Having grandchildren encouraged me to take my needles out of the cupboard, shake the dust off and take up knitting again after almost 30 years. I was suddenly reminded of my early years as a primary school teacher (quite some time ago, I have to admit), when I always had some type of craft activity going on in the classroom. Of course, this was before the advent of the National Curriculum when the very notion of creativity was thrown out of the window to be replaced by prescriptive literacy and numeracy hours and hours spent teaching to the SATs tests!!
In picking up my needles I instantly felt relaxed and rejuvenated. I had forgotten the thrill of taking an initial idea and putting my own personal stamp on it. But it’s also that calmness and therapeutic feeling that accompanies it that makes it such a restful and rewarding activity. In school we had a specific set time each week to lose ourselves in creative pursuits such as knitting and sewing; activities which children happily continued in their spare time. There was always some project to do, and even better it was so inclusive that everybody was able to take part.
We got involved in all kinds of projects, from knitting squares to make blankets for Oxfam, sewing table mats using odd bits of binca and coloured threads, and weaving to name but a few. We had the time then to really get our teeth into these projects and it was always a great feeling of achievement when a child had a finished piece they were proud of!
Even the most reluctant learners in class loved the physical activity, working with their hands and were quite rightly delighted and proud of their completed work! It sorted out those with a natural common sense and confidence; developed great social skills and as a piece of personal development, it was something that everybody was able to get involved in regardless of their abilities.
At first I envisaged balls of wool entangled and me pulling my hair out, but it never happened like that. While I was helping one child, another child would be helping their peer. The most unlikely alliances grew up. A few children who hardly spoke much to each other were soon chattering easily. Shy and normally reticent children found their tongue and grew in confidence and were keen to finish their school work so they could continue.
It was also a great opportunity to bring calmness to the classroom, it enabled children to develop a range of transferable skills that would serve them later as adults. From a cross curricular point of view it was great. Speaking and listening skills were greatly improved as well as their concentration and patience. It also helped children develop good relationships as they offered support and help to any of their peers who were struggling. Mathematical skills included pattern making, counting and measuring, following or developing symmetrical patterns.
Creativity makes learning and teaching more enjoyable, enables children and their teachers to think outside the box and encourages children to become active learners.
As one headteacher maintained during Sir Jim Rose’s independent review of Primary Curriculum under the previous government:
“If we can give children the skills to communicate, work together, talk and be confident and successful then they will become successful and confident learners in whatever they choose to do in life.”
As knitting and other crafts start to become in vogue again, let’s take the opportunity to re-introduce them back into school and think of creative ways of fitting them into the curriculum.
Let the knitting commence!!!!