From Struggling with Grammar to Conversing with Ease: A Journey of Hard Work & Creative Thinking
This student success story features Teacher Margaux's student, Sarah.
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I first started working with Sarah over two years ago. Her parents requested that I specifically focus on grammar with her (both written and verbal), since this is an area she struggles with. They also wanted me to focus on her speaking skills, helping her use more descriptive words and speak for a longer period of time on a certain subject.
During our time together we have worked very hard on these goals.
Today, Sarah can speak at length about various topics that she is familiar with. She is able to hold a conversation and ask questions about topics that are completely new to her. She can correctly use the past, present and future tenses when speaking and writing.
During our written grammar activities, she is more engaged and focused due to the exercises that are specifically catered to her level and her learning needs.
The Story of Sarah
Sarah is a very vibrant and talkative student. Her favorite part of our English classes is when we are able to discuss a variety of topics.
She is a curious student, and is always the first one to ask follow-up questions if she is unfamiliar with a topic or vocabulary word.
She attends an English academy, but it specifically caters to her reading skills. English academy is not her favorite activity, as she is not allowed to be very creative or speak often. She is extremely artistic, often showing me her arts and crafts that she has created. She has shown me paintings, pottery, and miniatures that she has created herself.
This love of art has been essential for our English classes, as I have been able to create activities that combine both crafting and grammar.
Improving Sarah’s Grammar Skills
Sarah wanted me to help her with her grammar skills. This was a difficult task towards the beginning, because she did not enjoy any type of grammar or grammar activity.
She labeled grammar as ‘boring’ and ‘uninteresting’. I could understand her perspective, but there were simply some grammar skills that we needed to address so that she could improve her overall English.
She was making major mistakes in her speech. Incorrect tense or incorrect conjugation of irregular verbs were clearly linked to her unwillingness to practice grammar.
When I learned of her love for art, I decided to find a way to incorporate this into some of our grammar lessons. I thought that this would be a fun and different way to learn about grammar instead of completing a worksheet.
For example, writing sentences (that are grammatically correct) and then drawing a corresponding picture. Another example is having her describe something to me, with as much detail as possible, and I have to draw it.
All of these activities I have specifically selected for Sarah because I know her interests, but they also address the specific grammar mistakes that she was making.
Why Sarah Chose You
I believe that Sarah and her parents selected me as her tutor because of my ability to connect with the student beyond the topics or grammar, reading, and vocabulary.
I think that each of my students is a unique individual, and I love to get to know their personalities and interests. This is so important to me, as it enables me to create a lesson plan that is specifically catered to their needs and their interests.
For example, with Sarah, because I have learned that she is quite creative, we have been able to do grammar and vocabulary activities through arts and crafts. Since I was able to listen to my students' needs and interests, she trusts me as her teacher, and we have a much better relationship and understanding.
There are times where we need to do a more difficult grammar task, but she is a much more willing learner because she knows I am here to help, and I will listen to her when she doesn’t understand.
How Margaux Responded
I understood early on that grammar was going to be a difficult skill to address with Sarah. I could not take the more traditional approach through worksheets or presentations.
I needed to help her understand that learning can be very fun and rewarding.
When working together, I made notes on the specific problems that Sarah had (incorrect tenses or incorrect irregular verb conjugation). Once I identified where she was struggling specifically, I set to work finding activities that incorporated art so that we could work on these skills in a creative way.
The first time I presented her with a grammar and art project, she was a little surprised, because I think she never had a teacher help her in this way. But, I could see she was excited!
The class flew by, and she even said that she didn’t realize that our time was up for the day. This was my goal, have her complete grammar activities, but have it be enjoyable for her!
Grammar is still not Sarah’s favorite subject, but I have learned to creatively incorporate the necessary activities to improve her skills.
Compared to when we first started working together, she has grown greatly in her speaking and grammar skills. More specifically, she is a student that has become more respectful and we are able to have an excellent teacher/student relationship.
I have come to understand her as well, and there are some days that she has had a difficult time, and I have adapted lessons accordingly.
Due to this relationship that focuses on listening to one another and respecting one another, we are able to accomplish so many more tasks. We are able to have serious classes where we focus on learning new grammar skills, but we are also able to have long conversations debating a specific topic.
She is able to keep up with my vocabulary and phrases, but is also able to stop and ask questions because she knows I will take the time to listen and explain.
I have loved working with Sarah, and I am so proud of all her hard work looking back on the year and a half. It only makes me more excited to see what she will accomplish in the future!
When students receive individualized attention, they are more likely to engage with the material, ask questions, and receive feedback. They can also move at their own pace, which can be especially beneficial for students who are struggling or who have unique learning needs.
One-on-one tutoring can provide students with the support and guidance they need to reach their full potential.