Previously, I showed you how I set up a children’s embroidery class, and today, I want to go a little more into detail on how I conduct my embroidery classes for kids.
First, I want to thank everyone for their insight and ideas about conducting a children’s embroidery class, including dealing with stitchers of various levels of ability and age, as well as with what I call “Lagging Stitchers.” If you haven’t read the comments, you can find them on last week’s photo update of embroidery class projects. Lots of good ideas there, and good advice! I also received several e-mails with further ideas, so I wanted to thank everyone for taking the time to discuss teaching children!
What I want to give you here is just a run-down of how I conduct children’s classes, in case you are ever in a situation where you can volunteer in your own community to teach a class, or even if you are simply tutoring your own child, or a relative, or even another adult. You’d be surprised how many people out there would like to embroider! So go teach someone!!
In the first classes, I set up the individual “place settings” for each student, so that when they arrived to class, all new materials were in front of them. As the classes progress, I prepare for each class by laying out supplies. This is really important if you want the class to run smoothly. To have to stop in the middle of instruction, or to hold up individual questions, while trying to cut open skeins of thread or find another needle is a pain in the neck. Always prepare in advance by having your class supplies ready.
We’re at the point where the children have their projects and now, as far as class supplies are concerned, it’s just a matter of needing extra threads or new needles. I cut all my threads to stitching length and lay them out next to my teaching area. The older children can help themselves. With the little kids, I distribute the threads as they need them. For one thing, it helps conserve thread, and for another, it keeps the thread a bit neater.
A typical class session goes like this:
Once everyone’s in a seat and settled – projects and sampler cloths out – I begin with the “instruction” portion of the class.
[A little teacher point: take a short pause before you begin to teach, to make sure you have everyone's attention. This moment of focus is essential - it's a waste of time to repeat yourself six times during the beginning of the instructional period, and it causes frustration for yourself and for your attentive students. Do that "effective pause" thing until you have everyone's attention... and usually, in classes like this, it's pretty easy to get and hold their attention!]
Ok, you have their attention. Begin by telling your students the goals of the day. Today, we’re going to learn two new stitches, and you’re going to be able to add them to your sampler, and then add them to your project. The stitches are…
We’ll take chain stitch for the example here. First, I pass around a sample or two (towels or whatever) that have the chain stitch worked on them, and I point out that this is the stitch we’re going to learn. They feel it, look at it, turn it over…
I begin the instruction period with whole group instruction. I ask them to listen and watch me while I work the stitch twice. I work the stitch facing them, with my hoop in front of me, also facing them (so I’m looking over the top of the hoop, and, in essence, I’m working the stitch backwards, but they are seeing it as if they would see it in front of them). As I work the stitch, I talk through the stitch with a kind of rhythmic phrase that condenses the progress of the stitch into a few key steps.
With the chain stitch (after the initial stitch), I’d use words like this:
“Up in the new loop, pull it forward, down in the same hole. Up in the new loop, pull it forward, down in the same hole…” If they get accustomed to hearing this, they keep the steps in their heads while they stitch.
So once I’ve instructed through the stitch twice, with their attention on me – not doing the stitch themselves – then we try it “together.” They bring their needle to the front of the fabric, and I talk them through the stitch the same way, still working it out so they can look up and see it. I do that a few times, and then tell them to complete the line on their sampler.
While they’re working the line on their sampler, I give individual instruction, going around the room to see that they’re getting it. Some, I just have to pass behind and say “Very Good!” Others, I’ll stop and help a bit. By the time I’ve seen everyone’s, most are finished with a row on their sampler cloth. Then I tell them to work another row, concentrating this time on making their stitches a little smaller, or a little more even.
While they’re working the second row, anyone who needs help will come up to my spot, or those who finish really quickly will come and ask if they did it right, or what they could do better, or “Does this look good?” etc.
After they’ve worked two rows on their sampler cloths (these are the little butterfly or flower shapes I prepared before the first class), they transfer to their project and start adding the chain stitch to the chained stitched areas on their projects.
Now, they have “chatter time” while they’re stitching. I help with any trouble-shooting that needs to be done with individuals, but for about 15 minutes they get a chance just to gab, giggle, and stitch.
Then, I call up their attention, and we move back to the sampler cloth, and I introduce the second stitch. I go through the same process with the second stitch. This all takes about an hour. The classes are two hours long…
So at the end of an hour, we have a break:
With cookies and something to drink (ice water! – it’s summer!!), they head outside for five or so minutes. There’s a small swing-set in the back yard and some picnic tables where they can play or visit. They can also take advantage of the time for a bathroom break in the house! While they’re outside, I’ll do any straightening up that needs to be done.
For the group A class (7 – 9 year olds) I have two very helpful mothers who are there the whole time – they thread needles and help give individual instruction – so often during the break, this is our chance to chat a bit, too. In the other kids’ classes, it’s just me, so I use the short time to “refocus” and clean up.
In the second half of the session, we work on projects. This is their time to put some concentrated effort into their individual projects and make headway on them. They also might pick out new colors for the new stitches on their project, or they might come up for individual help on a stitch that they didn’t quite get right, or whatever. It’s a good time for trouble-shooting with individuals and for everyone to relax and stitch and be social.
In the last 10 minutes of the class, I recap – I ask them to tell me the names o
f the stitches they’ve learned so far, can they describe them (“up in the new loop, pull it forward…”) Then we cover what they should work on to make progress during the week until we meet again, and I tell them what we’ll be doing next time.
And that’s pretty much how the classes are conducted. It works pretty well, actually. The occasional Lagging Stitchers usually get caught up in the second half of the class.
This week, I’ll show you some good progress on the kids’ projects… and I’ll show you how I’m managing the project I set up on the slate frame last weekend – I rigged an amazing frame stand! It’s oh-so-ingenious… and I’ve got another monogram towel I’m working on, with a new little monogram design that’s really pretty. I’m also planning (if all goes as planned in the last two days of my vacation!) to get some new video stitches done! I had to crack down and purchase a new hard drive (750 G should be helpful!) and dock, some new video editing software, and a gorgeous new microphone (called a Snowball!) – all of which will hopefully help me produce some better quality videos. Oh, and some new lighting. Also, there’s the July Stash contest to announce…. So, some exciting things coming up!
In the meantime, back to my needle ‘n thread!