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Teach a Child to Crochet

Teacher's Success Stories

This detailed teaching guide, written by master teachers, Dixie Berryman, Evie Rosen and Audrey Hein, while specific to crochet, includes general guidelines for teaching young people, along with suggested lesson plans. We thank the Craft Yarn Council of America for allowing us to reprint it.

The yarn industry is lucky to have master teachers who are willing to share their talents and insights with others. Dixie Berryman, Evie Rosen and Audrey Hein are nationally recognized teachers who were instrumental in developing the Craft Yarn Council of America's Certified Instructors Program. Evie Rosen, in addition to being an accomplished teacher and author, is the founder of Warm Up America! To learn more about the Certified Instructors Programs, visit: www.craftyarncouncil.com/teach.html

Teaching a Child to Crochet

THE TEACHER

Developing Personal Teaching Skills

Most of us have favorite teachers and can recall personal qualities which made them outstanding teachers. Certainly the ideal teacher understands how people learn, stays in charge, is well prepared, and makes it fun all at the same time.

How can you prepare yourself to be a good teacher? Of course, some people have a natural talent for teaching, but studying, organizing, and enjoying working with others are a few qualities of a good teacher which can be emulated. This handbook was designed to assist you in developing these essential qualities and it will also provide some helpful guidelines and suggestions to help you become the best teacher you can be!

Stay Focused

The focus of your class should be to teach crochet on a given skill level. If students are beginners, keep the focus on beginning skills chosen for that lesson. They will be struggling to hold the crochet hook and trying to remember how to hold the yarn.

While giving instruction, pause frequently to allow the child to think about what you have just said. Speak clearly and slowly. Speaking slowly will allow your mind to work ahead of what you are saying and you will be less likely to forget anything. It is always a good idea to make a brief outline of things you want to cover in class each day. There's no substitute for a graphite memory . . . WRITE IT DOWN!

Be Organized and Prepared

Good organization is essential to good teaching and will make you more efficient and effective. Whether during planning or in the classroom, organization is an important factor in successful teaching. Review and study for each lesson; collect examples and supplies to make sure that each class begins on time and goes smoothly. Being ready avoids needless confusion, puts students at ease, and prepares them for learning.

Be thoroughly familiar with the subject. Before every class review each skill and idea to be taught.

Visual aids will assist you in your teaching and simplify your task as a teacher. We've all heard, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and that is especially true teaching children in a classroom setting. Students prefer to see what you're talking about instead of just hearing about it.

Lesson Plans

A lesson plan is simply an outline of what you plan to teach in a class. Developing a lesson plan makes you focus on how to accomplish your teaching objectives for each class and helps you stay on schedule.

If you are writing lesson plans for the first time, below are three helpful guidelines:

  • Define your goal for the entire series of classes. This can be completing a simple project or teaching specific techniques.
  • List all the steps to be covered with your students in order to attain this goal.
  • Divide all the steps between the number of classes you will be teaching.

Even when using detailed lesson plans, you can't always stay on schedule. You might have an entire class of slow learners, or conversely, a class of speedy students, who complete two lesson plans in the time you thought it would take to complete one. There will be times when you will just have to go with the flow, but most times you should be able to stick to your plans.

Keep Continuity

Crochet is a skill taught in a step-by-step, organized way. The student must understand and be able to make "step" progress. The teacher must be alert to a student's response and be as certain as possible each step is learned and used before progressing to the next step.

One teaching method that can be utilized is to provide a hook with rows of crochet already worked to teach beginners, skipping how to chain until they are more adept at handling yarn, hook, or needles. This is an exception to the "Step Rule," but works for some classes.

Always assume students in a beginning class know nothing about the skill; take nothing for granted. Those who are self-taught need to know what they are doing right and wrong. Although students may have crocheted or knitted for many years, they may still not understand why gauge is important or how to use gauge information.

Review also gives continuity from class to class. By reviewing at the beginning of each class period and re-capping at the end of each class, the teacher reinforces the techniques already learned and connects them to new ones.

The Basics of Teaching Children Needlework

writtten by Harry and Dixie L. Berryman

Think of teaching as providing directed activities from which the child will learn.

Learning activities should appeal to a child. Know their current interests and use them to involve the child in learning activities.

The child should understand that each learning activity leads directly to accomplishing the finished project. Example: The chain must be worked to begin a project.

Showing is better than telling.

