First Meetings

Meeting the Learner

Many of us know the expression first impressions count. That certainly holds true for the first meeting between a tutor and learner. At the first meeting, the tutor and learner need to get to know one another. This initial session is an important step towards building a positive rapport that will underlie the tutoring and learning experience. Use this first meeting to:

  • Get to know your learner
  • Establish rapport
  • Begin the process of informal assessment

Below we share some activities we can use to get to know your learner and to begin establishing trust. Remember that this takes time but it it important to build time into the first couple of meetings to build rapport with activities that let the tutor and learner talk and begin to get to know each other.

Ice Breakers

Here are some options to "break the ice" and help you and your student get to know each other.

1. Memory Game: This is a great get -to- know- each- other game. Tell the student that you are going to play a game where you will each talk about yourselves and then see who can remember the most facts about the other person.

  •  Invite the student to tell you at least ten things about her/himself.

         Ex.) "My name is John. I'm in second grade. I have a brother and a sister..."

  • Then tell at least ten things about yourself.

         Ex.) "My name is Ashley. I am a UNC Charlotte student. I'm from South Carolina..."

  •  When you have finished introducing yourselves, each of you write down as many things as you can remember about the other person. (Tutor writes for learner if necessary).
  • When both are finished with your lists, tally up who remembered the most facts.


2. Biopoem: Biopoems are often used in content area literacy because they allow the students to reflect on subject material within a poetic framework. The frame of the biopoems serves as a scaffold for student writing. Biopoems can be written about people, places, concepts, events, and other things, use the biopoem as a form of introduction.


           Line1: First Name

           Line 2: Four traits that describe character

           Line 3: Relative (brother, sisters, daughter, etc.) of _______________

           Line 4: Lover of ________________ (list three things or people)

           Line 5: who feels _______________ (list three things)

           Line 6: Who needs ________________ (list three things)

           Line 7: Who fears ________________ (list three things)

           Line 8: Who gives ________________ (list three things)

           Line 9: who would like to see ________________ (list three things)

           Line 10: Resident of ________________ (list three things)

           Line 11: Last Name ________________ (list three things)                                                                                     


3. People Poem: Use the letters in your name to create an acrostic poem, a poem where ach line begins with a word whose first letter contributes to form a word. For example, Tony and Tanya could write the  following acrostic poems:

 People Poem:

         Tall                                                         Talented

         Outstanding                                         Outspoken

         Nascar fan                                            Nice

         Young adult                                          Yankee fan


Each word tells something about the person and the first letter of each line spells his/her name. Here is another example that can be found on page 7 of the tutoring handbook.


Informal Student Interview:

Gain background information about your student and learn about his/her interests and attitudes by interviewing him/her. These are suggested questions and not a script.

Here are some questions to guide you:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Who are your friends? What activities do you like to do with your friends?
  3. What do you usually do after school?
  4. Tell me about your favorite subject in school. Why is it your favorite? Which is your least favorite and why?
  5. Do you have a special place where you study at home? Tell me about it.
  6. Do you belong to any clubs at school or outside of school? What are they?
  7. What do you do on the weekends?
  8. What are some things you really like to do? (hobbies, lessons, sports, etc.) What are you good at?
  9. How much homework do you have on a typical school night? Does anyone help you with your homework ?
  10. How do you feel about reading? Do you consider yourself a good reader or a not-so-good reader? (If good, ask: What has helped you become a good reader? If not-so-good, ask: What causes someone to be a not-so-good reader?)
  11. What kinds of books do you like? (If none, ask: if you had a choice of selecting a book about any topic, what would you choose to read about?)
  12. Do you like to write? (What kind of writing do you like to do?)
  13. How will knowing how to read and write help you in the future?

Interviewing Tips:

  • Be relaxed.
  • Keep the information you collect confidential and tell that to the student.
  • To prompt for additional information, follow up with: "Tell me more about that" or "Why do you think that is that way"? However, don't be pushy.
  • Don't read the questions like a script. Make this a conversation.


NOTE: Ice breakers and get-to-know you activities are also forms of informal assessment. As we get to know our learners, we get to know about their needs and interests. For example, we can find out if they like to read and what kinds of books they enjoy. We can learn about their interests so that as we select books or other materials to read, we can choose books most like to interest our learners.