Thursday, April 12, 2012

7 Tips to Teach Adults to Knit

Continuing with my series on teaching various age people to knit and crochet, I bring you a new edition of Tips to Teach.  This one is about adults.

Give perspective.  First, remind your students what it was like to learn a new skill.  Have them think back to the weeks as a child they spent learning to ride a bike, whistle, or learn an instrument.  Adults often forget how long it can take to master a new skill, especially one that involves fine motor skills.  They might get frustrated or discouraged when their first project doesn't end up like they expected.  By re-framing expectations you set them up for success instead of failure.

Start small.  On the same vein of managing expectations, try to start your students on a smaller project, that has a defined ending.  I have a list of projects that are small.  Adults, just like children, get a nice bump of satisfaction every time they finish something.  Make sure as the instructor, you're giving your students manageable goals.

Keep it under an hour.  Learning to knit is hard work.  Most people will be using fine muscles in their hands in ways they don't normally do, and these muscles get tired.  People's brains are also working hard, trying to grasp concepts and process them.  After an hour, people begin to get tired and their attention starts drifting.  Finish a class before your students get tired.

Have a worksheet or a diagram.  Knitting is not a skill that is going to be learned in an hour.  Most times when I teach people to knit, I'll teach them the knit stitch and have them go home and practice, then have them come back to learn purl, increases and decreases.  People are more likely to go home and practice if they have something to look at and jog their memory.

Have students write it down.  Jumping off of the worksheets, having students write something down will make them more likely to remember it.  Have them put in their own words each step of doing the knit stitch.  Research has shown that students normally remember about 40% of what is said in a lecture.  However, students that wrote things down remembered more relevant information.  You can have them do it right next to the pictures you have on your worksheets.

Tell them to bring in their work next class.  When I first started teaching, I would tell my students to practice the skills they had learned and come back next week.  What I'd find is that they would come in the next week, saying they had practiced, but that they had ripped out their work because there were too many mistakes.  Now, I tell my students to come in with their samples and their mistakes.  This is because you can look at their work and see what they are having problems on.  If they don't have anything to show you, you can't give them any feedback.  Stitches uneven?  Work with them on tensioning their yarn.  Holes in their work?  Check to see if they are dropping stitches or creating new ones.  Use mistakes as a way to improve.

Keep them accountable.  In classes that are multiple weeks long, I will try and get students e-mails and will check in with them during the week.  I will check to see if they have any problems and if they are practicing.  This helps because if a student gets stalled, they don't just give up until next week.  I try to problem solve so they can keep on practicing.
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