When it comes to helping students with college entrance exams, organizing homework folders and binders, or studying for Algebra II, Nana Abrefah can do it all. Since October 2016, Nana has worked with students prepare for their upcoming ACT and SAT exams, improve grades in Algebra II and Pre-Calculus, and helped younger students straighten up backpacks and binders. With all his success, Nana is our January Tutor of the Month!
We spoke with Nana to see how he manages his time with students and helps motivate them to complete difficult homework tasks and problems.
What’s the #1 way you engage your students?
The best way I have found to engage students is incorporating their interests—both immediate and long-term—into our sessions. To me, an immediate interest is something like a favorite sport or favorite band. Long-term interests can be goals, like matriculating at a very selective college. For instance, one of my students likes hockey. Thus, to work on English skills (reading comprehension, argument building and analysis, diction and structure), I have him work with newspaper articles on hockey that should be at or above his reading level. He practices active reading and must effectively explain the content and structure of these articles. I have found this method keeps him engaged even on days when he does not have much schoolwork for us to work on together.
This approach can apply to any student; even the most motivated students sometimes benefit from remembering that what they are learning does not exist in a vacuum and probably relates to many things they already like or would like to achieve for themselves. For test prep students who put so much time into studying for one test, it cannot hurt to remind them of all the doors they are opening for themselves!
What is one thing you tell students who are preparing for the SAT or ACT?
As cliché as it may sound, be confident! These tests are not measures of how smart or worthy you are. They examine specific skills that colleges believe are central to successfully taking on a college curriculum. Even better, these are skills you have been exercising throughout your academic career! You have all the tools to do well; excelling is not an impossible task. Especially working together with a tutor, you can improve content areas and timing issues if you take the time. It is only natural to feel nervous about the ACT or SAT (top test takers feel this way, too). However, never forget that you are capable and that you have put in the work to succeed! Less time spent worrying also means more time to check your work.
What’s the number one study strategy you use in your sessions?
I think my favorite study strategy is the “Tolerable 10” because it is so broadly applicable. The Tolerable 10 is ten undisturbed minutes of work followed by a short break or debrief. For students who have a harder time focusing, it provides a sustained work period and time to decompress. It gives the lesson a little more rhythm. For test prep students, it also works very naturally to improve timing on different sections, and afterward, we can open a dialogue about the work they just completed.
How do you inspire confidence in your students, especially if one of them is feeling deflated?
To keep my students confident, I try to remind them of precisely why I am there—to help them understand the material regardless of how many methods it takes! Schools obviously must operate on some timeline; I think a common source of failing confidence among students is a feeling of being behind. But when we as tutors are working with students, they have no reason to feel this way! I try to establish this with each of my students. There is nothing wrong with being confused and there is no need to stay quiet or apologize for not understanding something. We are working together to learn and apply that knowledge.
To work with a great tutor like Nana, give us a call today at 703-934-8282!