Planning Tips for Teaching 4H and Homeschool Co-op Classes

Each year, I usually lead or assist in 3-4 classes for our homeschool group's co-op and our 4H club. I had some hits (herbal creations), and quite a few misses (calligraphy isn't panning out as I'd hoped.) I try to take what I've learned from each experience, and aim to do better next time. We all aren't born teachers; it takes study and preparation to lead a group of children, and it's different from just teaching your own. Here are some tips that I have learned from my own mistakes and teaching triumphs.
  • Slow down, scale back your expectations, and break the steps down into itty bitty micro steps. You might think a step is easy to understand, but I guarantee some of the children will find it mind boggling and need much more time with it. For instance, teaching crochet - plan a lot of time just doing a slip knot. Machine sewing - spend an entire class learning how to thread the machine. This is especially important in multi-age settings when you have a range of dexterity and motor skills.

  • If you don't get as far as you hoped, or the end result is not as impressive as you imagined, take heart that you have introduced something new, and hopefully ignited an interest that they can follow up with on their own. We can't be too attached to the outcome. It's just planting seeds.

  • Bring a completed sample, and be prepared to model the steps entirely. If you are planning on doing your first run through during class with the kids, something will go wrong. Most people learn by seeing, and children in particular cannot visualize a concept just by your explanation. They need to see you do it first!

  • Know that you might need to scrap your lesson plan and find simpler projects. I've never taught a class where I didn't need to first see how the first two classes went and readjust from there. See where your group of kids are at, and then you can better plan for them.

  • Take into account that some children may have learning or physical challenges that you don't know about. Ideally, parents would let you know beforehand, but I went an entire session of co-op not knowing that a child couldn't read well because of dyslexia, and I would have planned the class activities differently. Think about ways you could incorporate different learning styles, and ways you can work around limitations.

  • Over prepare. I've taught many classes where I was learning along with the children, but it only works if I'm a couple of steps ahead each week. You will lose order in your class if they sense that you don't know what you're doing. Make sure to bring more supplies than you think you might need and keep up to date on your enrollment numbers.

  • Play to your own strengths, and plan accordingly. I'm a quiet person, and I don't like talking on and on during class. I use music, videos, and read alouds to help me. What makes you unique in your teaching style?
I wish you well in your teaching endeavors! Most importantly, have fun!


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