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How to Adapt an Adult Class for Youth

by Charissa de La Sirra

I have taught seven year olds to sew authentic style Elizabethan garb, so I do believe that young people can be taught anything. The difference is how the material is taught. So here is some advice on adapting content for young people.

Take the lecture and pick an essential ten minutes of what you would normally say. Take out the multiple scholarly interpretations. It can still be included in the talk it just becomes a line like "People who study this XXXXX are still discussing which way this was done. Today, I am going to teach .....". Ten minutes is the limit of totally quiet rapt attention of an audience of young people. Dont try to do too much.

Use a easier lighter vocabulary when you speak. So, "posthumously" becomes "After he died". Speak directly and clearly, saying "Everyone clean up their area now" instead of "It would be very nice if everyone cleaned after class".

For me, it is essential to have an activity that everyone could do. If I were teaching Italian clothing in the 12th century, I would have a male and female figure handout that the young people could draw on while I spoke. Provide colored pencils on all the tables and then start the lecture by propping up pictures that can be copied. Now you can actually talk more than 10 minutes since they will be involved in drawing while you talk. Everything can have an active component. Chainmail making can be done with strips of paper and tape. History of a war could be done with miniatures acting out the battle. Cooking could be done by the young people make the ingredients out of clay and then throw the ingredients in a pretend pot.

Another way that I create more interest is by playacting a character in history, who then teaches the class and tells the stories. If you try this method, do start class by explaining that you playing a game of pretend.

Listening adults are still and watching, while listening young people may be in constant motion. For a girl scout troop class, I saw one professor almost quit, when she was trying to explain a complicated dance to a very wiggly audience. As a parent, I reassured her, to just play the tape and run the dance, that really the young people were listening. She did and the young people performed with only a few mistakes. If you dont believe me, try this test. First bring a bag of M&Ms. Second, in the middle of the most boring part of the lecture say, "By the way, if you come to me, after class and whisper the secret word 'Rapunsel', I have a tiny sweet treat for you". Then you will know later who was really listening.

Preparation is an important part of class. Adults will wait twenty minutes while you sort out your stuff, young people will leave. So for example, if you are teaching a class on chainmail with strips of paper, then cut out the paper ahead of time. Otherwise your class will turn into cutting out even strips of paper. If scissors are in short supply, then it becomes even worse.

Use contracts, where you make a deal with your young audience. Say something like, "You will each get to make a heraldic device out of all the wonderful stuff on the table, if and only if you listen to me explain how to do it for ten minutes, OK?"

Soliciting parents to help is a good idea if young people are a challenge. Parents have the magical ability to quell mischief with the "You are going to be deep trouble if you keep this up" look. My son and I were able to have total arguments in silence across the room, starting at the age of two.

Take the time to introduce yourself and say each young person's name once, acknowledging each young person . The power of names will make the class will be much easier.

Remember no one is locked into a youth class. The young people can leave. And so can the instructor. If you wish to shut down the class, know that parents are either at the class or have given permission for the young people to leave. Simply, state what is wrong and that you are shutting down the class. The young people will suddenly fix the problem or else they will go to where their parents directed them to go after class. This is one way that we all ensure that Northshield continues as a place of courtesy and respect.


Posted by: Kit Marik syn Kingdom Webminister on 10/13/2007

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