Saturday, June 18, 2011

Teaching Tips & Tricks

This is a compilation of resources created for a workshop I developed on knitting and math called "Knit it, Solve It!" for the Mississippi Arts Commission's 2011 Whole Schools Institute.  

Teacher/Student Ratio

1.      The best ratio for teaching knitting is 1 to 1.  Then, each student can “pay it forward” and promise to teach at least one other student.  In no time at all, students will be learning to knit exponentially!
2.      If you must teach a larger group at one time, either recruit some outside volunteers or students you have previously taught to achieve a smaller teacher/student ratio.  As an alternative to mentors, project a knitting video or set up videos on multiple computer stations.  Try to have some books with diagrams and/or photos available, too. 

Supplies for Students

1.      Intro letter with resources
2.      Worsted weight, wool yarn
3.      Size 7 or larger wooden or bamboo needles
4.      Gallon size Zip Lock Bags or plastic shoe boxes
5.      If you let students purchase readily available metal or aluminum needles at local discount stores or acrylic yarn that is difficult to knit with, they may experience frustration.  It might be better to take orders for interested students, and place a bulk order from an online source so that good materials are available.   
6.      Some type of notebook to use as a knitting journal/project diary
7.      A crochet hook (around size 7 or 8) for picking up dropped stitches

 Classroom Supplies

1.      Tapestry needles for weaving in ends
2.      Scissors
3.      Rulers or tape measures
4.      Knitting needles in various sizes and types that could be checked out
5.      Knitting books with kid-friendly patterns
6.      Collection of downloaded, free knitting patterns in a notebook or file
7.      Guidelines for how and when students may knit in the classroom or at school
8.      A few crochet hooks (various sizes) for picking up dropped stitches

Set-Up for First Lesson:  Knit a UKO!

1.      Students may want to knit something to wear or use from the first try.  Instead of setting up a goal to knit a scarf or potholder, plan to knit a UKO, an Unidentified Knitted Object!   It won’t matter what mistakes are present or what it looks like.  The UKO will be a  funny keepsake of their first knitting experience.
2.      If possible, prepare knitting kits in Zip-Lock bags.  Previous to class, cast on and knit a few rows onto wooden or bamboo needles with worsted weight, wool yarn.  Let your students learn the basic knit stitch, and give them video links to learn about slip knots and casting on later.  The first class will be so much more successful if you start with the basic knit stitch as the goal. Learning to knit is so much easier if the first few rows have been established.
3.      Stress that mistakes will happen!  Stress that students are training their hands to do something totally new!  Stress that it will become easier as muscle memory is developed!

Learning from Mistakes

1.   If students keep at it and bring back a UKO, you can look at it with them and help them see their mistakes.  In no time at all, students will be able to help each other analyze mistakes in UKOs. If they get frustrated and unravel their UKO while at home, they won’t be able to learn from their mistakes! 
2.      Holes or decreasing stitches indicate dropped stitches or yarn-overs. 
3.      Split or knotted stitches indicate the student is not sliding the needles all the way through the entire loop of yarn.  The needle may be going through part of the yarn and dividing the plies. The needle may not be going through the loop against the other needle.  
4.      Increasing stitches indicate students are wrapping the yarn around the needle in the wrong direction. 

Suggested Order of Basic Lessons

1.      Knit stitch (garter stitch is rows of knit stitch only)
2.      Binding off
3.      Making a slip knot
4.      Casting on
5.      Knit stitch (garter rows)
6.      Purl stitch
7.      Increasing and decreasing
8.      Weaving in ends
9.      Gauge, needle selection, yarn selection
10.  Pick a project!

Questions or comments?

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