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I have been tutoring Spanish (on and off) to middle and high school kids over the last eight years. I started when I filled a need for parents of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Oxon Hill whose kids were struggling with the language in school. Classes were held in the evenings in Church's library. From there I got a few referrals for private tutoring.
I have found that most of the students I taught do not have the basic fundamentals of the language from which they could take off and do well (that is, read and write the language at the most basic level). For example, most of my time has, frankly, been teaching students how to conjugate (break down the structure of) verbs, how to use the different parts of verbs to match the subject(s) of a sentence; how to match feminine adjectives with feminine nouns/singular adjectives with singular nouns, etc. I also find that most students are reluctant to s-t-u-d-y vocabulary. That's something they simply c-a-n-n-o-t get away from. So vocabulary homework involving vocabulary is something I always insist on.
In summary, I have found that the teaching methodology in today's schools is more conversational -- and that is fine. Where tutors come in -- where I come in -- is to teach the student the fundamentals of the language. When the two are married together -- you'll have a student who can hold his own!
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