Skip to main content

Tutor Training: Module 2: Preparing for a Session

Preparing for a Session

Subject Matter Preparation

If you know ahead of time the specific subject, problem, or assignment that you'll be tutoring, review it before the session. Reviewing will make you confident in the session, and you will be more prepared to answer questions. If this isn’t possible, you can look information up with the student sitting next to you. For example, you might get questions about a writing or math concept that you can’t answer on the spot, but by showing students how and where to look it up, or who to ask for help, you introduce them to resources that they didn’t know existed. It can be a good lesson for the student on how to find resources, especially if you narrate your research process. For example, you could say

  • “I’m not sure about that citation question, but let’s look it up on the OWL Purdue website, which is an excellent writing help website you can use in the future.”
  • “Let’s find an explanation in this textbook; it’s a good resource if you’re ever looking in the future”).
  • “There are some great online handouts on this topic that you can review later on if you like. Here’s how you find them.”
If you notice one week that many students seem to be coming in for help with the same writing assignment in a science class, remember to refer them to other tutors using the "Areas of Expertise" spreadsheet in Google docs (online and/or drop-in shifts). If you start to see a repeated assignment coming in, please let your supervisor know so that they can help out by contacting the prof for requirements for the assignments, and by popping by to help train you on a particular style or genre of writing that you aren't familiar with.
If a student is coming for help on a stats assignment, familiarize yourself with some basic concepts that you may have forgotten since you took a stats class. Have a stats textbook at hand in case you need to refer to something.

Preparation also includes having all the materials ready that you will need during the session. By having everything at hand, the session can continue uninterrupted.

For writing tutors, you may need a dictionary, appropriate style manual, paper, pens, and handouts. Online writing resources (such as our own writing guide,  OWL Purdue or the UNC's handouts page) can be helpful.

For math tutors, you may need textbooks, paper, pens, and a calculator.



The Writing Centre believes that dress choices sustain a community that is inclusive of a diverse range of identities, such as self-identified gender or religious attire. However, 'unacceptable dress includes those containing violent language or images, hate speech, profanity, or pornography, or any images or language that create a hostile or intimidating environment based on any protected class or consistently marginalized groups. All staff should understand that they are responsible for managing their own personal "distractions" without regulating others' clothing and self-expression. 


Some are sensitive or allergic to particular scents. Wearing perfume, cologne, scented lotions or hair products may induce headaches, allergies, breathing issues, or otherwise bother or distract, reducing the effectiveness of the learning environment. Please be respectful of students and staff by not using strongly scented products.


Though a tutoring session is more informal than a classroom, profanities should be avoided. When it comes to slang, idioms, and colloquialisms, sometimes non-native English speakers, people from different English-speaking countries or other parts of Canada (think Saskatchewan's "bunnyhug" versus "hoodie"!), or students from different generations may not understand you. Use plain language.

Personal Space and Closeness

Sit side-by-side if possible, but at a comfortable distance from the student. Some students are uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact, but it may also be that you are sitting too close to them. If a student seems to want to sit closer to you than you’re comfortable with, you’re free to let them know.