Do you want to start doing crafts in your classes? Or are you looking for ways to take your craft lessons to the next level?
Whether you’re weaving, woodworking, or making other creations, here are a few recommendations during National Craft Month to help make your craft experiences with Outschool learners more fun and increase the likelihood that your learners will be excited to craft together again.
Evaluate your technology
Let’s start with technology, which has the potential to transform your craft class. Are you using equipment that can help learners easily see skills as you demonstrate them? A popular solution is a second camera so learners see work in progress and your face on screen as you run the class.
One recommendation is a document camera that you can attach to your computer via a USB port. Then you have the option of toggling between showing your face or the project in a larger window. Document cameras typically have a long arm that you can adjust to aim the camera at the activity. Another advantage of this type of camera is it can magnify areas to effectively show details or words on the screen.
You can also use other cameras like a smartphone attached to an adjustable phone arm, an external webcam with a flexible tripod, or another multi-camera setup.
Like any other new technology you bring into your virtual classroom, you’ll want to test your setup and practice using it so you’ll be comfortable presenting to learners.
Review your classroom management toolbox
As you plan your craft lesson, think about how you’ll handle challenges that may arise.
It’s ideal to nurture an environment where students feel comfortable learning new skills at the level and pace that works best for them. If possible, also encourage learners to personalize and put their own creativity into whatever craft they are making.
This approach sets the stage for your responses to scenarios like these:
What if a learner needs extra help on a step or skill? What could you have other learners do during that time? Consider having them add to their project or practice skills. You could also encourage learners who work more slowly to watch a class recording later to see that part of the lesson again.
How will you support learners who get frustrated with their abilities or results? You may see tears if a learner wanted their rabbit ears to look a certain way – and they don’t – or worse, if they fall off their clay figure. After you empathize, consider responding with choices: Ask the learner if they want to try again or adjust their design… Or maybe they want to take a short break and create a new animal.
What if a learner doesn’t have all the required supplies? This is a time to offer multiple ways to do the activity. Perhaps you have a learner who has a paintbrush but not the marker that was on the supply list. How can you help them use what they brought to create in an alternative way?
Choose your materials carefully
Consider not only what materials are needed for the craft but what is reasonable if parents have to purchase supplies.
Since learners may live in a variety of countries, try to identify supplies that families can find or order in many places in the world. That may mean supplies that are available from a major online retailer like Amazon. Also, if the item doesn’t need to be a certain brand or exact size, provide a general description that allows people to find a suitable choice in their area. If you need to recommend a specific material, you might provide a link as long as the item can be ordered widely.
Also, assess the cost of your supplies. Part of creating an inclusive environment is offering an experience that is affordable to a wide range of families.
Know when to ask for parent help
Some craft experiences will be more successful if you share a few key messages with families. This is especially important when the class involves potential safety issues. Fill out the parental guidance section of your class listing to give parents information about any support that learners will need, such as:
- Ask parents to supervise when learners will be using sharp tools like saws in woodworking and other classes. Note that Outschool requires parents to stay off screen as much as possible.
- If learners are young, perhaps preschool age, ask parents to be on hand in case the learner needs help with tasks like pouring liquids or cleanup.
- Some young children may not like particular tactile experiences, such as fingerpainting. If your class involves that type of activity, suggest that parents have some alternative tools available like paintbrushes or cotton swabs.
Consider these pro tips
- Record short videos for learners who need extra help or want to review particular aspects of the activity. You can store these as unlisted YouTube videos then post them on the class page.
- Use a photo of your finished product in your class listing. This helps to market your class and shows families what learners will be making.
- Film yourself creating the craft, and show that in class. Creating a time-lapse video can show learners the whole activity quickly.
- Practice the activity ahead of time! A craft may seem easy or self-explanatory, but until you try the whole project from start to finish you won’t necessarily know the parts that may be tricky for learners or where you may have to show learners different ways to approach a step.
- Have a finished example for learners. You may want to have that also displayed on your second camera so learners who work faster can view the finished product and start on other parts of the activity. Even if they’re working off a model, encourage learners to personalize their product.
Ready to try some of these ideas for an enjoyable craft experience? When you are extra prepared and ready to support learners at their level, learners will pick up on that and be more likely to be comfortable and engaged too.