Pretty new in tutoring - am I doing it right?


Only a few weeks ago, I received a piece of writing for the first time. It came out of the blue and I was most happy. Meanwhile that student has submittet 5 pieces of writing to me. The student is still at a beginner’s level, so the writing is short and there are many mistakes like wrong word order, wrong spelling or wrong case. I try to not only correct but also explain what was wrong and why, but as the student never writes any note beside his submitted writing, I don’t actually know whether he likes my style or whether he understands my German explanations at all for that reason. As I noticed he sometimes uses anglizisms, I added some English explanations as well, but not to the same extent as the German ones.

How are you handling short, easy things like that? Are you commenting a lot or are you just correcting? Do you try to explain grammar structures or the like that have often been wrong? Or are you rather commenting on the content (“sounds like a fun day!” etc.)?

Also, I’d like to hear your suggestions on a first conversation. Should I also try to list group conversations or do you think it better to wait for someone to ask for a one-on-one?
If there was a conversation taking place, do you discuss with your student about their level and a topic beforehand? (seems a good idea to me, but having made the experience of a rather anonymous though regularly submitting student in writing, I’m a bit confused)

I can’t speak much for conversations, but when I correct writings I focus on correcting the text and giving brief feedback. I don’t typically give lengthy explanations, but instead I try to give examples if I see someone is consistently making the same type of mistake. Additionally, I don’t offer comments for all corrections. Depending on the writing, it can be anywhere from 25% to 75%. I try to read the text objectively first then give feedback on the structure, style, etc. in the bottom where there’s a bit more room to work with.

I think everyone’s style will be a bit different, though, so don’t at all feel pressured to correct the same way as myself or anyone else.

Thank you, Alex!

I didn’t explain anything on spelling mistakes and the like so far, but e.g. tried to point out why somewhere should be plural instead of singular (added the corresponding verb or noun). In the bottom, I focused on one kind of mistakes that had occurred several times and gave a brief explanation with example and corresponding English grammar structure, if existent ( e.g. always leaving out the “have” in costructions like “I have seen” etc.).

By the way, don’t know whether it has been discussed before, but I often struggle with the fact that I can’t mark a word twice. In German, you often have splitted verbs: “I HAVE SEEN the bird” would be “Ich HABE den Vogel GESEHEN”, “Peter INVITES his friends” would be “Peter LÄDT seine Freunde EIN”. Assuming the student used both a wrong verb and got the spelling or case of the noun wrong, I have to mark three mistakes, two of them in fact being one and the same (wrong verb), because I can’t mark the splitted verb as one entity.

In this case, I’d just highlight the whole phrase/sentence and correct it. If there are multiple errors in the same segment of text, I’ll typically just combine them for the purpose of making the corrected text sound more natural. I’m curious to hear how others handle the same type of situation.

One other note regarding spellling, there is a spell checker when you submit writing so it really isn’t the tutor’s job to correct spelling. If the writer is concerned about spelling, they have the tools already available. If you want to correct spelling, you are more than welcome but it’s not necessary.

Regarding conversations, I think that posted conversations are more likely to get a response than relying on members to request conversations. Having said that, you may have to experiment with times and topics to attract students. I would let any of your German learners or other members you know of who are learning German know when you post a conversation. You can make them friends and then invite friends when posting a conversation.

Mark, thanks for your suggestions, too!