May 30, 2016

Seeing Structure

This weekend I visited my parents and my mom asked if I could teach her how to crochet. I was happy to do so! Obviously teaching math and teaching crocheting aren't the same, but just as obviously I can't help but make connections.

My mom chose to learn how to make a hat I'd given her, a hat that happens to be a rather advanced project. Is it crazy that she is starting with the hardest project I've made in a decade of crocheting? Sure. But she has enough transferable skills from knitting that it's not insane. We started out knowing that it may not be a perfectly even final project, but it was interesting for us to work on and it's the thing she wants to make so she was motivated and willing to persevere! 

Before she could start the hat she needed to learn some basic skills. The pattern required chain, double crochet, slip stitch and front post double crochet. When I learned to crochet I was made to sit and chain for a long time (the most boring stitch, you just pull a loop through another loop). But for my mom it wasn't worth the time to learn to chain an even tension foundation row when the goal was a hat worked in the round. It would've been essential if the goal was an afghan worked in long rows but for a hat she never needs to make more than three chains in a row. After she felt comfortable with the chain, I didn't even teach her to single crochet, we went straight to the double crochet. No point when it wasn't in the pattern. After practicing those stitches a bit we jumped right into the pattern! When we hit a new stitch in the pattern we stopped to practice with some different yarn and then went back to the project. 

I translated the pattern for her. Being able to read "[dc in next dc, two fpdc in next fpdc, dc in next dc, fpdc in next fpdc] around" isn't important right now. Instead I read the pattern to her in unabbreviated form, and we worked together to figure out how the pattern should look so she didn't have to count out each part. But, I hadn't made this pattern in five years so I didn't remember exactly how it should look. We were crocheting by following the steps blindly rather than seeing the big picture. Since we didn't see the structure, she made a mistake and missed a stitch which might have been caught earlier if we knew what it was supposed to look like. I didn't understand the structure so I missed some mistakes until we were on the next round and we decided there wasn't enough time to start over. But she learned a lot trying the challenging hat and I left her with an easier one to make until I visit again which seems super easy in comparison! 

My school has been working with LDC and a big part of their structure is to show students what their final task will look like at the beginning of each unit. The teachers have found students to be more engaged in the units and understand the objectives better. I would love to see one of their units in detail. What my evaluator took away from this is "writing objectives as 'I can' statements engages students" which is a vast oversimplification. I understand that having a task or project (that beautiful and functional hat) as a goal makes the work seem more worthwhile. I'm not entirely sure how that looks in practice unless you have the ability to run a full PBL program. An interesting idea to ponder while crafting!

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