the decoding. When I reach this point with a student, I’ve met my goal of reaching what I call, good struggle.

Good struggle is facing, without too much fear or frustration, something that is hard with increasing confidence. Once I see a student reach this point, I introduce books at the instructional level. I define this a book in which a child is interested in reading, but also expected to run into some unfamiliar words, but not too many that meaning gets lost in the struggle.

I may clarify this post at a later date or update it as I work on this goal my students. For now, and always, thanks for reading.

~Peace in the struggle.




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