Demonstrations should be short, well paced, and repeated, either by teacher or students.

Demonstrations should be broken into steps:

Example: Starting a chain.
  1. Pull 10" yarn from ball
  2. About 5" from end, fold over hook
  3. Twist hook around so yarn is twisted under it forming loop
  4. Yarn over hook and pull through loop in hook

Put something in their hands as soon as possible. Demonstration should be followed by the learner's doing what they have observed. Children should have their hook and yarn to try while you are demonstrating.

*A completed example of the project created for children to learn should be available for their examination.

Example: After teaching how to chain, make a necklace with 3 or 4 separate chained lengths in different colors. Twist to form rope, slip st together.

Communication is enhanced when you use concrete images, word "pictures", and a vocabulary children understand.

  • Children are seldom interested in learning a new vocabulary just for the skill they are learning.
    Children like jokes and games, but these should be directly related to learning the skill being taught, otherwise they become distractions.

    Example: Chains should be loose enough to work the foundation row.
    "Fat Worms" describes what you want. Tight chains are "Hungry Worms."

Constructive Criticism and Correction is an Important Teacher Activity.

  • Recognize and encourage any activity that leads towards accomplishing the learning goal. Show them how the current activities are related to the finished project.
  • Children must have a sense of accomplishment. Provide them with frequent progress reports. They will quit or feel they cannot do it when they are unable to perceive progress.
  • When a child is having difficulties doing the demonstrated task, show them an alternative, if possible. Repeat demonstration individually using different and new words. Observe the child while he/she tries.

    Example: If a child has problems making a chain with the hook, try teaching them with just their index finger. After they have the concept, switch to the hook.

  • Each child will have a different "pace" and it may be necessary to allow some children to learn another step while others are practicing on the previous one.

Physical Setting and Class Size

  • Select a pleasant space with minimal distractions and a relaxing ambiance.
  • Ideal number for a crochet teacher would be 5 or 6 children all working on the same project.
  • The more children involved, the more organization and structure is needed.

    Example: Small groups may sit on the floor and be more informal, getting up to come to the teacher. Larger groups may have assigned areas to work and be told they should remain in these areas and the teacher goes to them.

  • Large groups may be sub divided. More adept children may help others, but adult aides are most helpful.

Teaching Teenagers

  • Teach them as adults are taught, but recognize their interests are different.
  • They should be treated as adults and not like "large children".
  • Avoid "dumbing down" the class. Involve them in measuring and planning projects.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF TEACHING CHILDREN

Keep It Fun

Children are our future crocheters and worthy of our time. Children want to have fun and will not tolerate too much seriousness. They may or may not be interested in "doing it right". Be grateful they are trying. Don't expect or demand perfection from children. Let them enjoy learning to the extent they are interested and don't make them feel like failures if they don't accomplish much. Often, just being exposed to the techniques and understanding the principles is enough. If it has been an enjoyable experience for them, they may come back to it later in life; if it hasn't, they won't!

Boys may be more interested in these skills than some girls, so do not leave them out. Associate knit and crochet with their interests: caps and leg warmers for outdoor sports, writing a pattern for themselves with the calculator and tape measure.

As you probably well know, most children do not have a very long attention span, especially when it comes to doing something that is not very active like knitting or crocheting. The challenge may be just getting them to sit still long enough to teach them, so the key is to KEEP IT FUN. Go with the flow and don't dwell too long on how to hold the yarn and hook. Once they feel comfortable, form will come. Just keep them going. At first, work around mistakes and don't rip them out. Keep the lessons short enough so as not to lose the child's interest, and before the lesson ends, get them excited about what they will learn on the next lesson. If the lesson is too long and becomes too difficult or boring for the child, they may lose interest altogether.
Children often like to compete. Explain to them that this is an individual learning event and how fast or slow one is does not matter. What's important is how much they are enjoying it. (This can also apply to adults.)

Be Patient

Patience is probably the main ingredient for success in teaching, and this is especially true when teaching children. So when scheduling your lessons, set aside enough time that can be devoted exclusively to the child/children. Children love attention and the quality one-on-one time you spend with them is very important.

For instance, one instructor who enjoys teaching children suggests that when teaching young people, always dress comfortably. Why? One successful technique she uses is she sits on the floor with the students standing behind her. This enables the students to see the correct way to hold the needles or hook. Some students may still need additional help. If so, try putting the child in your lap and while you hold the crochet hook, have the student put their hands over yours. It may be time consuming, but children seem to really like this method.

