By Julie Bogart, Cincinnati, Ohio
A fundamental confusion exists around how to teach writing. Iíve spent two decades looking for just the right metaphor to explain how a parent facilitates writing growth. Then the other day, on the phone, I stumbled upon a perfect one.
Letís look at learning to sew using a sewing machine.
A sewing machine makes it possible to create all kinds of sewing productsóanything from hemming a pair of pants, to constructing a crazy quilt, to producing an evening gown. The machine doesnít do it for you. You have to know how to use the machine, and you have to develop skills: how to sew straight seams or drop in a sleeve or gather a drape. You need to learn to create casings, and to use the zigzag, and what the tension dial does.
When learning the skills needed for sewing, students start with scrap fabric. They donít pick a dress pattern and then sit down to the machine. First, they practice threading the needle and bobbin, they sew lots of straight lines and turn corners. Each seam is backstitched at the end so that it doesnít unravel.
No one can learn all she needs to know in one sitting or even one year of sewing. There are levels of skill that are gained over time, as dexterity, comfort with the machinery, and familiarity with the properties of sewing are internalized and mastered. It is possible at each stage of development to introduce a little project that suits the skill level of the sewing student. At first, these might be things like bean bags (squares) or a string dress (no pattern, but the dress uses casings).
As the student gets comfortable, making an A-line dress for a doll from a pattern becomes possible