How To Teach Beading

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So, you already make and design your own beadwork and you want to teach your Cabochon Necklace with Lentil Beadsdesigns to others. Or maybe you are a beader and have an interested friend and you want some advice on how to teach beading to that friend. Perhaps you have dreams of making a living from teaching beadwork, but how do you go about it?

I’ve been teaching for several years now and, when I think about it, I must have clocked up several hundred hours’ worth of teaching experience. I also hold a teaching qualification and I absolutely love the opportunity to share my knowledge. When I first started out, nobody told me how to teach beading – I basically took what I knew, what I believed and went from there.

My Philosophy on How to Teach Beading

I think it goes without saying that there are certain basic things you must do if you are thread2teaching a beading class, whether it’s a general technique, or a particular project. These apply to any kind of teaching. Firstly, be professional, so arrive early and leave yourself time to set up the room. Make sure you bring everything you need, including tools and materials for demonstrating as well as tools and materials for students to use or buy from you. You will need to give each student a professionally prepared hand-out, so at minimum this is the project instructions which should be clearly written and illustrated with diagrams or photos. Dress professionally and treat your students with respect. Hopefully this is all common sense, so I am not planning on writing more about any of this here.

A short time after I had started teaching, I studied for a City and Guilds qualification in teaching adults. This was not specifically about how to teach beading, but the general theories that we covered are applicable to all subjects. I’ll come back to that a bit later on.

Firstly, I want to talk about my philosophy on how to teach beading. So this is not valentine beading projectssomething that I have learned (although all my experience has and does feed into it), but rather what I believe about how to teach beading. For me, rule number one is remembering that every student is there voluntarily because they enjoy beading and they want an opportunity to do more of it. Yes, of course they are there to learn something, but this isn’t school. There is no exam at the end of it, nobody is going to be disappointed if they get it wrong and there is no reward for getting it right. The day should be about enjoyment. Invariably I have a class full of people with different levels of previous experience and different abilities. Maybe some will complete the entire project, maybe some will only manage a tiny bit. None of that matters to me. I try to ensure that everybody leaves the class with a basic understanding of all the elements of the project and I’ll happily answer questions via email after the class for anyone who is doing more at home. I believe I should be there to help everyone to achieve something. I want the actual workshop to be a fun experience with no pressure and I want everyone to leave feeling proud of whatever they’ve done and enthused by beading.

When I am teaching my regular group, we don’t even work on the same project: I don’t think it makes sense to compel people to do any particular thing or even to work in any honeycomb beads necklaceparticular order. I like to give everyone the freedom to choose what they want to do and then to do it at their own pace. Sometimes this means someone might be working on a project that, on paper, might seem to be beyond their level of experience, but I believe that nothing is impossible. I have always taught lovely people and when they are keen to learn and do something, there is always a way to achieve it. I enjoy the challenge of trying to be creative and think of alternative ways to show a technique or think up a little exercise that will help someone master the part of the project that they are finding tricky at that point. Beading isn’t like school with a curriculum that has to be covered: I think it should be about the end result. People come along because they want to make something more than learn something. Maybe that’s reverse engineering, but if you start with the project you want to make, then you will inevitably learn the skills to do it as you go along. Rather than starting the other way around and learning a technique then deciding what to make with it.

I have also come to realise that a beading class isn’t just about beading. It is a placebeading classes where people can meet others and we all spend as much time ‘putting the world to rights’ as we do actually beading. Beading classes also go beyond learning beading skills. The sense of pride and achievement that we all feel when we complete a project often translates into a sense of more general well-being, perhaps a growth in confidence or self-esteem that is carried out into life more generally. I take no credit for any of that, but I do feel hugely privileged to be a part of it.

Teaching Theories…in Brief

I’ll be honest here, I completed my City and Guilds PTTLS qualification not because I felt it was essential for teaching beading, but because I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the theory of teaching, and of course it never does any harm to have a qualification when you are applying to teach somewhere. Certainly, it led to some teaching opportunities that I didn’t perhaps expect and it was a very interesting experience.

Infinity BeadsThis was a six month course, so naturally I’m not going to be covering it here! If you are thinking of teaching and you feel that a qualification would be helpful, then I can recommend the course and your local adult learning centre will very probably be running one. If they don’t then contact City and Guilds to find out how and where you can do the course near you. (Of course, if you’re reading this and you don’t live in the UK, try your own local resources to find something similar).

