What is a Tutorial Period?
Schools across the United States are always trying to find more time to support their students that need more academic support, but schedules often get in the way and force this to happen outside of regular school hours. Because tutoring students after school isn't always possible for logistical and transportation reasons, among others like the fact that teachers are not compensated for their time unless it is through a formal after-school program, many middle and high schools are implementing Tutorial Periods into their schedule to give students and teachers more time when they need it. Usually, tutoring is the priority for Tutorial Periods, focusing on what is often called "Tier 2" support in the Response-to-Intervention (RTI) model, which is meant to support students that were unable to master some content or skills when provided to the entire class during "Tier 1" support, but also do not necessarily need intensive interventions, or "Tier 3" support, though all three types of support can, and often are, used during Tutorial Periods. In this article, we'll discuss what Tutorial Periods are, why they are important, and some helpful tips to consider for schools looking to start, or improve, a Tutorial Period.
What is a Tutorial Period?
A Tutorial Period is a designated time during the school day, usually between 30 to 50 minutes, when all students are required to attend an intervention, or tutorial, session with a teacher. While sessions are often used for tutoring in academic subjects, they can also be used for social-emotional learning (SEL), enrichment, and other areas of support that students may need.
And while most schools have one Tutorial Period in their daily schedule most days of the week (as seen in the example below, where their Tutorial Period is named W-Hour), some schools decide to have them every other day or potentially a few in the same day once or twice a week, especially when they run a block schedule.
One important thing to note is that Tutorial Periods are not just for struggling students; all students can benefit from additional time with teachers outside of the regular classroom setting. While schools might often decide to implement a Tutorial Period with the idea that they are focusing on students who are struggling, even high-performing students who are given the opportunity to attend supplemental instruction sessions in a smaller setting with more individualized attention can benefit, whether through their grades, test scores, or other metrics.
This makes sense when you think about it: most students spend around six hours a day, five days a week, in school, usually with the same group of students and the same teacher at the same time most days. It's no wonder that, even with the best teachers in the world, it's difficult for them to give each student what he or she needs during that time. Tutorial Periods provide a way for all students to get more individualized attention from their teachers, whether working on skills and content they may be struggling with or other topics based on their interests that might not be able to fit into regularly scheduled classes.
Lastly, it is worth noting that Tutorial Periods can go by many names in different schools and can vary by region. Among the most common nationwide are Flex Period, Advisory Period, Mascot Time (e.g. “Panther Time”), Activity Period, Enrichment Period, Pride Time, Resource Period, WIN (What I Need) Period, and Intervention Period. In our research, calling it a Tutorial Period was most popular in Arkansas, California, Texas, Washington DC, and Washington (state). To read more about the most common names for these types of periods, check out this post.
Why are Tutorial Periods Important?
There are many reasons why Tutorial Periods are important for students, teachers, and principals. We'll touch on a few of the most important ones here.
Tutorial Periods provide more time to receive support from teachers in a smaller setting, which can be especially beneficial for students who are struggling academically or behaviorally.
Attending supplemental instruction sessions in a smaller setting helps high-performing students maintain their level of achievement or even improve upon it.
Tutorial Periods also provide a space for students to socialize and build relationships with their peers, or even teachers and other staff, outside of the classroom setting.
In many cass, Tutorial Periods also provide students with some choice and voice in their day, which is otherwise structured for them, by allowing them to advocate for themselves and ask for support from teachers when they need it.
Supplemental instruction is a great way for teachers to get to know their students better and help them individualize instruction or pull groups of students that need the same support but are usually grouped in different class periods during their regular schedule.
Tutorial Periods gives teachers an opportunity to provide and engage with more detailed feedback or even observe how students are working independently and collaboratively.
Tutorial Periods can also be used to provide professional development or professional learning community (PLC) opportunities for teachers without missing class time, as students are distributed to other teachers for support during their PD or PLC meetings.
Tutorial Periods provide administrators an opportunity to get a better understanding of how each teacher is teaching and what students are struggling with.
Tutorial Periods can also be used as time for administrators to meet with students without having to pull them from regular class in one-on-one, small group, and large group scenarios as needed.
Tutorial Periods provide opportunities for creative solutions that align to the values and goals of the school to be carried out during the school day, whether related to improving academic outcomes, building school culture, or
For more information on the benefits of Tutorial Periods, check out our post outlining 19 benefits in more detail.
Tips for Starting (or Improving) a Tutorial Period in Your School
If you're thinking about starting a Tutorial Period (or flex period of any kind) in your school, or if it's already in place but you'd like to improve it, here are some tips based on our research:
Start by talking with teachers and staff to get their input on what they think would work best for their students. Every school is different and will have its own needs.
Make sure the schedule is clear and easy to follow for both students and teachers.
Encourage teachers to use data from assessments, such as benchmark tests, to help them determine which skills and content they should focus on during supplemental instruction sessions.
Monitor student attendance and make sure students are getting the most out of supplemental instruction. (side note: Edficiency’s software makes this, among other logistics, a breeze.)
Create clear guidelines for how the tutorial period will be used and what is expected of both students and teachers.
Ensure teachers have enough time to plan as much as you believe is necessary, but don’t forget that often this time is not as big of a lift to plan for as it might feel. Remind teachers that they’re getting more time with students they want more time with and can build on what they’d do if they had more class time with students in more strategic groupings.
For more information on how to start a Tutorial Period, download our flex period planning tool here.
We hope this information is helpful for those who are interested in starting or improving a Tutorial Period in their school. Here at Edficiency, we usually refer to Tutorial Periods as “flex periods,” given that seems to be the most common name used, and have created the ultimate guide to flex periods as another great resource for those looking to learn more.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule an introduction call here to learn more about Tutorial Periods and how our software helps school make the daily scheduling and rostering of students for them easy!