Also, give them plenty of PRAISE!! (Also applicable to adults.) If you make them feel good about their work, they will practice more and progress more quickly.

If you are teaching in a class setting, some children may interrupt others or demand constant attention. Help them, but no more than others in the class. Be polite, but firm, not allowing them to "take over" all of your time.

The physically challenged will impress you. Most are able to learn from you with few adjustments to your usual teaching style. If they have problems hearing or seeing, they may request a seat nearer to you. With patience, you will learn more about teaching from these students. The physically challenged or disabled are eager to learn a new skill and are often omitted from those we would ordinarily seek as students. Don't leave them off of your list of those who deserve to learn to crochet.

There are many blind and hearing impaired who teach others. Those with learning handicaps can be remarkably talented in ways not readily apparent. Use these hidden talents to develop effective needle workers. Many prefer repetition and do very well learning a needleart.

It can be more difficult to teach family or close friends. They may not take you as seriously as other students and may only want to know specific techniques. Keep your sense of humor and do not feel obligated to give them the whole course. If they want more information, they will indicate that. They may want no structure at all. As long as they learn, the teaching method is not important. The most important thing in teaching anyone at any age is that it be fun for both you and the student, so be creative.

Time To Start . . .

One expert suggests to always REVIEW before beginning a new skill or technique. It is important that you be prepared and have available all the teaching aids you need for that teaching session. Pre-class preparation will also help refresh your memory on techniques you may not use very often. Pre-class preparation is important whether you are teaching a large class or one-on-one. Be sure you are ready before you start a class!!

Many have found it easier to begin by giving beginning students a crochet hook with a few rows of crochet already completed. By using this method, students learn the basics of single crochet more easily. Creating a foundation chain in crochet can be tricky for beginners because of their tension. Once they feel comfortable with the basic stitches, you can go back and teach them how to begin a foundation chain.

It is extremely important to include as much "one-on-one" teaching within a group session as possible. Some children may not want to ask questions in front of others because they don't want others to know they don't understand you. By walking around the room while students are working on an assignment, you can pinpoint those who need individual assistance. However, NEVER embarrass anyone by saying, "Why didn't you tell me you didn't understand?". Patience and tact is imperative!

According to another expert, one very important aspect of teaching is giving lots of affirmation. Always find something positive to say to your students. Whether it's "I like the color of your yarn" or "You hold your crochet hook well," you will find that saying something positive will help them to receive correction better. Keep telling them they are doing fine. This will build confidence in the child. They will feel that they "can learn to do this," if you give them encouragement and positive reinforcement.

We've all heard, "A picture is worth a thousand words." It's easier for your students to see what you're talking about instead of just hearing about it. That's why it's good to always bring plenty of samples or completed projects to show your students. These visual aids can also be used to help children see what other techniques they will be learning.

Listen to Your Students

Listen with more than your ears to what your students are telling you. If their actions are cold, bored, or indifferent, the reason may be they are just not getting your message. They may be having problems understanding a stitch, pattern or terminology that is new to them. A little extra help could get them to a point where they feel comfortable.

Get students working with their hands as soon as possible. Discussion can take place while they work. All handouts should be as informative as possible. When students must constantly stop to take notes, they lose track of what's going on in class, and fall behind with their hand-work.

After each class, summarize what was taught in class that day, ie, casting on, knitting, single crochet, etc. You may then want to "whet their appetite" by telling them what will be taught in the next class. Always emphasize that practice will make them more comfortable with the yarn and hook which will ultimately help them to progress more quickly.

Project Suggestions

It is very important that projects be appropriate for the skill level of the students you are teaching. The projects that are offered should capture and keep the interest of your young students. Follow their lead as to what they would like to create a gift, toy, or garment.

Beginners will need assistance in choosing a pattern that is simple and appropriate for their skill level. Remember it's better to end up with a completed simple project than an unfinished difficult one. Simple is best. Make the projects colorful and appealing to the
age group you are working with. Know their interests and offer projects that will inspire a desire to create the project.

There are two different approaches you may take in guiding your student toward a project.

  1. You may want to select one specific project for all your students to work on.
  2. Another approach is to let your student select their own project. If you choose this method, have projects that match their skill level and the type of yarn that you will be working with (worsted or bulky weight for beginners).

