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Tutor Section


Tutor Responsibilities

Tutor logs

You must complete a tutor log for each time you are scheduled to tutor, with the exception of school closings. If you did not have a tutoring session because you were unable to tutor or your reader was absent, note that in your tutor log. You must fill out a tutor log regardless of whether you tutored or not so your coordinator knows that you fulfilled your duties by going to your site and has an accurate record of each student’s progress. If you fail to complete a tutor log, you will first be given a verbal warning. Further failure to perform your duties as a tutor will possibly result in dismissal from the program or loss of pay.

Attendance

You are expected to go to your site each time you are scheduled to do so. If you have a conflict that prevents you from doing so, give your coordinator at least one week’s notice. You must also let your reader know during the session before the one you will miss. Our readers look forward to spending time with their tutors and if their tutors are unreliable, they often feel abandoned. If you are unable to tutor for an unexpected reason, such as waking up sick, please let your coordinator know as soon as possible. Please do not tutor if you are sick. If you would like to make up a tutoring session, please discuss this with your coordinator.

Your coordinator is responsible for keeping you consistently matched with a reader, planning and offering transportation, notifying you of planned closings, providing support for tutoring issues, maintaining materials at your site, and responding to your emails as promptly as possible. Unless there is an emergency, please send an email instead of calling your coordinator.

Reader and Teacher Relations

Respecting your reader's privacy

Your reader may tell you personal things, such as a death in the family. This is good to share with your coordinator, but do not discuss your reader’s personal matters with anyone else.

When talking about your reader with others, please do not use his or her name.

Please do not take pictures or otherwise record your reader, unless your professor asks you to do so or your reader has a permission slip on file.

Your relationship with your reader's teacher

When you first pick up your reader from his/her classroom, introduce yourself to the teacher with your name and affiliation with PRI.

If you want to talk to your reader’s teacher, let your coordinator know and he/she will help you set up a meeting. Try to avoid disrupting your reader’s class by talking to the teacher during class time.

If your reader’s teacher recommends students to the program, pass this list along to your coordinator. Do not tutor students that have not been assigned to you.

Dialect Differences

About Dialect Differences

Your reader may speak a dialect of English called African American Vernacular English, or AAVE. This is the language normally used by African Americans who live and work primarily with other African Americans. AAVE differs from Standard American English and other dialects in both its sound patterns and its grammar. The goal of the tutoring program is to help kids learn to read, not to teach them standard pronunciation (though they may shift more towards standard English automatically as they read better). However, if you are not a speaker of AAVE, it might be difficult for you to distinguish between reading errors and dialect differences. In order to minimize confusion, it is important that you be aware of the main sound features of AAVE. These are dialect features, not errors. The description below is excerpted from “Summary Statement on AAVE,” a document submitted to the California Board of Education by nine linguists who have done research on this dialect.

The /th/ sound

The initial th- in function words this, then, these, other, either, etc. is often produced as a rapidly spoken /d/, and less often like a /t/ in content words like thing, think, through.

At the ends of words or syllables, many speakers of AAVE do not make a difference between -th and -f, and use the sound /f/ for both, so that bathroom is pronounced as bafroom and death as deaf. Moreover, many speakers of AAVE do not hear the difference involved here. This also applies to the consonant spelled th in the middle and ends of words, as in brother and breathe, which is frequently pronounced with a /v/.

The th words pose more of a problem for learning to spell and speak standard academic English than for learning to read.

Pronunciation of /r/

The main regional feature of AAVE concerns the pronunciation of /r/. In the high prestige pronunciation of southern England, the sound spelled r after a vowel is normally pronounced as a continuation of the vowel, so that father and farther, source and sauce are alike. This vowel-like pronunciation was also the prestige pronunciation in Boston, New York, Richmond, Charleston and Savannah, but shortly after World War II, people in these cities began to pronounce /r/ as a consonant in careful speech, as in other parts of the U.S. In all these cities and elsewhere, African Americans use the vowel-like pronunciation of /r/ more than Whites, not only at the ends of words, but also between two vowels, as in Flo’ida, Ca’olina, inte’ested, etc. In cities with r-less dialects like New York, speakers of AAVE show much more of this pattern than in r-pronouncing cities like Chicago. As in Southern varieties, AAVE may eliminate all traces of the vowel that represented /r/ in words like sto’, do’, fo’ which sound like stow, foe, dough instead of store, door, four. Among the consonant clusters at the beginning of the word, AAVE frequently shows the absence of /r/, as in the words throw, through, brought, often pronounced th’ow, th’ough, b’ought.

The general tendency in AAVE as elsewhere is for speakers with r-less pronunciation to pronounce /r/ as a consonant in formal speech. Whether or not speakers of AAVE acquire the pronunciation of /r/ at the ends of words, they should become aware of which words are spelled with r (i.e., snore) and which are not (snow).