So, what did I learn? As I mentioned, this course is all about the theory of teaching, including that rather general term ‘respect’ that I mentioned early on. We were encouraged to think about inclusion in class: making sure that the materials we used and the way in which we conducted the class allowed everyone to feel included, whatever age, race or gender they were. Class discipline for adults is not the same as for children. It is (hopefully), not about getting people to sit still and concentrate, but about making sure that the classroom is also a place of safety for everyone, so that respect and inclusion is amongst everyone not just from teacher to student. Then there were the actual theories of learning: the scientific evidence that supports the idea that people learn differently, that by tapping into different parts of the brain, the lesson can be better retained. If you stand and lecture someone for an hour, their concentration is likely to wander and they are less likely to understand or retain all the information. If you add in images to make things more interesting or get people to read things for themselves, learning retention is likely to increase. If you really want people to retain a knotting_Jewellerylesson, then they need to do something practical – doing is better than listening, seeing, or reading. It was also interesting to find out how different people learn in different ways: some are more responsive to written instructions, some to diagrams, for example.

The important question for me was how this relates to teaching beadwork. The advice I would pass on to you, since you are reading this because you want some advice on how to teach beading, is the following: start your lesson by demonstrating part or all of the project you are going to be teaching. Make sure everyone can see and make sure you talk through what you are doing. Don’t take too long over this: if the project is complex, then demonstrate it bit by bit, so do a short demonstration of the first part, then let everyone get started, then call them back to demonstrate the next section later on and so forth. Don’t expect everyone to immediately be brilliant because you’ve just shown them what to do. Hopefully they will learn something from the demonstration, but they’re not going to beading patternsreally start learning until they start beading themselves. At this point, your job is to go and help each person individually – keep walking round the class to make sure everyone is happy with what they are doing. Bear in mind, some people might feel shy about asking if they are struggling, so take it upon yourself to keep an eye on everyone and give each person the help that they need. Finally, remember it is also ok to step back. If you have a class where everyone is happy beading away, then it’s ok to let them enjoy that, be on hand if you are required, but don’t interfere. You can always use this time to talk about beading in general or pass on tips that might be helpful more generally, or just let everyone enjoy the social aspect of a beading class.

Lastly, and very importantly, make sure that all the projects you teach and the instructions you provide are your own. Or, if they are not, make sure you have written permission from the person who created them to allow you to use them. If you do not do this, you will be infringing copyright laws and you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. If you are unsure about copyright, or want to know more, then you can find more information and useful links here.

Every class you teach will be different, but hopefully every single one will be rewarding for both you and the people you are teaching. You can find my teaching schedule here, or email me if you want to book a private class, or join a group.

7 thoughts on “How To Teach Beading

  1. First, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! Now on to teaching a beading class. I just did a peyote and herringbone triangle class for 12 ladies, beginners with some experience and a few intermediate level beaders. Among the supplies (thread, scissors, etc.) they were each asked to bring two colors of size 10 Delicas, to make it easier to see the stitching path and handle the beads. I brought about 6 colors of my own in case someone needed them and several sample pieces to pass around the room as we began the class. I also gave them an instructional printout that included text along with 5 illustrations; one for each of the first five rows so they would have a visual image of each row. Most moved along quite well as I went round the room. I had one student who would not use my beads but insisted she wanted to use her own Charlottes; she was having great difficulty following along as she really couldn’t see where to go next. Part of learning a new beadwork pattern or stitch is getting your hands and eyes to work together! Once your eyes are aware of the process, your hands follow suit and put the needle in the correct bead. I found myself stressing this thought a few times in the class (and especially to the gal who was using the Charlottes!). Thanks for your info; I’d love to have a City and Guilds certificate; will have to check it out and see if they do correspondence courses! Thanks Katie!! Jeanne

    • Thank you Jeanne – those are some great thoughts. You’re quite right: it can make a real difference using the recommended type of bead. I do understand students perhaps not having the budget to spend on new beads, especially if they aren’t sure how much beading they will be doing, but like you, I’ve watched people struggle as they try to use beads that just don’t help them to understand what they are doing. It can be a difficult path to walk! I’m not sure if City and Guilds do correspondence courses, but it would be great if they did. Maybe there’s something similar in the US? It might be worth checking out. Thank you for your thoughts and your kind birthday wishes – I had a lovely day!
      Katie x

  2. Hi Katie! I’m a little late to your party and just finding this amazing, fun, full-to-the-brim blog! All thanks to seeing your cupcake box on Facebook 🙂 And then to see that you shared your thoughts about teaching beading classes is just the icing on the cake.

    I had plans to teach a series of bead weaving classes that included peyote, herringbone, and right-angle weave over a 6-week period [one 3-hour class per week] at one of the local art centers but didn’t have any takers during registration. At first, I was a bit bummed but have since decided that it was good because, although I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. I had purchased all the materials for the kits and even bought extra copies of basic how-to books that I intended to offer the students for the sale prices at which I had purchased them. But then a few weeks before class was scheduled to start I decided to work up samples of the projects I have chosen in different colorways. When the “simple” peyote pattern I was using ended up taking me, an experienced peyote beader, over a week of steady beading to complete, I knew I wasn’t ready to teach.

