A Google doc template keeps every session organized

This is my template Google doc file. Every student gets a new doc for every session, to keep things organized. Here is what each section typically entails.

The warm up chat is five to ten minutes to give the learner time to settle in to English. We sometimes speak informally for a longer time but the structure of the document helps us see our goals, and prods us to get to work.

The status update is where the student tells me how much of their homework they were able to do, and what problems occurred. This might last for five minutes. They might share what worked well, or not. This reflection on the usefulness and amount of homework benefits both the learner, and me. We formulate an agenda for the session based on how much homework and preparation the student was able to do. If work was busy, and they had no time or energy for homework, then I can adapt accordingly. Students have said that being asked for this update at the beginning of the lesson is a useful accountability measure. Sometimes students log in early and have typed a status update for me to read when I arrive.

The table called Today’s Stuff is self-explanatory; it is where we put the work from that session.

Throughout the session, I collect errors in the students’ speech during the session, and keep them in the table called Corrections / Feedback on Spoken Error. I categorize them according to the IELTS Speaking Assessment Rubric as being grammatical or lexical or phonological in nature. I make principled choices about which speaking errors to pick up on; depending on the learner’s level, goals (e.g. to correct mispronunciations) or to correct a certain systemic grammar error (e.g. omission of the be verb in present simple sentences by Russian speakers, or syntax errors in affirmative statements within questions)

You can see some examples of Corrections / Feedback on Spoken Error here.

The follow up materials / files to be sent is where I keep track of things that I mention during the session that I need to email to the student, or add to our notes once the session is over.

Reflections / recommendations / wrap up is an important close to the session. This is where students will tell me what they liked, what they want more of, what was challenging, what was useful.

The last phase of a session, which is 55 minutes or 85 minutes, is discuss Homework or what should be next. As always, we make decisions together. This section serves as a place for the student to come back to days later to know what he or she agreed to do. I use this section to prepare for the next lesson, too.

Using folders to organize session documents

Here is how the lessons are organized and stored. I want to share my system for other teachers or self-directed learners. It has worked well for over eight years, for hundreds of learners. Thank you, Google!

In the image below, you can see all the Googledocs for one learner go into a folder, by year.

And actually, within each year, it saves times to divide the year into two sub-categories: 2020 July to Dec and 2020 Jan to July. The student can keep things organized in the same way on their end. Helping people be organized from the beginning is a valued service.

Each session has its own Googledoc, and I put memorable keywords into the title to help remember the conversations from that session. I also track the package number (package #6 in this case) and the lesson number within the package (this student gets packages of 10 sessions at one time).

The session template GoogleDoc that I use for every session is here.

What is the difference between a teacher and a tutor?

This is a common question. A tutor is someone who know the content and helps the student master the subject. For example, a university student studying mathematics can assist a high school student informally because he or she knows the subject area. However, a tutor might not know how to sequence concepts or how to devise good tests or have enough experience with a variety of learners to make good guesses as to why the learner is struggling with a concept. Teachers, on the other hand, have knowledge of the learning and teaching process, in addition to subject matter knowledge.
When it comes to English language teachers, we assess the students’ level, make wise choices about the subject matter (which areas of grammar, what type of reading assignments, which kinds of listening exercises) as well as choosing exercises that match the student’s learning goals.
Thinking about traditional settings like schools and classrooms, teachers organize material for learning, conduct initial, ongoing and final assessments, set lesson objectives, provide instruction, organize meaningful review. Informal tutors help with the subject matter but usually within an overall curriculum or learning path designed by a professional.
In short, tutors “help with English” whereas teachers provide the whole classroom experience. We assess learner language and skills, help the student identify reasonable goals and the path to get there, choose exercises and assignments that are connected those goals, and can adapt as needed along the way.