Instruction: Session Content

Quality Standard

High-Quality Instructional Materials: The program uses high-quality instructional materials that are user-friendly, rigorous, and research-based.

Critical Questions

  • What academic content will tutoring sessions focus on?
  • What materials will tutors use to deliver the academic content?
  • What are the instructional materials students use during the day?
  • Are there supplemental instructional materials aligned with the curriculum students use during the school day?
  • Are these materials standards-based? Do they meet grade-level rigor? Are they culturally responsive and sustaining?
  • Who is the instructional leader of the tutoring program that can help evaluate these materials?

Implementation Checklist

  • If accessible, review curricula and materials being used by students during the day.
  • If materials used in the classroom are standards-based, meet grade level rigor, and culturally responsive and sustaining, work with the instructional leader of your program and in partnership with your local school/district to seek opportunities to use classroom supplemental materials for tutoring.
    • If you don’t have the option of using the classroom supplemental materials, work with the instructional leader of your program to source or develop materials aligned to the content and materials being used during the day.
    • Review page 28 of the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-SE) Framework to identify inclusive curriculum and assessment.
  • If additional materials for tutoring sessions need to be sourced or developed, work with the instructional leader of your program and in partnership with the local school or district to ensure tutoring materials are high-quality, maintain rigor, and complement classroom materials to support student mastery.
    • Find guidance in sourcing or developing early literacy tutoring materials here and for sourcing math tutoring material here.
  • Focus session content of targeted learning goals informed by grade level standards, assessment data, and family and school input.
  • Provide tutors with a consistent session structure that includes space for relationship-building, independent practice time, and formative assessment.
  • If Student-Tutor Ratio is Small Groups: Use data in collaboration with the school to form purposeful, flexible small groups based on content needs.

Implementation Tools

From Existing Resources:

Key Insights

Provide tutors with a comprehensive curriculum to follow so that any tutor, even a substitute or a tutor on their first day in the role, can pick up a session plan and lead that session effectively.

  • While some tutoring programs may choose to develop their own curriculum, it is not necessary to start from scratch. Programs can adopt standards-aligned, rigorous instructional materials (or even entire curricula) for tutors to adapt to fit their students’ needs. Curriculum and/or curricular recommendations may also come from the students’ schools and/or districts.
  • If you choose to develop your own curriculum, finish designing the entire curriculum before the first tutoring session starts and align with relevant standards.
  • Whether curriculum is developed or adopted, ensure traditionally marginalized voices are included to reflect diverse perspectives as well as provide opportunities for students to critically examine topics on power and privilege.
    • For example, on p. 27 of the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-SE) Framework:
      • Provide opportunities for students to critically examine topics of power and privilege. These can be planned project-based learning initiatives, instructional activities embedded into the curriculum, or discussion protocols used in response to inequity that occurs in the school and/or classroom.
      •  Incorporate current events, even if they are controversial, into instruction. Utilize tools (prompting discussion questions, Socratic seminar, conversation protocols) that encourage students to engage with difficult topics (power, privilege, access, inequity) constructively.
  • In most cases, tutors’ planning time is most effectively spent on optimizing implementation, selecting examples, and building deep knowledge of how to tutor, not on creating resources themselves.

Use a tutoring curriculum that complements students’ classroom curriculum.

  • If classroom materials are strong, your program should leverage these materials to plan session content. This alignment ensures that tutors are reinforcing the academic language and models of the classroom to support student learning. You may still opt to use a different curriculum than the classroom your program serves. Regardless of the materials, tutors will want to focus on addressing students’ underlying needs, not keeping pace with the classroom work. However, the curriculum and materials that tutors use should align with the relevant standards, and you should sequence sessions to support the work students do in their classrooms.
  • OST programs may partner with their local school district to hire teachers and leaders to offer training on the curriculum the district uses for tutors. This supports curricular alignment and takes some of the burden for curriculum professional development off of the OST program alone.

Tutors specify clear learning goals for each session.

  • Both the tutor and the student need to be able to articulate the goal at every point in the session, and both need to be able to evaluate whether they have reached it by the end.
  • Narrowing the focus of a session to a specific subtopic (e.g., decoding skills within literacy, or sourcing skills within writing) is an effective way to build in a steady stream of small victories that boost student (and tutor) morale and improve outcomes.

Tutors personalize sessions to meet an individual student’s needs.

  • Student productivity and growth increase if the tutor can identify the missing or incomplete skills that are holding a student back and focus remediation and acceleration on those specific skills.
  • Leverage data from informal and formal assessments to help identify and target specific skill needs for particular students. Ask students themselves what areas are challenging.
  • Ask students to share their learning styles with tutors as a way to meet students’ individual needs.

Tutors focus personalized sessions on acceleration and include remediation when necessary.

  • While students may need remediation on missing foundational skills, they will also need support to learn how to apply those skills to new, grade-level concepts to accelerate their learning going forward. Tutors must maintain a balance between the remediation and acceleration with each student.
  • Connect instructional content with the lives of students by using culturally-specific examples that tap into their existing interests and knowledge.