Pronunciation of /l/

As in several other varieties, AAVE speakers pronounce /l/ with a vowel-like quality at the ends of words, particularly after the vowels of cool and coal. This is most extreme before the consonants /p, t, k/ where it is hard for AAVE speakers to develop phonemic awareness of the next to last segment in help, belt, milk, and such words are often spelled without /l/ by AAVE-speaking students. Final -le, as in people, couple and little, is often produced as an /u/ vowel.

Consonant clusters

All English speakers show some tendency to drop the second of two consonants in words like fist, wild, find, desk, lift, especially when the next word begins with a consonant. Speakers of AAVE do this at a higher rate than speakers of other varieties, and show a much greater tendency in sentence final position (This is a test.), where other varieties tend to preserve the /t/. When the -s of the plural is added (tests, wasps, desks) the combination of three consonants is rarely heard; tests is realized as tes’ or tesses.

As a result of these simplifications, AAVE speakers may produce and hear as homonyms miss and mist, cold and coal, find and fine. Given the vowel-like pronunciation of /l/, one can have even larger sets of homonyms, so that bow = bowl = bold. When a vowel follows, the second consonant is much more likely to be produced and heard. This is especially true within a word, so that the final /t/ of test is most likely to appear in testing, and the final /t/ of accept even more likely to appear in acceptable. The situation is quite different for the consonant combinations -mp, -nt, -nk, -lp, -lt, -lk, where it is the first consonant that tends to be weakened and is hard to hear.

A prominent sound pattern of AAVE is the elimination of the /t/ in the common words it’s, that’s, lots, what’s, so that these words sound like i’s, tha’s, lo’s and wha’s. Speakers of AAVE from some regions of the South use initial /skr/ in place of /str/ so that street is pronounced like skreet.

/i/ and /e/ before /m/ and /n/

As in the South generally, speakers of AAVE do not make a difference between /i/ and /e/ before the nasal consonants /m/ and /n/, so that pin and pen, him and hem sound the same. Most of the time the vowel will sound like -in for both words, but sometimes -en will be used for both. Many speakers of AAVE do not hear a difference between /i/ and /e/ in these words. This type of pronunciation is heard among most educated speakers in the South, Black and White, who are not speakers of AAVE.

Words spelled with -ing are often pronounced with the vowel of -ang, so that words like thing, sing, ring may have the vowel of thang, sang, rang. This pronunciation is widespread in the South, and generally considered non-standard.

The Possessive System

In standard academic English, ’s is added to a noun to indicate possession, as in John’s cat and This is John’s. In AAVE, the ’s suffix is normally absent when another noun follows (John cat) but it does appear when there is no noun (This is John’s.) The possessive ’s is also regularly added to mine (This is mines).

The possessive pronoun whose is not found in AAVE, but is realized as who (I don’t know who book it was). To acquire standard academic English, speakers of AAVE must learn to recognize and reproduce the ’s marker of possession between two nouns.

Socio-cultural attitudes

In addition to linguistic patterns and features that impact language and literacy learning for AAVE-speaking children in K-8 classrooms, there are socio-cultural perspectives and attitudes that need to be taken into consideration, particularly for those who are middle school students, grades 5/6-8. Some AAVE-speaking students approaching adolescence exhibit resistance to and/or skepticism about the value of learning standard academic English. Some students may need support to learn that it is possible to acquire mastery of standard academic English without rejecting the language used by their parents in the home. The students in these upper grades will need help in understanding that what is appropriate in one setting is not appropriate in another, so that they can shift easily and competently between varieties in different social contexts.

Although linguists may sometimes disagree about the historical development of AAVE and its current direction of development, it is generally accepted that AAVE is the rule-governed system described here. If appropriate methods are used in the classroom, children who speak this variety can achieve the goal of mastering standard academic English. Such instruction will be all the more effective if it identifies non-standard varieties as different, rather than inferior. All students (regardless of linguistic, social, and economic background) should be taught standard academic English in a way that respects the richness, legitimacy, and vitality of their home language.

English Fun Facts

The Great Vowel Shift (1450-1750)

Language changes over time, particularly pronunciation, and English is no exception. Because English spelling has not changed drastically in the last couple hundred of years—but pronunciation has—many spelling peculiarities refer to historical pronunciations. One especially dramatic change in pronunciation is the Great Vowel Shift that took place in southern England. This vowel shift changed the relationship between sounds and letters. This explains, in part, why different vowel sounds are spelled with the same letter.

Instead of saying “Marvin ate his blue and white sneakers” as we do today, English speakers before the Great Vowel Shift would say, “Marvin ott his blow and wheat sneckers.” English spelling reflects a pronunciation in which short and long vowel sounds were more similar. Since that is not the case today, your reader may find pairing short and long vowel sounds together challenging.

"True Luve"

The style of certain medieval century gothic scripts made reading certain words hard to read. For example, the word love used to be spelled luve, but since the letters u and v looked similar, luve was hard to read. Scribes therefore changed the spelling to love, which does not make sense in terms of pronunciation.