How to Smash Every First Tutoring Session

A first tutoring session can be daunting for both the student and the tutor.

Use these 3 strategies to ensure you make a great first impression and come away with the knowledge you need to really help your student fly.


‘All about me’ letters 

I often begin a first session with an ‘All about me’ letter.

This is a great way to start building a relationship whilst assessing the student’s confidence in reading and writing. It also helps me to establish my expectations, and communicate what to expect from the tutoring sessions.

The letter allows me to show some of my personality, and to find out something about theirs. Of course I am strategic about what I share – emphasising my love of reading, and exposing just enough vulnerability to allow them to relate to me as a real person. 

It also shows them that I want to know about them. I have discovered all sorts of important and interesting things from these letters which have become the basis of my planning going forward. 

This initial exchange of letters establishes a give-and-take where both voices are valued.

What a lovely way to start!


Practical Tips for ‘All about me’ letters: 

  • Adapt your style to the context – you could make your letter funny, friendly or formal
  • Open up – I tend to list three of my favourite things and one thing that worries me
  • Establish a learning culture – I like to describe what my goals are for the tutoring sessions. 
  • I have my letter ready in advance and I ask them to write theirs for me during the session. 


High Challenge, Low Threat Activities

You want to find out what your student knows and can do.

Choose a rich, open-ended activity to explore together. Depending on your subject, and the age of your student, this could be a newspaper article to read and discuss, a maths puzzle or just an interesting item to describe (a hat, a boot, a suitcase).


Build in Quick-Wins

Success is the greatest motivator, and failure can be terribly discouraging.

Pitch the work you provide low initially (ie. set work that’s probably a bit too easy) so that your student is likely to do well and begin to associate tutoring with succeeding. 

In KS2 Maths, always start with the easiest times tables (2s, 5s and 10s) before you move on to 4s, 6s and 8s. Only start with 7s and 9s when you’re sure your student is ready to stretch.  


Think Couch to 5k

If you were a personal trainer, you’d build up your client’s strength slowly.

As a tutor, your big goal is to build up your student’s learning muscle. So start with gentle stretches and increase the pitch and pace gradually. You can push and challenge of course, just be careful not to put them off by pushing too hard before you’ve built up trust.


Our 5-Step Plan – Goal, Model, Scaffold, Create, Publish


Catch the podcast, How to Smash Every First Tutoring Session, with Learncube CEO Alex Asher, on Apple, Spotify, Youtube and everywhere else.

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