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Focus on Learning

University clinic offers reading, writing, study skills assistance

Tutoring help available for students in Grades 1 - 12

From the Office of Communications at University of Houston-Clear Lake

September 26, 2007

HOUSTON—When 7-year old James “Jimmy” Eubanks headed back to school this fall he happily rejoined his former first-grade classmates to embark on second grade together – a reunion that had seemed unlikely when the school year last ended. James had excelled in math, but struggled with reading, lagging far behind his fellow first-graders. His teachers wanted to hold him back, but Jimmy’s parents were determined to get help for their son.

A neighbor told the couple about the University of Houston-Clear Lake’s School of Education Reading, Writing and Study Skills Clinic for students in grades 1-12. The clinic provides a unique environment that offers a win/win not only for the student needing tutoring help, but also for the clinic tutors, who are teacher candidates enrolled in the university’s School of Education.

Offering a rare ratio of one tutor to each student, the clinic provides each child with dedicated attention and personalized instruction, while allowing the student educator valuable hands-on experience in diagnosing a child’s special learning style and needs, and then developing appropriate instructional techniques. While the tutor has objectives and goals that are developed through diagnostic testing at the start, the sessions are planned according to the progress the student makes on a day-to-day basis.

“Every child is so unique in their learning capabilities and styles,” says UH-Clear Lake Associate Professor and Director of the Reading Clinic Lillian McEnery. “The one-on-one tutoring allows for a very personal connection. The trust that is developed between the tutor and the student is pivotal to the student’s growth.”

In fact, after just three weeks, young James reading skills had advanced significantly, bringing him up to par with fellow classmates and securing a spot for him in second grade.

Jimmy’s mother, De’Ann Gill, and stepfather, Paris Gill, were excited about their son’s progress.

“It has made such a difference in his confidence level. The different teaching style has made a difference as well,” De’Ann Gill says. “The teacher used some pretty creative ideas – like recording him and letting him listen to himself – that helped him overnight,”

Jimmy also reportedly enjoyed role playing and acting out the reading stories, along with playing various computer and board games designed to help him learn.

“We incorporate best practice methods and strategies and we’re always looking for better ways of having students connect with reading and writing,” explains McEnery. “We look at what sorts of things children are interested in and how to tie their interests into these best practices.”

Heather Garza, a teacher in the Galena Park ISD completing the final credits toward a master’s degree in education at UH-Clear Lake, was Jimmy’s tutor. Garza, who has taught both first and second grade, loved the one-on-one contact that the clinic afforded.

“In a classroom, you try to meet the needs of the most students,” Garza explained. “Here, I could see the needs of the one student, and I could meet the needs of that student. I saw how much more successful I was as a teacher. I’ll take that back into my classes - to really try to look at each student individually instead of as a whole class.”

The Gills intend to enroll Jimmy in the clinic again this semester.

“It works,” says De’Ann Gill.

“We don’t make the claim that every student will succeed,” McEnery says. “Sometimes a success takes more than one semester; sometimes it takes the combined effort of the school, parents, teachers and an entire team of specialists. But the tutors love what they do, and this passion translates into concerted efforts to do what is best for every child.”

UH-Clear Lake’s Reading, Writing and Study Skills clinic is available during fall, spring and summer semesters. Interested parents should contact the University at 281-283-3529. Space is limited.

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