Volunteer to tutor English 

Interested in volunteering to tutor English, but want to learn more? 

On this page we cover what you’d be tutoring as a primary or secondary English tutor and some top tips. 

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We know that the idea of going “back to school” and tutoring English can be daunting. That’s why if you volunteer to tutor English, we’ll support you every step of the way, with:

  • Tutor workbooks that are fully tailored to the national curriculum (and have the answers!)
  • Additional, opt-in training and live webinars
  • In-session support from a Programme Coordinator.

As an Action Tutoring volunteer, you can volunteer to tutor English to primary (ages 9-12) or secondary pupils (ages 14-16). Read in to find out what you’d be tutoring, what a session for each age group looks like and our top tips for tutoring English!

Primary english tutor

Volunteer to tutor English at primary level

As a volunteer tutor on a primary English programme, you’ll help to prepare pupils for their Year 6 SATs exams (which they take at 10 or 11 years old). 

Each tutoring session centres on a specific piece of reading, such as ‘Women in Space” or “Wind in the Willows”. As the tutor, you’ll guide them through an analysis of the material.  

Through games and question-and-answer activities, you’ll model and reinforce essential reading skills, such as explaining, retrieving, summarising, inferring, comparing, and exploring deeper connections within the texts. You’ll work with a diverse range of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry texts throughout the sessions.  Each session adheres to a consistent format.

What a primary English session looks like

1. An engaging starter/ warm-up activity, such as:

  • A vocabulary booster game
  • A cross-curricular activity linked to the text.

2. Introduction to the text, which includes:

  • A guided pre-reading discussion
  • Introduction of key vocabulary 
  • An interactive prediction task, related to the extract.

3. Guided reading and exploration, with:

  • Short, engaging extracts
  • Scripted sections for scaffolded understanding – you’ll be provided with clear terminology and skill descriptions
  • A guided discussion focused on key comprehension skills

4. Active comprehension activities:

  • Five varied activities targeting different comprehension skills 
  • All activities will mirror SATs style questions
  • Focus on pupil-led exploration and discovery

5. Marking/ misconceptions check, which involves:

  • Marking work together against the structure you’re provided, and a peer review
  • Discussion of learning takeaways and areas for improvement. Chance here for tutors to address and misconceptions

6. Optional challenge task:

  • An extension activity for early finishers or deeper understanding, that encourages independent learning and critical thinking.

7. And to finish, a reflection activity:

  • A summary of key learning points and concepts.
  • And, a review of the next session or review of broader context.

All progress tracked directly in pupils’ workbooks (which are physical or online depending on the programme type). As a tutor, you’ll have a copy of the tutor workbook, which contains all of the answers and extra tips!

secondary english tutor

Volunteer to tutor English at secondary level

As a volunteer tutor on a secondary English programme, you’ll help to prepare pupils for their Year 11 GCSE exams (which they take at 15 or 16 years old). 

Our tutoring resources are designed to help pupils access the level required to reach a strong pass or above in their GCSEs. The materials will also equip the pupils with skills to improve literacy and communication skills required to progress in other environments such as the workplace. 

Each session is designed to be completed within an hour. However, it is perfectly acceptable to work at the pace of your pupils. It’s fine if some sessions take a little longer!

Our materials are in line with the assessment objectives that all exam boards have to comply with when they are designing their specifications. 

Our English sessions each follow the same structure, to help the pupils get used to a routine each session. 

What a secondary English session looks like

Section 1 – Unfamiliar vocabulary:  

Pupils are given access to unfamiliar vocabulary that they will come across in the reading material. Pre-teaching vocabulary reduces the number of unfamiliar words encountered and facilitates greater comprehension. 

Section 2 – Technical terminology:

Pupils need to know and be able to use technical terminology in their examinations. Quizzes are used to test their knowledge of the key terms used in the upcoming session. 

Section 3 – Recapping prior knowledge and reading activity

In this section, the tutor engages pupils in conversation about the topic, theme, or skill. They will also read through a fiction or non-fiction text with the pupils. 

This reading material is scripted taking a guided reading approach, so that pupils can delve more deeply into a text. 

Section 4 – Writing activity: 

The written activity will either respond to the reading material or a piece of creative or transactional writing. The required response style is always modelled, and this model is carefully deconstructed. 

All writing is scaffolded for the pupils to give them the tools to access the material. 

Section 5 – Reflection of learning: 

This section is used as a chance for the pupils to reflect on what they have learned and practised. 

Online tutoring session

Top tips for tutoring English

  • Greet your pupil with a smile, positivity and enthusiasm!
  • Use the tutor workbook to give clear instructions to the pupils
  • Model the reading for your pupils – this keeps the pace of the session for your pupils and allows them to fully engage in the content of the reading material. Ensure your reading style is expressive! 
  • Allow pupils to be word detectives. If they are unsure about the meaning of the word, get them to delve more deeply into their prior knowledge to work out answers. For example ‘Have you seen any parts of this word before? Can you read the word before or after it?’
  • Give pupils thinking time before interjecting. Sometimes, silence is golden!
  • Take your time with each question. Don’t feel the need to rush to get through a session. It is better to take time, and for the knowledge to become ‘sticky’ than to rush through.

Action Tutoring’s English resources

Action Tutoring takes the pressure off volunteers by providing heavily modelled and scripted resources, minimising upfront planning and preparation time. This not only saves volunteers valuable time, but also helps alleviate any initial nerves you might have. 

Each session, whether for primary or secondary students, utilises engaging and exciting reading materials that serve as the foundation for the entire learning experience. 

You will act as a facilitator, guiding pupils through the materials by modelling reading and writing skills, and providing support as they practise independently. Importantly, the core content remains consistent across both online and in-person settings, with only the format being slightly adapted to the specific delivery method.

English games you can play in sessions

Primary English sessions frequently incorporate engaging games like word tennis, hangman, picture games, and word scrambles. To further enhance learning in either primary or secondary learning, you could use:

  • Word searches: to encourage vocabulary recognition and spelling skills.
  • Acronym deciphering: to build knowledge of commonly used acronyms and their meanings.
  • Topic-specific crossword puzzles: to reinforce learning of specific vocabulary and concepts in a fun, challenging way.
  • 20 questions: in which one pupil thinks of a word that has been learnt in a session, and the others can ask yes or no questions to guess it within 20 attempts
  • Sentence scramble: provide students with words from a sentence, and ask them to put them in the correct order.