3 Steps For Teaching A Successful Jewelry Class

August 29, 2014 , In: Business Tips, General, Inspiration, Tutorials

At Bead Fest, this year, I had the opportunity to assist both Staci Smith in her class, “Painted Polymer Fossil Talisman” and Genea Crivello-Knable in her class, “Wooly Wire One-Oh-Fun”I also took a class from AJE team member, Jenny Davis-Reazor, called “Mixed Media Amulets”.   

Genea’s Wooly Wire Class!

I spent the last dozen or so years of my public school teaching career mentoring teachers and college students as we worked together to improve instructional practices.  What I learned from assisting in these two jewelry classes and being a student in Jenny’s class, is that teaching is teaching, no matter what the topic. The same qualities of good instruction apply whether you are teaching a 4th grader to divide 3 digit numbers or whether your are showing how to create a bail using Wooly Wire.  The content changes, but most of the same instructional techniques apply.

Staci provided a variety of examples to help guide her students to their “destination”.

 Here are my observations from these classes, which will help any teacher:

  • Follow this instructional sequence: “I do it.  We do it. You do it.”  So what this means is that if I was teaching how to make an ear wire, I would gather the class around me, and do the first step or 2 of making an ear wire, while talking them through the process, as they observe, (I do it).  Next I’d send them back to their tables and once again talk them through it, while I demonstrated and they did each step with me (We do it.).  Later, if I sensed that they were ready, I’d let them make the other ear wire on their own, as I circulated and assisted those who were in need of extra help, (You-the student-do it.).  Whenever I saw this sequence at work in the 3 jewelry classes, I saw successful students.
  • Have plenty of examples available for students to use as guide posts.  If there is only one desired outcome, then all the examples should be the same, but place the examples on various student tables, so they can refer to them.  If there are a variety of possible outcomes, as in Staci’s or Jenny’s pendants, then offer a variety of examples for students to refer to.  Being able to see examples helps guide the process.  It’s like having a destination on a map. If you don’t have a clear, readily assessable destination, you’ll be lost.
  • Break the process down into small steps. Remember your students have no, or limited experience, in this new technique. I can make an ear wire in about 1 minute, without giving it much thought.  But if I were to teach my neighbor how to make one, do you think she could do it if I explained the whole thing at once and then said, “OK, go for it!”.  It takes practice, but you’ve got to learn to think like a beginner.  First my neighbor would have to learn to cut the wire, with flush cuts on each side.  Heck, she probably doesn’t even know the term “flush cut”.  So I’d have to back up and explain how each side of the cutter works and what a flush cut is and why it is important.  See what I mean about breaking down the steps?  So explain a little bit (how and why to make a flush cut), ask if anyone has any questions, have the students do it with guidance and then move on to the next step.  After a while you’ll get a sense for how much info your class can take in at one time.
Jenny explains some of the basic properties of working with polymer clay, as the first step in our pendant making.

Jenny is a former public school teacher so she has lots of experience and training in teaching.   But Staci and Genea also had very successful, happy students, who were proud of their new creations! So you can be a jewelry, or jewelry component, teacher too!  If you have ever considered sharing your jewelry skills, you might find that these guidelines are helpful.


Linda Landig

Linda Landig has been designing jewelry for over 30 years. Color play is the driving force in her work, closely followed by an obsession with texture. Linda soon discovered that art beads could provide much of the color and texture she sought. Linda has an affinity for floral themes, dating back to childhood efforts to raise irises. She has taken courses in metalsmithing and lampwork, but it is ceramics that has captured her heart. Linda has two adult children and lives in Olympia, WA with her husband of 42 years.
  1. Reply

    A very informative post . Your tips are really very helpful Makes me want to attempt teaching jewelry making too !

    • Gale
    • August 29, 2014

    I'm a teacher, too, and I think there are some differences between teaching writing (not at all concrete or visual) and demonstrating a very physical process. But your points are spot-on for hands-on workshops like the ones I've had at Bead Fest. I find myself reaching for those concrete examples (like I do when I'm teaching myself a technique at home), especially when there often seems not to be enough time for that "WE do it" step in the Bead Fest setting. I'm sure their students benefited because your colleagues managed to incorporate the principles you outlined so succinctly!!

  2. Reply

    Very helpful post, I will definitely earmark this for future reference.

  3. Reply

    Splendid post in every way. Bravo.

  4. Reply

    Great post. It explains why I would never make a good teacher as I am frustrate myself trying to break things down into small steps.

  5. Reply

    I am a former teacher and I would wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of teaching methods. They are universal! I like the idea of I do it – We do it – You do it. I would like to get into more teaching opportunities myself as I miss seeing students have that AHA moment. I will keep this article in mind! Enjoy the day Erin

    • Reply

      I didn't know that that you are a former teacher, too. Gotta love those a-ha moments! And also, in the case of the Bead Fest classes, it was a kick to see the finished projects from all the students! Tangible evidence of learning and accomplishment!

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