How To Make Your First Tutoring Session Great


Tutors have the opportunity to make a pretty big impact on their students’ lives. You have the chance to reach your students in ways that their large group instructors and parents don’t. You’re in an environment that poses significantly less pressure, you’re not giving them a grade, and you’re certainly not going to present yourself as some looming authority in their lives. From helping them learn good homework habits to improving their communication skills, you’re in a unique position to be both a positive mentor and academic guide for your students. Because this tutoring relationship is so important, you’re going to want to make sure you’re ready to make your first tutoring session great. You know, first impressions and all.

Prepare Your Introduction

To warm up your student, you’ll want to make sure you have an introduction planned. What will you share with your student and what will you keep off limits? If your students are young or boisterous, they might ask personal questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering. What will you say in response? In order to satisfy your student’s curiosity about you, you can let them know a little bit about you in some clever ways after giving them a brief introduction (we’re talking 30 seconds here) and previewing what you will be working on in the day’s session.

What do we mean by letting them know a little bit about you in “clever ways”? Well, if you’re tutoring a student in math, include information about you in some story problems or math equations. If you’re trying to explain a scientific concepts, use some information about your life in those explanations and scenarios. And if you’re helping a student understand how to revise a writing assignment, prepare paragraphs with your autobiographical information in them that you will revise together. Although these aren’t the only ways to introduce yourself and they don’t cover every possibly subject, working in a little bit of personal information will help your student get to know you at an appropriate rate and will satisfy their curiosity while keeping you in control of the information you share. Remember, it will take time to build your credibility with your student, and that’s okay.

Prepare a Lesson Plan

Your lesson plan doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but you can always keep your plans filed away so that you can reference them if parents want to talk to you about what you’ve worked on with their student or so that you can use your plans as the baseline for future lessons.

  1. 1.) If you have enough background information, set the goal that your student wants to achieve by the end of all of your tutoring sessions. For example, “Student A will pass their math course with a B+ average,” or “Student B will have a well-organized college thesis.” You can do this during your first session with the student if you don’t know the information ahead of time.
  2. 2.) Set a clear objective for the lesson. Based on the notes you’ve been given to prepare for the session, you should be able to set up some objectives. Objectives are your clear and specific goals for this specific tutoring session, and they should be set prior to meeting with your student.
  3. 3.) Make a list of the materials you will need to gather and have ready before the session. This will be a helpful checklist for you to avoid panic and looking disorganized.
  4. 4.) Find or create practice materials that will help you teach the concepts the student needs help with. This material can include the information about you that you care to share with your student.


If you plan on tutoring for any length of time, these lesson plans can end up being time-savers in the future, so putting in a little bit of extra work on the front end will help you later on when talking to parents or working with future clients.

Get to Know Your Student

You’ll also want to plan to get to know your student. It’s going to take time to build any sort of bond with them, but asking some questions throughout the session in order to get to know them better and show that you’re interested in them will help you move toward a positive tutor/tutee relationship. You won’t want to ask all of these questions one after another because you want to get to know them, not interrogate them, but here are some basic questions to have on hand to guide you:

  • • What do you do for fun?
  • • What are your favorite and least favorite subjects?
  • • What’s your favorite way to learn?
  • • How do you study?
  • • Do you ever feel stressed at school or when you’re doing homework? How do you handle that stress?
  • • What do you want to get out of tutoring? How can I help you?


Of course, you can add other questions as topics come up, but this list will help you get to know more about how to plan future lessons and give you insight about what might be preventing your student from experiencing success.

Identify Your Strengths & Weaknesses

As you work with your student, you will want to keep track of strengths and weaknesses. This list doesn’t have to stick strictly to their coursework. You might note that Student A gives up very quickly at the first sign of struggle or that Student B doesn’t like to walk away from a question once they get curious about it. These notes that you can either take during your tutoring session or – better yet – when watching the video of the session later will come in handy when you’re coming up with way to help your student achieve success or, if they are a minor, when their parent asks you what you’ve noticed about their child.

End with a Recap

Always make sure you set a timer to let you know when to stop with your current lesson and provide your student with some time to reflect and review. This is not a time for you to review; this time is purely focused on the student. You can guide this recap time by asking them to reflect on the day’s lesson using prompts like these:

  • • Which part of today’s lesson sticks out to you the most?
  • • Give me five take-aways from today’s session.
  • • Break down the steps that we went over today.
  • • Explain the concept that we covered at the start of the session.
  • • Based on today’s session, tell me what you will do differently moving forward.


This recap period will let you know what they’re retaining and what you might need to go over again during your next session. You can send the student to their notes if they can’t remember something and help them practice recall on their own without your interjections. After they recap, you can take some time to discuss what you will want to cover with them next time. This leaves them with the mindset that they will be returning to you, and they’ll be more likely to set up another session in the future.

You’ve got a great opportunity to build a strong client base and make a positive impact on your students’ lives at the same time. By planning a bit ahead of time every first session can be a great one!

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