A blog for tutors to share their ideas, experiences, and insights.

Tag Archives: the tutor

I liked this form of blogging. I had started my own blog on wordpress over the summer so I was used to the format and felt more comfortable writing in this atmosphere. I feel like I express more of what is on my mind through a blog. In a class full of people I know, I might be a little more quiet or more careful of what I say. On a blog I don’t fully know who my audience is other than that they’re college students, I feel like there’s more freedom on here. Although I know our professors will be looking at this, it doesn’t feel like big brother is watching. Therefore, my tone for blogging is just how I think. However, I still feel the need to write slightly formal.

I liked that this gave us an opportunity to talk to students from other campuses in a similar class. We were able to hear different opinions and have discussions through the comments. It was like Peer Tutors 2.0 being able to connect with other writing centers. It would be neat if we could actually see the other classes through something like Skype and have a class discussion that way. However, this could be better because then everyone would get a chance to talk.

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When tutoring ESL students, you should always keep in mind not to take anything for granted. Most importantly though, just because someone speaks with an accent, does not necessarily mean they don’t have a firm grasp on the English language and assuming so could be quite insulting. What you might consider common practice or common knowledge could be completely new or unnatural to non native speakers. When working with native English speakers, you can assume that the writer knows what a thesis statement is, that they know what a paragraph basically looks like, and the connotation of cultural idioms. However, with non native speakers none of this can be assumed. To no fault of their own, the non native speakers might not have this information. Writing structures are not universal and can be quite puzzling for some students. Different cultures think in different ways and therefore they express themselves in different ways.

In order for these students to write successfully in America, they need to be tutored on higher level concerns rather and lower level concerns. These students need to understand not only the vocabulary and grammar style in America, but the conventions and nuances of American rhetoric. Asking the student where they would want to start or what aspect of their writing they feel most uncomfortable with can help you prioritize your session. You only have a certain time limit and only focusing on grammar or only focusing on theme might not necessarily be the most productive.

I would recommend not trying to correct every mistake they make. They may feel self-conscious about writing, and even speaking, in another language and dominating the session or “fixing” their every mistake may discourage them from continuing their writing. One helpful tip might be to point out certain sections of the paper and focus on those. Having the student take notes to resort back to while revising this paper and/or working on future assignments could be quite helpful as well. As with any tutoring session, building rapport is important. However, upholding self confidence, bridging cultural differences, and potentially decreasing shame are challenges that can be unique to ESL tutoring sessions.


Today, I went to the Writing Studio at Duke for the first time. I wasn’t alone. There were at least three other students in the studio with me, waiting for other appointments. I met with a writing tutor and as we sat down, she first had me read my paper aloud. What I really value about Duke’s Writing Studio is that it is not meant for quick fixes or only a resource for students struggling with their writing. Anyone can benefit from the writing studio, and everyone can. In our session, my writing tutor had me discuss my paper. As I talked out my topic and the various anecdotes I used to highlight my personal writing process, I came to realizations that I hadn’t during my writing process the first time around. She had me taking notes, articulating old ideas in different ways, and coming to my own conclusions about the reorganization my paper needed in order to be more cohesive and clarifying. I benefited greatly from the session as I saw my paper in an entirely different light, and as I left, I wondered why I hadn’t taken advantage of the Writing Studio’s resources sooner. That is the kind of tutor I would like to be. One that does not diminish the student’s writing; rather, one that bolsters the student’s self-confidence and leads them toward self-realization and self-betterment as they reevaluate their own work. I believe that more teachers should emphasize the benefits of the Writing Studio, and encourage their students to visit more often, especially emphasizing that the Writing Studio can benefit even the most skilled writer.

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A picture of the first page of the paper I brought to the writing studio today. The reverse outline she taught me to make is on the side margins, and my own comments are scattered throughout the paper.

A picture of the back of one of the pages of my paper, in which I wrote down a bunch of ideas I had to include in my paper in order to tie my first anecdote in with my second. My tutor got me talking, and once I started I couldn’t stop accumulating more and more ideas to enhance my paper!