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Tips for Tutors

Marna Neufer, creator of the TRUST system, offers these tips to help tutors and parents maximize the benefits of their coaching.

Watch for signs of fatigue.
While your students are reading and writing words from the lists and taking dictations, it is important not to let them go past the point of fatigue as they practice this careful attention to the progression of letters and sounds. I usually ask them if they are getting tired when I suspect it. Often the answer is no; but if they admit they’re weary, we stop.

sleeping at desk gif

There is no set amount of time to spend on this intensive kind of learning. For some, five or ten minutes is the limit; others can easily go fifteen minutes or more on one particular skill (reading word lists, for instance). During a session, varying the activities helps to combat fatigue.

I never work with a person longer than one hour at a stretch. I’ve found it counterproductive when I try to extend our time together beyond this point.

Keep the mental atmosphere positive.
In the position of coach we can do a lot to help our students expect continuing progress. We set the tone by the way we respond to their decoding and spelling efforts.

If our focus is on what is right about their responses, we help ease them over the negativism and humiliation that many problem readers feel when they start receiving help. And we will keep our young beginning readers eager to learn more.

Here are some examples of the kind of encouragement we can give:

  • Try it again; you almost have it.
  • Do you hear that extra letter you’re putting in there? Good. Now you can take it out.
  • Add the n sound, and you’ll have it!

If you would like to receive the back TRUST Tips that Marna sent out between 2002 and 2008, write to her at and she will send you free e-mail copies of any or all of them.

(See the list of these tip titles below.)

You are also invited to join the Read with TRUST mailing list to receive any future communications from Marna.

If you have trouble subscribing, please contact .

We value your privacy and will not share your e-mail address with any entity, public or private.

TRUST Tip Titles April 2002 to January 2008

  1. An interesting thought on praise
  2. Oh, those b's and d's!
  3. Keep that "Twisted List" handy
  4. Don't start with sight words!
  5. Two crucial steps in producing confident, independent readers
  6. Some simple ways to make good spellers
  7. Pesky pronouns: I or me? He or Him? They or them? An easy way to tell
  8. Some ways to keep your teaching sessions positive
  9. How should we handle the irregular words in our language? Part 1
  10. How should we handle the irregular words in our language? Part 2
  11. A tiny, often-mispronounced word!
  12. When nonsense words are the perfect tool
  13. Tell them "Ten minutes is enough."
  14. They're? Their? There? An easy way to explain which one to use
  15. Learning to be a "vowel hopper"
  16. Ways to help with some other sound-alikes
  17. A terrible twosome: lie and lay
  18. Two more confusing pairs: sit/set and rise/raise
  19. A serious mistake
  20. A roll of drums!
  21. How to get the most out of TRUST Tales
  22. The two sounds of /c/ and /g/. What's the rule?
  23. Take a deep breath...
  24. Does is LOOK right?
  25. Pros and cons of "Inventive Spelling"
  26. "Kid Writing"
  27. IS it a comprehension problem?
  28. Ten million of them ... and counting
  29. What is the main cause of widespread illiteracy in the USA?
  30. More convincing evidence
  31. "It takes too long." Really?
  32. Keep reading to them.
  33. Is /w/ ever a vowel?
  34. What do we want in a "fluent" reader?
  35. Waking up those ears!
  36. Silent or oral reading: What's the best balance?
  37. Teach your students these irregular verbs.
  38. Parents, supervise your beginning printers. (over)
  39. Rerun of Tip #4
  40. Rerun of Tip #5
  41. Rerun of Tip #6
  42. How to start turning illiteracy around
  43. Another way to give them support
  44. A great activity: "Directions in Threes"
  45. Easy way to sound out words ending in -tion
  46. In praise of points
  47. Facts about words ending in-ate
  48. A Treasure Hunt -- much fun!
  49. Don't try to remember that word.
  50. Rerun of Tip #1
  51. Rerun of Tip #7
  52. Decoding problems? Put the consonants around the vowels.
  53. The Kit: A favorite with kids of all ages
  54. Spelling problems? Some ways to help
  55. Rules, Part 1: Keep them simple.
  56. Rules, Part 2: Students learn the rules by DOING them.
  57. My new invention
  58. Why first graders should not be timed
  59. When flash cards are helpful
  60. Rerun of Tip #3
  61. Rerun of Tip #9
  62. Rerun of Tip #10
  63. Smoothing out the consonant blends
  64. A new product in the TRUST program!
  65. Consonant digraphs: Some potential trouble spots

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