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Teaching-SCA-art - 12/20/08


"Teaching in the SCA" by Mistress Alicia Langland.


NOTE: See also the files: Teach-in-SCA-art, teaching-msg, p-education-msg, Art-of-Arith-art, redactn-class-msg, AS-classes-msg, chd-ck-clsses-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Parts of this handout will appear in a forthcoming TI issue, in an article called "Tempted to Teach".



Teaching in the SCA

by Mistress Alicia Langland


What could I possibly teach?  Who would be interested in learning something from me?


The SCA is an educational organization. Every time we share information about the Middle Ages, we are teaching.  All of us are teachers;  some just don't realize it!


If you teach it, they will come!


The purpose of this class is to share with you some suggestions that will hopefully help you to feel more comfortable sharing what you know.  We will focus on teaching a class within the SCA, although much can be transferred to other teaching situations, such as demos, workshops, even writing a how-to article for your local newsletter.  I welcome your questions and suggestions, and I encourage you to share your experiences.  


Good classes don't just "happen" ;  but bad ones do!


Contrary to what many people think, you do not need to be an expert to teach a class. Thorough preparation is much more important than an all-encompassing knowledge of the subject.  Even if you know everything there is to know about a topic, if you don't adequately prepare for your class, you will not successfully convey to your students what you know.


"Getting ready is the secret of success."

-- Henry Ford



Please feel free to contact me for further information or to share your teaching experiences:

Mistress Alicia Langland



1. Planning


Decisions, decisions, decisions....


Several months before the class, make decisions about the class:

      Content -- What will the class be about?

      Audience --Who is it for?

Beginners;  intermediate students (have some knowledge); or advanced

            What prior knowledge or materials, if any, should students bring to the class?

      Purpose – What will attendees get out of the class? Why would someone want to attend this class?

      Will they learn information about your topic?

      Will they produce something?

      Will they learn techniques/tips on teaching this topic (do's and don'ts)?

      Scope of class

                        Survey -- everything there is to know about the topic

                        Focus -- emphasis on one particular aspect of topic

      Type of class --

      Lecture -- you tell students everything you know about the topic

      Discussion -- you provide direction, students share what they know

      Demonstration -- you show students how to do it

      Hands-on -- students try it for themselves

In-persona teaching/discourse – teach in the manner your persona would have

* Don't be afraid to try something new!  (Ex.: in-persona teaching, discourse)

* Don't be afraid to use modern AV technology!


                                    Pros                                                                Cons


                                    Don't need to bring as much "stuff"                Can be dull

                                    Can be a large class                                         Do you have enough material?




Never the same class twice!                            Can be difficult to "control"

Don't need to bring as much "stuff"                Easy to get "off-topic"

Can be a large class                                         Harder to plan for audience level

Everyone learns something                             Inaccurate information may be




Students enjoy seeing skills/techniques           Facilities may be a problem

                                    Smaller classes work better                             Need to bring a lot of "stuff"

                                                                                                            Need sufficient time




Students enjoy learning new skills                  Facilities may be a problem

                                    Smaller classes work better                             Need to bring a lot of "stuff"

                                                                                                            Need sufficient time   



Consider these limitations which may affect your class:


      Choose materials that are inexpensive; convenient to transport, use and clean-up.

      If students need to bring materials, they will need advance notice.  

      If you will provide materials, will there be a fee?  (How will you let them know?)

            Be sure to charge enough to cover your expenses.

      Facilities –

Do you have special needs?  

      electricity, sink, chalkboard, long tables, overhead or slide projectors, etc.?  

(If appropriate, you may want to bring your own extension cord and adapter, chalk, slide carousel, etc....)

If so, you will need to inform the class-o-crat.

      Time limits/constraints

                        Demonstration and hands-on classes generally need more time.

                        If the process you're teaching is time-consuming, consider videotaping or

photographing (slides or still photos) the process to show to your class.

      Skill level of students

      Class size

                        Affected by type of class, facilities, time limits, skill level of students.

                        (If your class is for beginners, keep the class size small or have helpers.  If the

class is advanced, it will probably be small, anyway.)


            How long will it take you to set up for the class on that day?

            Will you require assistance?



Not sure which type of class yours should be?  Consider:

      Which type would you be most comfortable with?

      Is your class topic limited by any factors?

      Which type is most appropriate for your topic?



Class                           Calligraphy through the Ages                 Early Gothic Calligraphy


Content                     how calligraphy has changed                      the style of calligraphy used

                                    from 500 to 1500 AD                               in the 11th and 12th centuries


Audience                  anyone                                                   beginners to intermediate students



Purpose                    Students will learn the important                Students will learn the basic letter

                                    characteristics of 5 hands (Roman,              forms and techniques for writing

                                    uncial, Carolingian, gothic, and                 this style of calligraphy

                                    italic) and why styles changed over

                                    a thousand years.


Type of class






Class size



Time limit




Special Needs









Set-up Time



Budgeting your Class Time


Many people believe that they couldn't possibly teach a class for an entire hour. That's because they don't think about how they can break those sixty minutes into more manageable segments.


For example, a typical class may be made up of several activities:

      Introduce yourself: "I've been doing this for 5 years."  "I do this for a living."

