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5 Tips for a Successful First Tutoring Session with a New Student

Whether you give away the first lesson free or not, it’s vital to make a good impression on a new student and their parents. Here are the 5 things you need to know for a strong start.

1. Make sure you get as much information as possible beforehand. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to speak to the parents before you meet. If so, find out what the student struggles with, what they are interested in and what are their goals for initiating tutoring. It’s extremely helpful if they bring their school books to the session so that you can find out where they’re up to and what their teacher is saying to them. 

2. Be prompt, professional and present yourself smartly.

Tutoring is based on trust: with the parent and with the student. You will make the process of trust-building much easier if you look serious. Investing in a tutor is a big commitment for most families, and they will be sizing you up to see if you’re worth it. In truth, it can take 6 or more sessions before you really see progress with a student. So in the meantime, indicate that you are a capable and motivated tutor by looking and acting the part.

3. Sit side-by-side, not face-to-face.

We’ve noticed that in-person tutorials are much more comfortable when you sit alongside the student, maybe looking inside a book together, rather than across a table, which can be quite intense. With online tutoring, you may want to have a document up instead of, or at the same time as, the view of you and your student. Otherwise, the face-to-face element of a skype or zoom tutoring session can be even more intense than an in-person session.

4. The first session must be an informal assessment.

By assessing the student you can plan effectively for future sessions. When assessing, you’re trying to ascertain the student’s knowledge of the subject, level of skill in the subject and level of confidence. This last one is key to your future success, so build in lots of opportunities to praise the student from early on. Note: assessments needn’t be formal. You can chat, play a game or go through the books to find out most of what you need to know to get started.

5. Over-prepare.

It’s always a good idea to have an extra 20 minutes of activities up your sleeve, but in the first lesson this could make all the difference. Try to find some open-ended games with plenty of scope for making it easier or more challenging as you work. It’s important that at the end of the session the student feels they gained something and enjoyed your company. You want them to say to their parents: “Yeah, he’s great.”

The first session is known to be the hardest, but by following these five simple steps, you can turn it from a challenge to a pleasure. If you have any tips to share with the community, please do so in the comments below!

Julia Silver
Passionate about unlocking learning, Julia launched Qualified Tutor to enable tutors to improve outcomes for all our students. Julia is Senior Leader in a primary school in London, has been tutoring for fifteen years and has children ranging in age from 4 to 14.