The Pluses of Peer Tutoring

What a gift you give to all students when ample opportunities for peer tutoring are provided in your classroom.

Peer tutoring starts in ECS with sharing the news of the day, moves to buddy reading in early grades, and culminates in science fair or other team projects in higher grades.

When students learn to listen to and learn from their peers the many benefits include:

  • The development of social skills in and out of the classroom
  • An improvement in student-student relationships
  • Learning to work as a team
  • Faster rate of learning and greater retention of academic material

Whether a student is the “tutor” or the “learner” one major impact is improved self esteem. Peers can be more powerful teachers than adults simply because they are non-threatening and less judgmental. Simply put, learning can be more fun! Students are on a equal footing unlike in student-teacher relationships, where the student is always subordinate to the teacher. Within the peer tutoring session students are more relaxed, open to ask questions or ask for help, and eager to start their work. Remember to have your students switch roles regularly, so that each knows how to give and receive.

There are specific purposes for introducing peer tutoring centres in your classroom:

  1. to encourage shy or unmotivated students to interact with classmates
  2. to mentor students with special needs (e.g., ESL, Down syndrome)
  3. to teach students with special needs “learning” behaviours (e.g., eye contact, sitting, taking notes, silent reading)
  4. to create a community of learners where classmates are accepting of differences
  5. to create more opportunities for individual attention

At each grade level students benefit and you will see results in improved cooperation and communication. You, as the classroom teacher, will learn so much about each of your student’s personalities, character, and learning needs.

Only so much can be accomplished with large group direct instruction. Applied learning happens when peers have the opportunity to practice math, reading, and social skills in small groupings. Peer tutoring centres support and supplement traditional large group instruction or individual direct teaching.

At their desks students do math drills with the teacher on the board. They then complete a work sheet as the teacher circulates marking their sheets. Upon completion of the worksheet, students hand it in and pair up to play a card game on the carpet.

Math manipulatives, computer centres and quality educational games lend themselves well to the creation of peer tutoring opportunities in your classroom. Educational games motivate reluctant learners to practice reading and math skills and are a powerful tool to help immature students connect socially. Among their peers, students are more apt to take risks and persevere with problem solving because it is easier to ask a peer for help and there is more tolerance of mistakes.

One of the simplest and most powerful motivators for students struggling with reading is to have a peer buddy to read with. Peer buddies report that they enjoy helping their fellow student. It is an important responsibility that they take seriously and exude pride in doing.

Each teacher has their own system of grouping kids. Whether it be assigned or pick a partner or random draw the goal should always be regular “change ups”, so students aren’t always in the same grouping. Students need adult support and help in situations where they don’t feel comfortable with differences in attitude, ability level, or personality.

Peer tutoring embodies good citizenship in a classroom community. Students will generalize the skills learned to helping a sibling or volunteering for a leadership role in their scout or guide group.

Many students first realize the gifts they have received from their peer tutoring experiences in elementary school when they start to volunteer in junior high or high school.

Rest assured, the gift does go on giving.

How Can Parents Support Peer Tutoring In Their Child’s Classroom

  1. Have your child “buddy read” to a younger sibling or relative
  2. Ask older siblings to be the homework coach at least one night a week, so your child learns to work appropriately with peers
  3. Ask the teacher to include your child in group projects
  4. Practice songs or instrumental pieces your child is working on at school regularly at home
  5. Invite classmates over after school or on a Saturday – create a social network outside of class time
  6. Consider Scouts or Guides as they provide a venue for structured peer learning outside of school
  7. Expect your child to behave appropriately with siblings – sharing and turn taking begin at home
Print this page