Teaching Fellow Etiquette

Guidelines to follow when running a session:

To do before students arrive:

  • Have all materials and books out
  • Set up the computer used for signing in and research
  • Configure the room so it works for small group activities and one-on-one settings
  • Put your materials away

To do as students arrive:

  • Greet students as they arrive, tell them your name and as for theirs
  • Have the student sign in and ask what class they are there for
  • Pair the student with others in the same class if possible

To do during a busy session:

  • Have the student take out their materials and tell them you’ll be over in a minute
  • Give them a small task to start or think of specific questions they have for you while you talk to another student

It’s the small actions like smiling and inviting students into the TF room that makes them more comfortable, willing to learn and excited to be there.

Time Management: Resources for a Busy Session


  • If you are working with another TF, recognize your strengths and work with students according to what you are good at.
  • Have a student think of three questions for you by the time you return to help them.
  • Have one student who you have helped teach others what they know.
  • Use the board!
  • Organize students based on class/professor/project


  • Use Concept Maps for understanding readings or planning papers.
  • When writing a paper, start with the conclusion and examine the explicit and implicit premises for the argument to determine if it is valid.
  • Pair students and play “Devil’s Advocate” for you partner’s main position in their paper.
  • Pair students and have them create three questions about a peer’s paper

Problem Solving:

  • Work through a general issue or a problem that all students have together/on the board so they understand the process and can do more work on their own.
  • Direct them to examples in the book or examples from personal experiences.
  • Have students only do one part of the problem and pass it on to the next- group problem solving.

Slow TF hours? Here are some ways to attract students!

Low nights and low numbers? Visit some classes mid-semester!

The middle of the semester can be slow in some departments, but usually the numbers will pick up at the end of the semester as final papers and exams approach. We want to encourage students to come in to TF hours before the very end so that they understand the material as the course goes along instead of trying to cram a full semester’s worth of content into the last few nights before exams.

A great way to reach out to more students is to visit the classes halfway through the semester or so and invite them to come by, particularly in classes that you have not seen many students from. This is your chance to remind the classes you are available and want to see them! Showing the students that you are friendly and eager to help will make them more comfortable with the idea of dropping in. Some things to include in this quick Teaching Fellow Infomercial  are your hours, the location where you work, your name, and a little bit about yourself. Although you did this at the beginning of the semester, repeating this information again to the classes (and writing it on the board) will encourage more people to come by. You can also tell the classes the types of assignments you have helped people with that semester, especially specific assignments pertaining to the class you’re visiting. Another option is leading or assisting the professor in a short lesson or game to show the students how approachable and knowledgeable you are!

If the professor does not have enough time to allow for this, talk to him or her about organizing a study table or night-time review session for their class that can take place during TF hours. This way, the students can study together and you can oversee and help with their questions while also helping other students from different classes.

You can also make a cool or funny poster midway through the semester to attract new people!

As you know, everyone can benefit from Teaching Fellows if they take the first step to visit hours. Keep up the good work and remember that you are having a very positive impact on the students you see!

How to write good session notes

Session notes should do a few things:
1. Illustrate how the session went to fill out the quantitative information that numbers through Tutortrac provide.
2. Describe the strategies that you used with students that went well as well as strategies that weren’t so effective.
3. Tell what material students were struggling with so that your department liaison is aware of where students might need more support.

Some examples of good session notes:

“I assisted two students in correcting their Valentine’s day “love letter” assignments. Both students had an excellent comprehension of what they were writing, they just needed some help and explanation for the corrections that needed to be made. I also had a great chat with the second student about culture and being at William Smith. She is a foreign exchange student, so I had the opportunity to teach some Spanish and have a wonderful conversation. It was a great evening!”

“Two students attended hours tonight. They were both working on a paper for Child Psychology and needed help summarizing their articles. They also wanted their drafts to be read so that they could edit better. Both had trouble connecting the article back to their original thesis and were told to try to improve on that aspect of their papers. By talking through some of the major points of the articles, I helped them see the relationship between their own ideas and those in the articles.” Continue reading

Proofreading tips from expert Susan Hess!

Consider these helpful tips from CTL’s Writing Specialist Susan Hess when helping students learn how to proofread their own papers!


Susan Hess, Writing Specialist at CTL

Guideline #1. Proofread backwards—begin at the final page and final paragraph, proofread it, and then move up to the next paragraph (this keeps you focused on errors by breaking your excessive familiarity with the text), and so on, until you hit page 1.

Guideline #2. Proof for one feature at a time—check your subheads only, or your Works Cited list only, or scan through for punctuation only or only the dates, etc.

Guideline #3. Take breaks—don’t proofread for more than 20 minutes without taking a 2 minute break.

Guideline #4. Use the “Find” function—this feature of your word processing software usually shows up under “Edit.” It helps you check for common errors, like “it’s” vs. “its.”

Guideline #5. Proofread on paper when possible.

Guideline #6. Believe in your own fallibility—I’ve been writing papers for 30 years, and I still kid myself that I type without error. Not.