If you're already teaching kids to sew, you probably know how important it is to keep your classroom tidy and organized; in fact, we believe your success as a sewing instructor depends on it! While organizational skills come naturally to some, for others, keeping organized is somewhat of a struggle, and we get it! ‘Creative types’ like us can sometimes get lost in the creative process, loving the making so much, and putting the organizing on the back burner.
As our Sewciety Kids Program grew from just a handful of kids to over 130 students in just four years, we were constantly needing to “up” our organizing game. Plus, with 8 instructors, we needed a way for every teacher to be able to find what she needed for her daily tasks. Whether you’re an experienced instructor or a newbie, classroom organization is something you need to address… when you’re organized, your classes will run more smoothly and you’ll be a happier instructor! Organized space = productive students = one successful instructor.
In our experience, these are the biggest Organizational Needs and Challenges:
1. Keeping Track of Students. When your program is small, this is certainly much easier to do. But as you grow and keep taking on more students, it’s easy to quickly lose track of who comes for class when, and what project they are currently working on.
2. Keeping Student Projects Organized, and making sure that no projects or pieces get lost. We hate to admit it, but we have had lost projects and pieces, and that’s just the worst!
3. Having Materials Prepared for every project, and giving them a dedicated storage space that’s easy to find.
4. Organizing All Those Patterns! Our Program is smartly designed to make this super easy. We’ll explain why later on!
Now that we’ve identified the problems, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it!
1: Keeping Track of Students
This may seem silly to some, but it really can get challenging, especially as your Program grows. Here’s why… the Sewciety Kids Sewing Program is designed to:
a. Allow new students to join in at any time (at the beginning of any 6-week session)
b. Allow existing students to leave the Program at the end of any 6-week session and join back in for a future session
c. Allow student to come uninterrupted, all school year, for up to FOUR YEARS!
d. Allow students to switch from one day/time to another day/time depending on their personal schedule changes.
This means that in any given class, you’ll have students working on different projects. You need to know who is working on what, what they’re working on next, what day and time they come, etc. etc. This can get confusing if you aren’t on top of it. But, this is one aspect of our Program that makes it so appealing to kids and parents – it allows for maximum flexibility for today’s busy kids! As a result, your enrollment (and profit) are maximized.
No matter what curriculum you use, you need a great system to keep all of this information organized. Our Licensed Instructors, once they come on board the Sewciety Kids Sewing Program, have the ability to purchase our Start-Up Package. This Package includes a large binder with dividers and all the forms you need to keep track of your students and what projects they’re working on. You’ll also receive a flash drive with electronic versions of these forms so you can print as many as you need for future use. No need to figure this out on your own… we’ve already done it. You’ll be set up from day one with everything you need to get started right away.
2: Keeping Student Projects Organized
Once a student starts a project, there are so many pieces to keep organized. Pattern tracings, fabrics, notions, zippers… you’ve got to make sure none of it gets misplaced or lost.
Our system for addressing this need is pretty simple, and it consists of good old plastic zipper bags, plastic nametag sleeves and inserts, and packing tape! Remove the metal clip from the plastic nametag sleeve and tape the sleeve to front of the zipper bag. Write each student’s name and the day/time they come to class on a nametag insert and place it in the sleeve. At the end of every class, make sure that ALL of each student’s materials get put away in their bag.
Now you’ll need a separate storage bin for each class. We have 9 classes, so we have 9 bins. Clearly label each bin with the day of the week and time the class meets. We highly recommend not allowing students to put their bags in the bin at the end of class. It is not uncommon for bags to go in the wrong bin, then be “lost” for the next class. You DON’T want to spend precious class time looking for kids’ project bags. It is better for instructors to put project bags away in the proper location after class.
We have this great shelving unit (from Ikea, of course!) where we keep all of our project bins.
3: Having Materials Prepared
As you may already know, the Sewciety Kids After-School Program is made up of four Levels. Each Level consists of six Units. Students sign up for one 6-week session of classes at a time, and tackle one Unit – typically two projects, sometimes one. There are a total of 42 projects in the Program! The benefit for Licensed Members is that the Sewciety Kids Sewing Program has enough content to keep kids coming back for a loooong time, and you don’t have to be continuously coming up with more material.
To make your classes run smoothly, there is preparation you can do ahead of time for each project. We call this “Class Prep”. When you purchase Unit Content as a Licensed Member, you’ll find that every pattern has a very specific list of “Class Prep” you should do. Class Prep can include pre-cutting interfacing or batting, making sure you have the correct sized zippers, and preparing templates. Since we have so many students, all working on any one of the 42 projects, we try to keep 5 to 10 sets of materials prepped for every project. Clearly, we need a place to store these materials. Once again, Ikea has the perfect solution. We purchased a few KALLAX storage units and the optional drawer inserts. We labelled each drawer with a project name and keep all the prepped materials inside! Genius, right?! This system cuts down on the amount of time instructors spend during class preparing these items for students, and also helps you make sure you keep the needed inventory of materials.
4: Organizing All Those Patterns!
Shelving for Unit Binders:
Once you become a Licensed Instructor in our Program, you’ll start purchasing content to use in your classes. You are able to purchase each Unit of content individually, allowing you to spread the cost of the material over time. Initially, you’ll only need Level 1, Unit 1 for your new students. Then, as they progress to Unit 2, you’ll purchase that content. The great part is that once you’ve purchased the content, you can re-use it over and over again for any future students
When you purchase a Unit, you’ll receive a binder with the project instruction and a large-format, laminated pattern (if applicable). There are no physical copies of any patterns to keep purchasing and providing to students – they use the Unit Binders in your classroom, and they trace the pattern onto tracing paper for their use. So, how to store these? You know those KALLAX units we just talked about? Well the cubbies are perfectly sized to hold one Level’s worth of binders. Once students are at the point where they are independently reading the patterns themselves, they come in for class, find the binder they need, and get started!
As for the patterns, this has been probably the most frustrating thing to figure out! We felt like we were spending so much time trying to keep them well organized. Until we found these containers at – where else – Ikea! They’re meant for plastic bag storage, but we love them for patterns. Each one is perfectly sized to hold both patterns for a single Unit . We mounted them on our storage closet wall and labelled each one with the Level & Unit number, making them super easy for instructors and students to find. When a student starts a new project, the instructor gets the pattern out, tapes it down to the table, and the student traces off the appropriate size. Easy peasy!
Hopefully these tips have given you something to think about when it comes to keeping your classroom organized. If you’re not yet teaching kids to sew, and want to learn more about becoming a Sewciety Kids Licensed Instructor, check us out at www.sewcietykids.com!