Frequently asked questions

Do I have to take tutor training? I’ve been a teacher for 12 years.

Your experience is definitely a bonus for your student and also for the rest of us. We welcome your contributions to activities and discussions during tutor training. It’s always useful to hear different perspectives on the issues we are dealing with. The teaching approach in adult literacy is a bit different to the traditional approach, so there will probably be some techniques and materials you’re not yet familiar with. And remember, many of our students have attended school for 12 years too, and now they are looking for something a bit different.

How long might it take me to teach my student to read?

There’s no simple answer here. As well, your student can very likely already read, but wants to improve those already existing skills. Or the area you’re working on may not be reading: it might be writing. What you’ll be hoping for is progress, however slow it may be.

At what time of day will I be tutoring?

We’ll find the time that’s most convenient for you and your student.
The hours at 859 Princess Street are:

Monday 9 to 4:30
Tuesday 9 to 9
Wednesday 9 to 4:30
Thursday 9 to 4:30
Friday closed
Will we be using already prepared material?

There are lots of teaching resources at all three centres. You’ll probably want to use a combination of materials – things you photocopy from this or that book, things you’ve found on the Internet and CD ROMs. But most of all, you’ll want to create your own materials that fit perfectly with your student’s goals, interests and learning plans.

Will I be asked to do a lot of record-keeping?

You’ll be asked to keep brief notes of what you did in each tutoring session. Ideally, you do them with your student and they’re part of the learning process.

What level of education do most students have?

Most of the students at Kingston Literacy have some high school experience but didn’t finish grade 12. About 25% do have a grade 12 diploma. A very few are at either end of this scale – they never went to high school, or they have post secondary training.

What grade levels are we working at?

Using grade level labels, especially grades 1-8, is not really appropriate for adult learners. The concept of “grade 3” applies to a stage in child development as well as to the skills and curriculum that are taught at that stage. While an adult may have reading skills comparable to the average grade 3 child, the adult has a whole lifetime of experience and understanding behind them. And it’s embarrassing to be told at the age of 46 that “you’re reading at a grade 3 level”. Instead, the adult literacy field in Ontario uses Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) levels 1 to 5. More about what these levels mean in Session 3.

Might I be tutoring someone with dyslexia?

Yes, although the person may never have been formally assessed, or may never have heard the terms “dyslexia” or “learning disabilities” (LD). LD assessment for adults is very expensive and some professionals feel that it is not as accurate as assessment done in childhood. The learning needs and barriers of new students are assessed by staff on an individual basis, whether or not there is a possibility of dyslexia. Everyone is given a chance to overcome those barriers or to find accommodations for their learning difficulties.

Do you have students who are learning English as a second language?

A few. But most of our students speak English as their first language.

How many students are actually illiterate?

The word “illiterate” is really a misnomer. It implies a complete lack of the ability to read. But most people can decipher the words or signs that they see often (Exit, Don’t Walk, and so on). People in the literacy field actually avoid using the word because it has very negative connotations, in much the same way as the word “retarded” has become outdated. So to answer the question, none.

I’m planning to take the summer off. Does this matter?

Once you volunteer with Kingston Literacy you are never allowed another holiday again. Just kidding. Many students take the summer off too and there’s a break of about two weeks at Christmas. As well, if you’re planning to be away at other times we can work around that. It would be best to wait until you have several months free before you’re matched. So if you are going to be away for the summer, for example, you could wait until September to start working with a student.

I’d like to take tutor training so I can tutor my nephew who is in grade 4. Is this OK?

Yes, you’re welcome to join the group. However, if you won’t be volunteering with Kingston Literacy, there’s a fee for taking tutor training – $100.


Session 1 Index