    I give you that background to ask this question. Based on what you wrote above you ask your students to pick a pattern that interests them and supply the beads. So, would it be better if I concentrate strictly on the basics of each stitch one week and use the next week as reinforcement with each student working on their own pattern using the stitch in focus? Almost like a beading group meeting. Also, since I definitely want to teach peyote, and there are so many ways to do peyote (even/odd, 1/2/3 drop, straight lines/angles, etc.) would it be better to focus on two main stitches in the 6-week period and expand the peyote learning to three weeks? (I would drop right-angle weave.)

    Or should I give up on a multi-week class and focus first on 3-4 hour workshops until I get my feet wet as a teacher?

    Many thanks for your thoughts on this!
    Betsi

    • Hi Betsi, I’m so sorry I’m late in replying to this, but thank you so much for finding me!
      Firstly, don’t feel discouraged at the lack of interest – I’ve had the same problems myself. Although, it sounds like you’ve found this to be a ‘blessing in disguise’, since it has allowed you more time to think.
      You are absolutely right – it seems that your first ideas were perhaps a little ambitious for the format. So, focusing on just one stitch is a good place to start. I would suggest you narrow it down even further and maybe just do even count Peyote for the course. If this is really for complete beginners, you may be surprised at how long it takes to cover the basics. As we get more experienced, we all tend to forget how long things took when we started. Just threading a needle and learning how to pick up beads is a big step for some people.
      The key thing I’ve found with teaching is you need to be flexible. In any single class, you will get a range of abilities. Even if it is for beginners, you’ll probably find some people who have never seen a bead before and some people who have done a tiny bit, but aren’t confident enough to try a more advanced class. You will also find different people take it more or less easily. So, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time with some people allowing them to work really slowly and learn at their own pace. While others will pick stuff up quickly and expect you to provide something more challenging for them.
      I actually completed a teacher qualification before I started teaching beading, so I learned a lot about how to structure a class. It’s not essential to do this, but if you’ve never taught before, it might be a good idea to start by trying to teach a friend. You will learn an awful lot that way and build your confidence as a teacher. You could also try some voluntary work to build confidence. Once you start charging people for classes, their expectations of getting a good experience are high, so you will want to feel confident yourself.
      I hope that helps a bit, but I think you are on the right track and, as you say, maybe start simple with a single workshop to cover a specific project while you build your skills and confidence.
      Best of luck with it and have fun!
      Katie

  3. You are the answer to my prayers Katie! I am so happy to find your blog. Your advice is so helpful and reassuring. I’m just starting out teaching a basic beading course for a local community college and a little overwhelmed when I try to structure the class. First I’m suppose to provide all materials that the students will pay for on the first night of class. We’re only doing a basic stretch bracelet that first night so it will only require the string and beads, I don’t say only lightly. I want the class to be fun, interesting and for everyone to love the bracelet they make. I’m using glass beads, gemstones, and a couple of kinds of spacers. I want them to have a choice but I don’t want to go to the expense of supplying endless choices. Please tell me how you would do this. I may have as many as 8 in the class (I hope). I am so looking forward to teaching and want to be a wonderful experience for everyone. Thank you in advance for your help

    • Hi Dale – I’m so pleased you are finding this website useful. I still remember back to my first class and yes, it is overwhelming! My top piece of advice is don’t put yourself under too much pressure. It sounds like you have a lovely project planned for beginners and I can guarantee that everyone will love what they make. You see, much of it is about the thrill of learning a new skill and having something to show for it at the end. It sounds like you have an excellent set of materials. I know it’s lovely to be able to give people a choice, but also remember that too much choice can be overwhelming. So, don’t feel like you need to provide every colour under the sun. Keep it simple. As you get to know your students, you can find out what kind of things they like and what they want to learn. Then you can tailor future classes to meet their needs. The second piece of advice is to be flexible and prepared to think on your feet. You will find that people work at different rates and need different things. You don’t have to have it all planned out in advance, but just go with the flow. You’re bound to feel nervous when you start, but just remember, you will know more than your students! Also, you will make mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up about them – just learn and move on. It’s like anything in life, you only really get good at it by doing it. So, I can see you’ve thought about this and you’ve got the right things in place, so you’re starting from a great place. Just enjoy the experience and enjoy helping the students to learn!
      Katie

      • Thanks Katie, I think I needed that down to earth advice…..I have been adding to much pressure and I want to have fun too. And you’re right, they don’t need every color under the sun like I was trying to do of course. You brought me back to earth, thanks so much!

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