Once you have decided what technique and what projects you will use to teach a skill, you are ready to begin your teaching sessions. The following sample class outline can serve as a model for you. Remember, adjust your teaching sessions to the age level of the children that you will be teaching. Use the methods that proved to be most successful. And most of all…enjoy sharing your talents and skills with a new generation!

The teaching of children is a most important task. We do it every day in so many ways, without even contemplating the fact that we are teaching. When they see us doing something, they want to imitate what they see. Let them see how much you enjoy crocheting and what "fun" things you can create. Allow them to use their creativity.

One important fact to remember; they are learning a skill that can become a life-long treasured art. You have the opportunity to share the gift of knowledge with coming generations. Because you spent the time to teach a child now, they in turn will be able to teach another generation. Therefore, you will have imparted knowledge, not just to the child you teach today, but the children of tomorrows to come. What a grand gift to share the love for the beautiful art form that is crochet!

Objectives for Beginner Crochet Classes

BASIC CROCHET TECHNIQUES

Objective: To introduce students to basic crochet techniques including the slip knot and chain stitch, single crochet, double crochet, half-double crochet, and triple crochet.

Slip Knot and Chain Stitch

Demonstrate the slip knot and chain stitch by using a large hook and bulky yarn or rope. Also, the use of posters and corresponding illustrations is helpful when working with a group. Use one of these methods throughout your demonstrations.

Demonstrate the two ways to hold a crochet hook. Students should choose the most comfortable method for themselves. Demonstrate the slip knot and how to hold the yarn in the hand. Have students practice controlling the tension with the index finger.

Demonstrate the chain stitch. Emphasize chaining loosely. Suggest using a crochet hook one or two sizes larger while working the chain to prevent a tight chain. Have students practice making a chain. Explain that the chain stitch does not count as a row. Talk about uses for a chain and show samples of the uses, such as hair ties or using a chain to wrap a special present.

Single Crochet

Show a sample of the single crochet stitch. Demonstrate the single crochet stitch using a large hook and bulky yarn. Show how to work into the chain for a foundation row of single crochet and to work under two loops of the chain. Explain chain 1 for turning single crochet. After turning, always single crochet into the first single crochet space working under the two loops on top of the stitch.

Double Crochet

Show a sample and demonstrate the double crochet stitch. Explain chain 3 for turning double crochet. When turning, double crochet in the second stitch of the previous row going under the two loops on top of the stitch. Explain a sample of the shell stitch and the popcorn stitch.

Half-Double Crochet

Show a sample and demonstrate the half-double crochet stitch. Explain chain 2 for turning half-double crochet and that it does not count as a stitch on the next row. Half-double crochet in the first stitch of the previous row being sure to insert the hook under the two loops on top of the stitch.

Triple Crochet

Show a sample and demonstrate the triple crochet stitch. Explain chain 4 for turning triple crochet. When turning, triple crochet in the second stitch of the previous row going under the two loops on top of the stitch. Explain that the chain 4 counts as the first triple crochet of that row.

JOINING A NEW YARN AND FINISHING OFF ENDS

Objective: To introduce to students the proper procedure for joining a new yarn and finishing off ends.

Demonstrate joining a new yarn at the edge of work. Discuss leaving the yarn ends hanging to weave in later and why you NEVER tie a knot. Discuss using yarn needles and finishing off only one yarn end at a time. Discuss how to properly fasten crochet off. Show a sample of a striped fabric. Talk about using color and stripes to create a design.

CROCHET HOOKS

Objective: To familiarize students with different types and uses of crochet hooks available and help them choose the correct hooks for their projects.

Discuss the different type of crochet hooks: single-end crochet, afghan hook, and double-end crochet hook. Show samples of each type and discuss the material used in the manufacturing of crochet hooks: aluminum, plastic, steel, and wood. Discuss with students the different sizing systems used for steel and for aluminum and plastic hooks. Note that steel hooks are 5" long and aluminum hooks are 6" long. The larger plastic hooks and wood hooks are often longer.

Aluminum, plastic, and wood hooks often use the letter system for size marking. They range from B (2.25mm), the smallest, to S (19mm), the largest.

The steel hooks use a number system for size marking. They range from 00 (3.5mm), the largest, to 14 (.75mm), the smallest size made by US manufacturers. Some imported steel hooks are available in size 16 (.60mm) and smaller.