In this Tutor Spotlight series, we feature private tutors with years of tutoring experience in areas where we often see many questions and misconceptions in. See the other interviews here.
Mdm Jean has been a Full-Time tutor for over 10 years now. Specialising in English, she is well-experienced in teaching Phonics, English, Creative Writing to Preschoolers, Primary & Secondary school students, and Conversational/Beginner English classes for Adults. She also holds a Diploma in Teaching English to other Language Speakers
“Very experienced & patient”
“Tutor is good will give homework for kids to practice”
“My son likes her”
“She really is a patient teacher”.
She enjoys coaching young kids on Phonics & Creative writing and seeing their improvements over time.
Curious about Mdm Jean’s teaching approach? She shares her opinions here.
How did you come across Phonics and when did you start teaching Phonics?
Mdm Jean: From the time I started out being a tutor, I found certain kids struggling with English and therefore I thought of a structural way to easily allow them to read and build up their vocabulary through phonics. That was about two decades ago and over time I have come out with a system in place to suit individual needs.
Can you share your approach in teaching Phonics?
Mdm Jean: I use props, role playing, songs, puppetry, rap, dance and storytelling in class. Video clips with flash cards and games are students’ favourites. I often get students to draw simple drawings or do some word associations on the things they like in order to further maintain their interest in the lessons.
What are some difficulties you observe in your students? How do you usually help the students through them?
Mdm Jean: Some students show difficulties at the pronunciation stage, whether they are 3 or 40 years old, because of the way they shape their mouths or how they use their tongues. In this way, I may demonstrate the breathing method using a tissue & mirror and explain the mouth shapes of, for example, “th” or “v” letters. With letter formations like letters “b and d”, I may show pictures or form an association with some of their daily routines.
Is there a difference between teaching Phonics to a Nursery student and a Primary school student?
Mdm Jean: Teaching Phonics to a Nursery student can begin with nursery rhymes or fictional characters that they are already familiar with. For example, Humpty Dumpty or Paw Patrol, whichever rings a bell.
This differs from the way I would teach a Primary school students, where spelling structures will come in place more often. For example, b + at = bat, and I will explain the meaning and give them spelling. For higher standards, adding forms of syllabus sounding and suffix will often be added.
When they have achieved a high score, you can see the satisfaction in them and their pride when they take the initiative to show their parents.
What types of books/games/learning materials do you find particularly effective in teaching Phonics?
Mdm Jean: Books like “Building Phonics Skills” from EPH, “Mother Goose” stories, “Phonics Reading Programme” from Scholastic and “High Frequency Word Families” from EPH are used, according to the standards of the students.
Other than that, I make my own materials and games like crossword puzzles.
If a student is active, how do you tailor the lessons to suit such children?
Mdm Jean: I use a variety of materials with active, energetic and curious kids, like magnets, colour pencils, crayons, magic pens, different papers, notebooks. One can see the glow in their eyes. Also, each activity/task could be for five to ten minutes and then changed, if possible.
I may give them some activity to including dance or movements too, or give a pressure ball or small toy to hold if they fidget too much.
How do you maintain the students’ interest and attention in Phonics class?
Mdm Jean: For young children, certain props inline with the phonic words may be used. Awards, stickers and chops will be given for slightly older students. I include news, magazines, stories in lessons for a more mature age group.
Time passes by quickly for some students and with each lesson hopefully they take away something special.
* Interview edited for brevity and clarity
Related to: English | For Parents | Interview | Phonics | Preschool | Primary | Tutor Spotlight