Asking Specific Questions In A Tutoring Session

Nicole Grant (’23) gives specific questions that tutors can ask in different tutoring sessions. “..students may be unsure of what to ask the tutor to look for in their writing, so it’s good to have some questions ready so you can dig deep and give helpful feedback.”

Sometimes in a tutoring session, you hit a roadblock. You might find yourself stuck, unable to produce any helpful advice to give the tutee. This could be for a plethora of reasons; it could be because you aren’t knowledgeable in an area they’re requesting help with, maybe you’re just drawing a blank, or perhaps the student you’re working with has asked for a vague overview of their writing.

Often, students may be unsure of what to ask the tutor to look for in their writing, so it’s good to have some questions ready so you can dig deep and give helpful feedback.

Here are some questions I’ve come up with that you can ask your peer tutee during different situations.

Start by asking basic questions about what the students want you to look at.

  • Would you like me to look at the grammar?
  • Are you looking for help with developing the plot?
  • Do you want me to look at how the story flows?

This can help you get an idea of what the writer wants you to look at.

In a fantasy story about characters going on an adventure:

Student: I wrote a short story for a creative writing assignment for my English class. I don’t need help with anything specific, but I’d like to make it more detailed.

Here are some questions you can ask to get a conversation going. 

  • How did your characters feel about [situation] happening? Describe the physical reactions they may have had. Ex. What emotions were they experiencing, were they shaking, sweating, jumping up and down, did they shake their head, or close their eyes? 
  • What’s happening while this is going on? Is another character doing something else, are they feeling similar to the protagonist or are they doing something completely different?
  • What’s your favorite/least favorite part? Is there a part you love and want to elaborate on?

From there, you may be able to find things the writer wants to add on to.

In a personal essay about hardships that the writer has faced:

  • When does this story take place?
  • How did you feel at that moment?
  • Does the writer “show not tell” how they were experiencing?


  • Does the writing flow like a conversation? If so, let’s talk through the conversation normally so we can make it sound as natural as possible.

On another note, writers often ask if their piece flows. Being able to read through a piece of writing and tell the writer that it flows well is helpful for the writer, as well as pointing out specifically what I see that flows. I think reiterating their work can help give them the security they are looking for in the session.

It’s good to keep a list of basic questions, as well as specific ones in your back pocket for when you’re caught off guard or feeling lost in a tutoring session. 

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