Top Tutor Tips for Motivating Students

Helping to encourage and motivate a student who might be feeling negative towards school is no easy task, but our tutors have had great success as they work with students one-to-one. I asked a few of our tutors how they motivate their students on a daily basis. Here’s what they said:


For memory and retrieval:

Leitner system“I love using the Leitner system to help my students review for tests. You can study all sorts of
information from vocabulary words to math facts. I even take study guides, cut the questions into strips, and put them into the boxes. The picture below shows five boxes, but you can use three or four.

Here’s how it works: all the cards start off in Box 1. As you review the cards, each card you answer correctly goes into Box 2. If you give the wrong answer, study the card and then place it back in Box 1. When you review the cards in Box 2, if you still get the answer right, the card is promoted to Box 3, and so on until all the cards are in the highest box.

Kids love this method because it’s not only lots of fun and hands-on, but it helps them put important information into long-term memory. And once you create the boxes (or use envelopes instead of boxes), you’ll have a system you can use to learn virtually anything!” – Brian


For balancing easy and hard assignments:

“Negotiate.  I have some students who only want to work on ‘easy’ assignments with me so I have to say, ‘Ok, let do 20 minutes of a less fun assignment and then 20 minutes of a fun assignment’.” – Diana


For mastering math:Card game

“Just like the outdoor game of golf, the card game known as Golf has a goal of keeping the score as low as possible by adding and subtracting integers. Start by arranging nine cards in three rows of three. The goal from this point onward is to try to reduce the value of the cards you are holding. You can do this by swapping a card from your hand with one in the discard pile, one from the deck, or turning one over from your cards but only on your turn. The player with the lowest score wins the game.” – Jan


For addition and subtraction:

Dominoes“One of my go-to games is hopscotch–write numbers, addition/subtraction, or even multiplication and division problems on cards and make a hopscotch board to get the kids moving. If they get it right, they move forward; if it’s wrong, they go back a space. I also do this game with writing and reading–laminate pages with lines and have the student pick a card with a word on it. If they write all the letters correct, move forward. This also works great for sight word recognition.” –Christine
“Another game is to use dominoes with math, which works for adding, subtracting, and multiplication. Lay them out on the floor and have the student use a flyswatter to hit the number you call until they collect them all.” – Christine


For reviewing:

“Some of the things I’ve used include foam dice that have general questions on the side so they can be applied to any subject. They are used with a student’s study guide or review questions. For example, one of the questions is how/why…Used with a biology lesson, you can say how does DNA replication work? Or, why do we need oxygen?” – Tiffany


For paying attention:Ticket

“One of the issues my students face is being able to focus without going off task during sessions. I’ve found that when I redirect their attention frequently, they feel judged. To them, constant redirection feels punitive, so instead of me refocusing them, my goal is for them to notice the behavior themselves. When they’re about to drift off or get distracted and then they notice it and tell me, I give them a ticket. At the end of the session, they can trade their tickets in for prizes. I keep a small toy treasure chest with me. It has little pieces of candy and other trinkets. Kids love it! It also makes them more aware of it when they’re doing homework on their own, without me there.” – Brian


For multisensory motivation:

“For the majority of my students, I can say that some form of tactile involvement makes the difference between them spacing out and them remaining actively engaged.  I give students the choice between using a digital pad or a white board with an assortment of color options.  Whether working through math solutions or conjugating verbs, the novelty of such writing tools tends to be very effective in aiding retention.  In line with an interactive experience, active diagrams, such as those found at or, add a visual dimension critical to understanding many scientific concepts.” – Ramtin


Love these ideas? We’re working on writing an entire ebook full of tips from tutors about how to motivate students, so be sure to check back here to read it!



Can Surgary Drinks Help with Homework? you know that a drink with some sugar in it can actually help homework performance?  It’s true!  Sugary drinks provide glucose, which is a source of fuel, to your brain.  If you’re low on glucose, you won’t be able to focus or perform as well.

Sipping a drink, such as Gatorade or apple juice, helps provide some glucose, but not too much.  Sodas and other drinks with a serious amount of sugar (some up to 10 teaspoons) provide too much glucose which later on results in a mental crash of sorts.  Symptoms include impaired memory and clouded thinking.

So, when it comes to homework, allow your child to slip (not gulp) a sugary drink.  It can result in improved focus and mood.