Sunday, December 19, 2010

Not Pushing Knitting

I've learned a lot in the years I have tried to teach children to knit, from my Sunday School class, to my current class at the school. I learned that a verse helps A LOT, that having the children write down a copy of the verse to keep in their handwork baskets so they can read it while they do the steps is essential, that you should have a child sit next to you and watch you, then you have them hold the bottom of the needles while you manipulate them, then they do a few stitches on their own. I have learned that having a short row to begin with helps kids feel done faster and they feel more successful, so I usually cast on 8 for a starting swatch. I've learned that you have to explain to children that if they end up with more stitches than 8 after a few rows that they can't just push the extra stitches off and drop them because they will unravel in the body of the knitting. I've learned that my idea of having kids knit flowers after making swatch after swatch and scarf after scarf was not that successful, that what they really want is to make animals. I've learned that while Kids Knitting: Projects for Kids of all Agesis a good book to help learn to knit if you are on a budget and you only have access to the local library, that A First Book of Knitting for Childrenis the real bees knees, because it has those animal patterns and THAT'S WHAT KIDS LIKE. But most of all, I've learned (wait for it) not to push knitting.

All children can easily learn to finger knit with one loop so we start there (after our introductory sewing unit, because I learned from a Handwork book that knots and care of your materials are the real place to begin). I give them plenty of inexpensive 100% cotton yarn from WalMart and let them go to town. We do make knitting needles right away, with acorn cap ends, so that all the classroom pencils aren't used up by holding people's yarn loops when they set down their work and go to something else. I love Red Berry Woolto introduce knitting.

After finger knitting for a while, most children want to know how to make a slipknot, so they can start on a new yarn without waiting for me, so I give that lesson. There are great directions for this in Kids Crochet: Projects for Kids of All Ages

Then a week or so later I announce that I will be giving a lesson on how to finger knit with more that one finger for those who are interested and I let people decide if they want to come or stay at the level they're on. After a few kids start doing the more complicated finger knitting, others want to try it, so I have the children that know how teach the others. I really enjoy watching the children teach each other and it gives the classroom a nice collaborative atmosphere.

I sit down with my own Handwork basket and begin to knit something with two needles, letting the children who want that as their next lesson come to me to express their interest. That's when I give them the verse and show them how. Soon, again, more and more children are asking for the lesson. I give the lesson individually but pair them up with an experienced knitter to be a buddy if they get stuck while knitting. After they do their first swatch, I teach the knitted cast-on so they can get themselves started. Scarf after scarf begin to appear. I give them bulky wool for this.

Then I casually knit the lamb pattern (unassembled) and hold it up one day at Morning Meeting and say, for those who are interested in trying a new knitting challenge, I can teach you how to make a stuffed animal. You will get a special new kind of yarn for this.

I have noticed that by backing off and not trying to have everyone in the room on the same project at the same time, there's more interest in knitting. Kids don't feel like they HAVE to be doing a project with needles. They can take a break from their needles and go back to finger knitting for a while if they want to. My two children who are in my class are at different levels and it's been fun to watch. Natalie wanted a new challenge and so she is doing her first stuffed animal -- the Pig from A First Book of Knitting for Children

Leah wanted something new but not that complicated so she's making the very first beginning knitter hat from Lion Brand Yarn: Just Hats: Favorite Patterns to Knit and Crochet

I love that they are coming to me and asking for something new, not that I am pushing them along. When Natalie found 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet: A Collection of Beautiful Blooms for Embellishing Garments, Accessories, and Moreon the shelf, she asked me about crochet and so I told her I would get her a crochet hook and we could explore it together (I don't know how to crochet yet). She's in 2nd grade, so this is the Handwork "curriculum" for her, but she feels like she is discovering it on her own.

No comments: