Turn Your Empty Classroom into a Tutoring Hall

Invite students to receive additional instruction, one-on-one mentoring, and specialized study time in a drop-in study hall.

By Bethany Bodenhamer


students walking in the hallway at school

There are always those students who need just a little more help on the homework, a point in the right direction when studying for an exam, or their questions on the most recent notes answered. Unfortunately with today’s growing class size and increasing curriculum demands, not every individual’s question can be answered within the given class time. While some pupils may take the initiative to stay after class and some teachers graciously open their doors at lunch for drop-ins, the academic needs of more students could be met within a structured tutoring hall. Here are ten easy steps to follow to get your own tutoring hall up and running:

1. Identify the Need

What are you classes struggling with most? Reading? Writing? Critical thinking? Test taking? Determine if a specific struggle exists amongst the majority so you can structure the time well. If there is no need, or no desire, your classroom will sit empty. The best way to determine is to ask your potential clients what they would like more help with. This can be done through a private survey so everyone will feel they can share honestly. Also, will you open this time and space to those who are not in your classes but have similar study needs? Consider doing so! 

2. Choose the Structure

How will you arrange your time? Will it be an open format, based on the needs of the attendees that day? Or perhaps one set day a week you focus on test taking skills, while another day of the week is a writing workshop and essay help. Again, it depends on the needs of your pupils and what they are seeking the most assistance for. Don’t feel like you need to create a ton of extra curriculum for this time—you really shouldn’t. Instead, you are more slowly and deliberately covering basic skills and steps that you may have already quickly covered to help your scholars achieve academic success. 

3. Choose a Day and Time

This step goes along with identifying the need. If you have a lot of interested people who happen to play afterschool sports from 2-4 p.m., you will need to adjust your time accordingly. Perhaps Wednesdays are rehearsal days for your theater students and a large group of them expressed interest. Again, this is information that can easily be obtained through a survey. While it will be impossible to find a day and time that will work for everyone’s schedule, you can decide what will work best for the majority. You may also decide to offer different times on different days to appeal to a wider variety of pupils. 

4. Choose a Location

Your classroom, a computer lab, or the library are all great settings. If learners simply need a quiet work space, your classroom might be best. However, if computers are needed for Internet access and word-processing software, you may want to consider using other locations on campus. Make sure wherever you do choose will be large enough for those who decide to attend. You will also want to ensure that the area is free from distractions. 

5. Collaborate

Partner with other teachers on campus, specifically in your department (at the secondary level). If you find two other teachers to work with, you can open the tutoring hall for three days a week with you each being in charge of one day. Another reason to collaborate is to broaden the help you can provide. Instead of just a US history tutoring hall, you can offer a social sciences tutoring hall with a world history, US history, government and economics teacher all pitching in to assist. 

6. Recruit Mentors

Get your more advanced scholars involved. A tutoring hall can be very overwhelming if it is just one educator to a lot of kids. Remember that pupils are there to receive more individualized support, so offer that to them through the help of mentors. They can be those who took the course a previous year, are in an advanced version of the course, have proven excellent writers via exam scores, etc. How do you find these stellar students? Have teachers campus-wide recommend them. Offer the mentors community service hours in return. 

7. Inform the Clients

Once you have your logistics settled, it’s time to spread the word! You should advertise not just to the kids themselves, but to their parents and other teachers on campus. If multiple people in a pupil’s life are reminding them about this great resource you are providing, you have a greater chance of him showing up. Make posters to put up in classrooms, advertise on campus news, send letters home to parents, and talk about it with your classes!

8. Invite

The absolute best way to get people to your tutoring hall is to invite them! It is a lot harder for a pupil to reject this great tool when you individually ask them face to face. Tell them why you think they will benefit and specifically how you will help them. Maybe this individual is really trying to get her B up to an A. Tell her what you will do to help her achieve that. On top of personal invitations, create a form letter on a quarter sheet of paper that you can attach to completed work inviting pupils to come back for a re-do, explanation, or further help. 

9. Motivate

Besides the obvious benefit of academic success, what can you offer those who attend? Some light snacks? Fun background music? A relevant study game? A few extra credit or bonus points on their next assignment? A free ticket to Friday’s football game? Think about what motivates your group and offer it! 

10. Make it Worthwhile

If a student attends once and feels as though his needs were not met, the chances of him returning, or even referring a peer, are slim. Don’t let your learners leave until you know they have a better grasp on the content and skill they were struggling with when they walked through the door. The best way to determine this is to ask them! Have them rate on a scale of 1-10 how confused they were prior to receiving help, and how confident they feel after receiving tutoring. Don’t expect to go from a 1 to a 10 in one tutoring session, but small advances should be evident.  

Follow the above ten steps and you can have your own tutoring hall running in no time. Find what works for you,your school, and your classes. Talk to others who have established a similar system and ask questions, observe it in action, and borrow the concepts you like. Most of all, share the success that you find. Let other departments know how well your students are doing; perhaps every department will establish a similar system or you can collaborate and create a school-wide structured support system.   

Lesson Planet Resources:

Making Tutoring Sessions Work for Students

A great read with great suggestions on how to be an effective tutor. After determining the specific need of the individual learner, tutors can more efficiently assist the pupil in his/her area of need. This is not only helpful for teachers, but for the more advanced peers who will be acting as mentors. 

Developing Effective Study Habits

This would be a great topic for the first few sessions of a new tutoring hall. In order to maximize your pupils' academic success, teach them how to develop effective study habits such as Cornell note-taking, flashcards, and using mnemonics or songs to memorize content. The ideas within this article are great reminders for learners, both novice and advanced, on how to study well. 

A Survey of Skills

This study skills questionnaire is an excellent survey to give to your entire class, regardless if they plan on attending your tutoring hall or not. Get a sense for how much preparation is going into their assignments, studying, and test taking. This will help you know where you need to begin in giving them extra assistance.