Planning for Tutoring

Planning for Tutoring

Our basic approach is to meet a learner at his or her point of need. You might help the learner with their reading and literacy by tutoring with a book or through homework or class assignments. Some learners need more general help with reading so it makes sense for the tutor to pick books to use or it may be that the learner needs help in comprehending math word problems, the science textbook or social studies vocabulary (content area material that usually comes from school).  Whatever the text or material, ReadWriteServe has developed an approach to planning tutoring sessions that is structured but flexible enough to accommodate most contexts including different kinds of texts, learner needs or the age or developmental level of the learner.

Most tutoring can be broken into this simple framework:

  • Before Reading & Learning: what takes place before a reader reads or learner learns and things tutors can do to help before reading and learning begins
  • During Reading & Learning: what takes place while a reader reads or learner learns and things tutors can do to help while reading and learning begins
  • After Reading & Learning: what takes place after a reader reads or learner learns and things tutors can do to help after reading and learning begins
Tutoring, Part 1 Tutoring, Part 2

The chart below provides a description of the framework and examples of tutoring strategies that tutors can use.

A Framework for Tutoring

Instructional Sequence Pre-reading & Learning  Rationale
Before Reading & Learning Pre-reading & Learning

To establish purpose, activate background knowledge, motivate & engage learner.

Pre-reading activities

  • Previewing a book: Book Walk or Picture Talk
  • KWL
  • Talk about the subject or text
During Reading & Learning



Scaffold reading and learning. Make learning active.

During-reading activities

  • Shared reading: Choral or Part Reading
  • Reread for fluency
  • Say Something
  • Think Pair Share
  • Double Entry Journal
After Reading & Learning Post reading & Learning

To extend and elaborate ideas from the text

Post-reading activities

  • Retellings and discussion
  • Journaling
  • Concept Maps
  • Mini-lessons (teaching concepts & strategies)

Planning for a Successful Tutoring Session

Our basic approach to tutoring is simple but requires planning. It includes planning for what happens before reading and learning, during reading and learning and after reading and learning takes place. Our lesson plan follows this format (pre, during, post)--that's the structure. It requires that tutors think about what their learner needs--that's the flexibility. You can download our lesson plan as a word document and as a pdf.

Below we share specific strategies and tutoring ideas to use with learners at different developmental points in time (emergent, intermediate, or older). 

Typical Activities in a Lesson (by age and ability level)

Typical Activities in a Lesson word document and pdf

 Instructional Sequence   

Emergent Reader or Learner

(grades K-2)  

Intermediate Reader or Learner

(grades 3-5 or 6)    

Older Reader or Learner

(grades 6-12)  

Before Reading & Learning

To establish purpose, activate background knowledge, motivate & engage learner.

Book Walk or Picture Talk

Make predictions


Ask about topic

Make predictions

Talk about the subject or text

Preread chapter headings and images

Make predictions

During Reading & Learning

Guided reading and learning. Make learning active.

Choral or Part Reading

Reread for fluency

Use Say Something

Verify predictions

Talk about the text

Make notes in the text using Sticky Notes

Use Say Something

Verify predictions

Talk about the text

Use Think Pair Share

Use Double Entry Journal

Use Say Something

After Reading & Learning

To extend and elaborate ideas from the text

Retellings and discussion

Mini-lessons Ideas:

Practice Sight Words

Word families, word sorts

Text makes sense discussion

Dictating Stories (LEA)

Concept Maps

Mini-lessons Ideas:

Practice Vocabulary Words


Mini-lessons Ideas:

Practice Vocabulary Words

Description of Lesson Activities

 Lesson  Activities


Book Walk or Picture Talks

Tutors guide students through a book by looking at the cover, title page, and pictures in the book. Point out a few key words and ask the learner questions like, “What do you think is going on in the book?” and “What do you think will happen?” During the guided reading and learning session (the heart of the tutoring process), the tutor can check with the learner to confirm predictions.
Guided Reading & Learning Guided reading and learning are at the heart of tutoring. This is a process in which the tutor supports the learner by sharing and modeling various reading and learning strategies (for comprehension, vocabulary, fluency, decoding, etc.). Although guided reading has been traditionally associated with primary grades it can be modified and used successfully in all grade levels. For example, older students may need to learn new strategies to understand how to read an information book in a way that is going to give them access to the information they are seeking.

Dictating Stories or Language Experience Approach (LEA)

 This is a simple but powerful tutoring strategy in which the tutor has the learner tell a short story or relate an experience. The tutor writes down the story JUST AS THE LEARNER TELLS IT including any variations or errors in language. If possible the tutor types it up just as it was dictated. Then the tutor has the learner read the story and uses it in guided reading. The learner will likely make modifications to the story and corrections. This is a great way to connect oral and written language. LEA is powerful with ELL students, adolescents and adults.

Word families & word sorts

There are two types of word sorts: closed and open. In closed word sorts the tutor defines the process for categorizing the words. This requires learners to engage in critical thinking as they examine sight vocabulary, corresponding concepts, or word structure. In open word sorts the learner determines how to categorize the words, thereby becoming involved in an active manipulation of words. Word can be sorted alphabetically, by prefixes and roots, or by part of speech.
Sight Words Sight words are the most frequently used words in English and often, their spelling is not straightforward. Therefore, we want learners to memorize these, not sound them out. Sight words include familiar words like colors and numbers and common words like: the, many, some, mother, friend, big, a, down, find, make, ring, car, please, ran. You can search the web for lists of sight words, commonly referred to as Dolch Sight Words. Flash cards are great tools for working on sight words.
Strategies There are many tools for helping teach vocabulary and comprehension. Strategies like Double-entry Journal and using sticky notes to annotate a text are helpful to struggling learners. They require the learner to think about what they are reading and to keep a record of that. KWL and Say Something are excellent for guided reading and tapping into prior knowledge (comprehension) while strategies like vocabulary cards help teach new concepts. Strategies are tools for guiding or scaffolding learning.

Examples of Lesson Plans

Below are three examples of lesson plans. Take note of the lesson plan format (pre, during and post) and the notes that tutors took as they worked with these learners. 

Example 1: this example of a lesson plan is for Sam, a 7th grade student who needs help with reading and learning in social studies. 

Example 2: in this lesson plan example, we look at Rachel, a 3rd grade student whose specific need is help in reading.

Example 3: this lesson plan is an example for Jose, a 9th grade student struggling to comprehend math word problems. 


  1. Tutors should plan for each lesson but the plan is flexible and subject to change during the tutoring session. For example, if as a tutor you plan a tutoring session focused on guided reading of a book (guiding your learner as he or she reads a book), but your learner brings in an assignment from class that needs immediate attention, it's okay to work on the assignment. School work is still an opportunity to tutor. The only thing that has really changed is the text. 
  2. Planning for a session doesn't need to take long--often just a few minutes. It's a good idea to take time at the end of a tutoring session to plan the next session. That's a great time because things are fresh in your mind like what words the learner may have struggled with (that can be taught), sight words missed, issues with comprehension or fluency. Often planning for the next session builds on what has already taken place.