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Tutor Tip of the Month

Making the Most of New Year’s Literacy Resolutions

Many of us start a new year with our best intentions. This is the year, we tell ourselves, that we will follow through and achieve our goals. As many of us know from our own experience, we have to utilize this inspired energy and intention and get a jump on those intentions right from the start, before distractions appear.

Researchers have found that it takes about three weeks (21 days) to change or create a habit. If we stick with something for this relatively short amount of time, it will be part of our lives and the struggle to follow the practice is reduced or removed. This can be very encouraging when sit at January 1st with 52 weeks stretching ahead of us.

What can this mean for your tutoring sessions? Discuss with your learner a goal and then find smaller steps to realizing it.

A few examples:

  1. Making time to practice/study each day: Many learners have little free time between work, family, and community commitments. Carving out a few minutes per day on a consistent basis for reading, writing, or spelling practice can be a challenge. If learners find that they cannot make time because they are watching their children, find ways to involve the children in the practice. While fixing dinner, they can practice spelling the ingredients or reading recipes. If the child is school-age, the parent can have the child practice reading aloud (very good for the child’s literacy development) and follow along in the book or on the paper.

  2. Spelling: Would the learner like to build his or her spelling skills? Practicing five to ten minutes per day will help him or her on the way. He or she can pick a short newspaper article every day that looks interesting and make it a practice to underline words that are not familiar, looking them up, and keeping the words that strike him or her the most in a vocabulary notebook. More advanced spellers can make doing the puzzles in the newspaper a daily ritual. Saving the previous day’s crossword puzzles and looking at them with the answers in hand is valuable practice for learning expressions and phrases.

  3. Gaining confidence speaking: Does your learner become shy when he or she needs to ask a question in public? Does he or she avoid situations where speaking with strangers is required? Start with making simple, short interactions part of the daily routine. For example, greeting the bus driver when boarding in the morning is a first step. Exchanging a few words with the checkout clerk can also be very brief. Make it a habit to speak to someone every day.

As you can see, finding a way to create a habit is a creative project. If one method doesn’t work, discuss the obstacles and find a new method to try that addresses or avoids these obstacles.

After Day One, keep on for twenty more!


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