adult student learning

Why become a literacy tutor

Literacy Suffolk tutors are a diverse group who share a desire to help students improve their employment opportunities and strengthen their families and communities through English language literacy.

Some tutors are former teachers, but most are not.

What matters is that tutors have empathy and patience to work one-on-one with an adult learner determined to be a better reader, writer, or speaker of the English language.  

Expectations of tutors

Most tutors meet in person with their student once or twice a week for at least two hours. Typically, these meetings take place in a library, but tutors and students may meet in a coffee shop, park, or any other public place.

Tutors are expected to work with their students for at least 12 consecutive months.

Tutor training

All tutors are required to complete a 12-hour training program. There are two options for tutor certification:

  • A four-session live training program that tutors can attend either in person or remotely. This program trains tutors to work only with our English Language Learners (ELL), or non-native English speakers.


  • An online program that tutors complete at their own pace. This program trains tutors to work with ELL, as well as Basic Literacy Learners (BLL), or native English speakers. 

Both training programs use videos and demonstrations, and both include techniques for working with students remotely, which became an option during the COVID pandemic. The live training sessions also include role-playing exercises. 

  • The BLL program helps English-speaking adults who read and write below a sixth-grade level.
  • The ELL program focuses on conversational English and includes reading and writing for non-native speakers. Knowledge of the learner’s first language is not necessary.

Tutor support

Every Literacy Suffolk tutor has a program coordinator who can provide tutoring tips and help tutors choose learning materials appropriate for their student’s English ability. New tutors may also request a tutoring mentor.

Recommended tutoring resources are available through Literacy Suffolk, county libraries, and online. A list of online resources recommended by Literacy Suffolk program coordinators is available here.

Tutor support workshops, suspended because of the pandemic, will begin again soon. These workshops will cover a range of topics, including reviewing the periodic testing New York State requires of all students. The workshops will provide a forum for learning about the challenges tutors and their students face, exchanging effective teaching strategies, and meeting other tutors. 

In addition, the Long Island Regional Adult Education Network (RAEN) hosts free workshops throughout the year, as well as a free annual conference open to Literacy Suffolk tutors.

Apply to become a tutor

You can either complete an online tutor application or download this print form and return to our office. 

Applicants can expect to hear back from us within a week’s time.

All newly accepted tutors will be given a short orientation over Zoom, when they will learn about student testing, tutor support, and how to report the hours you’ve tutored. The session will also give you an opportunity to ask questions. Those choosing to train online will be given help setting up access to the online program.  

Apply to become a tester

Testers play an important role in helping our Basic Literacy Learners (BLL) and our English Language Learners (ELL) programs. They are the first Literacy Suffolk representative students meet.

Testers conduct assessment that:

  • Provide information about the proficiency of students before they are matched with tutors,
  • Help tutors monitor student progress, and
  • Enable Literacy Suffolk to meet a New York State Department of Education requirement for funding.

Literacy Suffolk needs both BEST Plus testers for ELL and TABE testers for BLL students. Both tests are given individually to the student.

BEST Plus assesses non-native speakers’ conversational English. TABE is a reading test for native English speakers and for non-native speakers who have completed the ELL program and want to improve their reading and writing. 

Becoming either a Best Plus or TABE tester requires six hours of training. Best Plus testers must complete an annual four-hour recertification; TABE testers must attend the training every three years.

New testers are paired with an experienced tester, so new testers can observe how tests are administered. 

Apply online or download the tester application form, complete, and return to our office. 

Resources for tutors

Most of the English teaching and learning resources found on these sites are free for tutors and students: 

This site contains mainly grammar worksheets created by teachers worldwide. There are some videos with comprehension questions at a variety of levels.

Reading passages for all levels with vocabulary activities and comprehension questions. Good for ELL and BLL.

Contains old radio shows with transcription and read along short stories. For higher level ESL students.

Dialogues in various levels of difficulty and other types of activities to do with students.

Pre-listening and listening exercises, quizzes, and games at various levels. Can be used for BLL as well.

Follow the story of Anna as she navigates her new life in Washington, DC. From beginning level on up.

Various teachers present grammar challenges in a video format for different English proficiency levels.

Puzzles and worksheets that are food for ELL and BLL.

Printable worksheets that are good for ELL and BLL.

Make your own language puzzles for free.

Created by the University of Victoria for its adult English learners, the interactive site is a great  tool for home practice for students at various levels of language proficiency.

Provides reading passages with comprehension questions at various levels. Good for ELL and BLL.

English news lessons in seven levels of reading ability.

A resource for students and teachers with grammar lessons, slang, quizzes, lesson plans and more.

Although this site has a fee, there is a tab for “free stuff,” including a holiday songbook, citizenship questions and answers, and health issues.

Professional development resources for tutors

Long Island Regional Adult Network provides free professional development trainings, workshops, and conferences. All Literacy Suffolk tutors are welcome to participate.

Provides online tutor training at no cost to Literacy Suffolk tutors.

Literacy Suffolk is an affiliate of ProLiteracy. This is a good source for adult education statistics and professional development opportunities.

Social services referrals for students

The New York State site provides a range of information to support new immigrants.

Resources for Latina women and families, including support for victims of domestic violence. The organization offers a 24-hour emergency hotline.

The center provides legal and educational services to new immigrants.

The center’s mission is to make the law work for all New Yorkers.

Provides legal counseling, resettlement, and services for at-risk youth to all immigrant and refugee families.

FAQs for tutors

No, you don’t need to be a teacher. Our training programs will prepare you to be an effective tutor, and you will be supported by a program coordinator who can advise you about tutoring techniques and materials. 

And you don’t need to know another language. English Language Learners (ELL) speak conversational English faster when they are immersed in the language.

Yes, you can choose to work with a BLL, or native English speaker, who needs help improving their reading and writing or an ELL who wants to speak basic conversational English. The online program will prepare you to work with both kinds of students. Our live training will only prepare you to work with ELL.

No, tutors create their own lesson plans based on their student’s learning priorities. For instance, an ESOL student may want to focus on vocabulary for a doctor’s visit or a native English speaker may need help filling out an online application for employment.

All tutoring takes place in a public place. Usually that is a library, but it could also be a coffee shop, park, or other place convenient for you both.

In response to the COVID pandemic, the New York State Department of Education allowed remote tutoring for the first time. The department is the largest source of Literacy Suffolk funding.

The department has indicated its strong preference is for in-person tutoring, and Literacy Suffolk also believes in-person tutoring is more effective. New tutors should assume that they are tutoring in person.

All students are tested before being matched with a tutor. Your program coordinator will explain the results of that assessment to you and will suggest learning exercises for that first meeting.

Our students typically face many challenges. Many are recent immigrants who are struggling financially. If a student needs help, contact your program coordinator who will refer your student to agencies or organizations that will help.

Tutors work with their students once or twice a week for at least two hours. We request that tutors work with their student for at least 12 consecutive months.

Because tutoring is one-on-one, you will not have regular contact with other volunteers in the program. Literacy Suffolk will soon offer tutoring workshops and tutor support groups (suspended because of COVID) again and that will provide an opportunity to meet other tutors. More experienced tutors may work together to lead English conversation groups with their students at county libraries.

In addition, the Long Island Regional Adult Education Network (RAEN) hosts free workshops throughout the year, as well as a free annual conference that offer opportunities to socialize with other adult educators.  

Tutor reports

Please complete and submit your monthly tutor/volunteer report online here.

Or you may print the form, complete it, and return to our office.