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Issue 1: Tutoring Sentence-Level Concerns and

Tutoring in Synchronous Online Settings

message from editor

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Center Moves: A Peer-Reviewed Archive of Tutor Training Materials, hosted by the Rocky Mountain Writing Centers Association. This archive focuses on tutor training, a task that many writing and learning center administrators spend significant amounts of time deliberating over and developing. At the IWCA conference and regional conferences, as well as in the WCenter listserv and the Writing Center Directors Facebook group, administrators are often asking for new training ideas to better engage tutors and aid their learning and practice. The creators intend this archive to be a central resource for individuals seeking materials and ideas and a space for scholarly and practical conversations about training to take place. 

This issue invited submissions on two tutor training topics: how to support tutors working with writers on sentence-level concerns and how administrators can train tutors to work in synchronous online spacesSince our field has long prioritized global and higher-order concerns over local and lower-order concerns, tutors can struggle to navigate writers' grammar and other mechanics concerns. LeCluyse offers a lesson to help tutors better understand punctuation rules, and Guevarra & Lee-McGarraugh invite tutors to create a reference tool in their consultations to support writers' understanding of grammar rules. Meanwhile, a newer question in the field centers on how to provide training for tutors to move from a physical space to a synchronous online one. Feibush's lesson focuses on preparing tutors to navigate the technological hiccups that they might encounter, and Barati lays out a multi-session plan to guide tutors' shift from physical sessions to an online space.

The variety that is demonstrated in these four submissions -- the content, materials and strategies, as well as the authors' institution types, locations, and administrative backgrounds -- exemplifies the fact that valuable training is happening in all writing and learning center settings. Sharing that innovative work will help individual centers' attempts to professionalize their staff and ultimately help move our entire field forward

Erin Zimmerman
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

lesson plans

Click on the titles of the lesson plans below to reach the lesson plan overview page and complete lesson plan materials.

Topic: Sentence-Level Concerns

Submissions for this theme must be designed to prepare tutors to work with writers who want help with grammar, mechanics, sentence-level and other lower-order (lower-gravity or later-order) concerns. Proposals might discuss how to train tutors to work with sentence- and word-level issues, how to help tutors teach writers to become stronger editors of their own writing, how to guide tutors' knowledge of grammar and mechanics, and/or how to help tutors make use of grammar-centric resources in consultations to support learning.

Marks Across Time: Explaining Punctuation and Its (Historical) Function

Christopher LeCluyse, Westminster University

This lesson starts with a brief history of punctuation to help consultants-in-training understand how punctuation has evolved and how it has always marked different units of meaning to help readers navigate texts. It then explains the hierarchy of punctuation and conventions for using semicolons, colons, and dashes as well as their functions. An easy test is provided to help writers understand where to place semicolons and colons. The training concludes with an activity in which students create their own metaphors for explaining and distinguishing different punctuation marks. This knowledge can be applied in any consulting modality, online as well as in person.

Making Reference Cards Using Communicative Language Teaching 

Percival Guevarra & Janella Lee-McGarraugh, University of California, Irvine

This one-hour lesson plan presents a method for collaboratively generating revision steps using student writing. The intention is for a tutor and student to generate a reference card (or another modality) using the student’s language, with the tutor assisting only as necessary. The reference card contains 3 sections: a definition of a sentence-level concern, examples of the concern, and strategies for revising the concern. This communicative language teaching method puts a focus on developing a process that promotes student agency and learning in an authentic context, which is the writing they’ve brought or generated during the session. It encourages the tutor to incorporate meaningful feedback in sessions, without the need to bring content or linguistic expertise, which allows them to develop skills with the student in their revision process.

Topic: Synchronous Online Tutoring

Submissions for this theme must be designed to prepare tutors to work with writers in a synchronous online learning environment. Proposals might discuss how to transfer in-person tutoring skills to online spaces, how to train new tutors to work remotely with limited oversight, how to help tutors manage technology, and/or how to help tutors implement tools or strategies that are useful for writers' learning in online spaces.

Tutoring Through the Interface

Laura Feibush, Penn State University

Based on research into the field’s best practices, this three-part learning module is intended to train writing tutors to conduct writing tutorials in synchronous, online environments (Zoom, Skype, WCOnline, etc.). The training consists of 1) a video presentation (created by the author), 2) a role-playing activity in which participants enact mock tutoring sessions (prompts generated by author and participants), and 3) a follow-up discussion (facilitated by the training leader with discussion questions provided by the author). 

This lesson plan combines critical interface studies and writing center pedagogies to build tutors’ resourcefulness when navigating technological hiccups across constantly-changing platforms. Throughout the session (ranging from 1-2 hours depending on the length of the follow-up discussion), tutors will 1) develop awareness of interface concepts pertinent to online writing tutoring, 2) think critically about the limitations and affordances of various interface features, and 3) practice adapting to unexpected scenarios in synchronous, online tutoring. 

Tutors leave the session empowered to think through—and enact—how best to utilize any digital interface through which their tutoring may take place.

Virtual Consultation Training

Layla Barati, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

As the demand for online education continues to grow, it is crucial for writing tutors and consultants to be well-prepared and competent in navigating the consultation experience in an online space. This lesson provides a framework for facilitating instruction, discussion, observation, and practice. Tutors will have the opportunity to become familiar with tools and technology used in virtual consultations (e.g., Google Workspace), explore effective communication strategies, adapt in-person strategies to an online setting, and use role-playing and mock consultations for practice and feedback. By implementing virtual consultation training, instructors can ensure that consultants are well-prepared and confident in their ability to deliver effective online consultations and support student learning in virtual environments. 

Issue 1 Submissions editor

Juli Parrish, University of Denver


1. Lisa Bell, Utah Valley University
2. Jamaica Ritcher, University of Idaho
3. Olivia Tracy, University of Denver
4. Erin Zimmerman, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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