      Introduce the class:  what you intend to cover/accomplish.

      Get to know your audience;  find out what they want to learn.

      Show period examples in books, etc.

      Define terms you will be using.

      Discuss step-by-step procedure, demonstrating techniques if possible.

      Teach skills needed for self-evaluation:  how to evaluate success, problems to look for.

      Discuss materials:  what's best and why, where to get them, how much they cost.

      Discuss tricks, pitfalls, horror stories, etc.

      Show examples you or other SCAdians have made that demonstrate the information or techniques you discussed.

      Question-and-answer period. (Always leave 5 to 10 minutes at the end for questions or comments.  Try to anticipate questions ahead of time, so you can be prepared to answer them. Common questions include:

            What was done/How was it done in period?

            Who did it (certain classes? men? women?)

            What are some good reference sources?

            Where can I get the necessary materials?  How much do they cost?

      Allow sufficient time to clean up before next class.  (Ask for help.)




3rd part


1st part


2nd part


50 min.


45 min.


35 min.


15 min.


10 min.



So, as you can see, an hour really isn't all that bad.  In fact, you may have trouble fitting in everything you want to cover!


2. Publicity


Contact the class coordinator.  Provide her/him with the following information:

      title of class

      a brief description of the class (1-2 sentences)

      audience level (beginner, intermediate, advanced)

      any special needs/facilities or scheduling requests

("Don't schedule my class opposite __";  "Don't schedule it in the morning," etc.)

      class limit, if any

      fee, if any

      amount of time needed

      your name (SCA and modern), street address, and phone number;  e-mail address

      a brief bio about you/your persona


Your "blurb" is your primary chance to SELL your class!  If you want people to attend your class, your "blurb" needs to

      sound INTERESTING!

      make it CLEAR who the intended audience is and what the class will be about.

      indicate what people will GET OUT OF the class.

      tell what TYPE OF CLASS it will be.


"Bad" blurbs

      are vague

      don't indicate the class's scope or intended audience.

      don't tell what level of skill or experience is expected.


Here are some "blurbs" from a Pennsic booklet.  How successful are they?



A discussion and history of the art of "diapering" in illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Diapering is an intriguing, mostly geometric, background decoration technique in "historiated capitals" and manuscript miniatures.


Authentic Underwear

Bring one or more yards of cloth and leave with a piece of underwear cut out and ready to sew.  Some cloth will be available for purchase.


Catena d'Amore

Master XXXX introduces dancers to the "Chains of Love," whipping them into shape to face the discipline of 16th century dance.  Catena is an intermediate dance level by Cesare Negri which bears similarities to both Trenchmore and the Tangle Bransle.


English Country Dance 101

The basic steps of the English country dance.


Reversible Blackwork Embroidery

This counted-thread embroidery technique was popular during the 16th century.  Learn history and technique by working on a small project adapted from a Renaissance pattern.  Beginners and "lefties" welcome.


Mathematics for the Fifteenth-Century Italian Merchant

Are Roman numerals slowing down the tally of your inventory?  Come and learn the wondrous new Arabic numerals! Quick techniques for performing complex price calculations, double-entry bookkeeping, and multiplication with your fingers.  Beat the competition with the latest scientific advances!  An in-persona discussion.


Roots of Islam, History and Theology

An outline of the early history of the faith and how it has evolved over the centuries.  For non-Moslems, looking at the theological roots of Islam should be helpful in dispelling some of the modern myths surrounding this religion.


An Introduction to Catharism

Ever wondered how souls got into those troublesome bodies and separated from God?  Come learn about the fascinating new spiritual movement that's sweeping the south of France!  Hear an actual survivor of the massacres by the Papal troops of non-resisting men and women!  (Taught in persona.)


3. Preparation


Get ready!


Make a list of supplies/materials you will need to take.  Gather them and keep them in one



            If it's a "messy class," take old shower curtains, vinyl tablecloths, newspapers, or

            large garbage bags to protect surfaces and speed cleanup.



Prepare samples or visual aids. Include intermediate stages as well as finished products.


                        VISUAL AIDS ARE GOOD!  Show-n-tell is always a good thing!


            Visual aids should be large enough to be seen by everyone in the class.  Bright,

            contrasting colors are best.


            Possibilities include photographs, slides, or a  videotaped demonstration, as well

as actual samples



If you will be passing things around for people to look at, label or mark them.


            Don't pass around items that are fragile, valuable or dangerous.  If you are going

            to worry about them, just show them from the front.


Prepare your handout.  Include:

      your name (SCA and modern), address, phone number or e-mail address

      outline of class (include major points you will cover)

      materials/supplies -- recommendations, suppliers, cost

      bibliography of useful books, including period sources

      permission to copy (if you don't mind)


            When preparing your handout:

      Write it.  Put it aside for a couple of days.

      "Tweak" it.  Revise as needed.

      Ask a friend to look over it.

      Revise again.


            I generally include enough detail that someone who didn't attend the class would know

what to do from reading the handout.  (This is especially helpful for those times when you get sidetracked or delayed by a "chatty" person in your class!)


Think about questions people might ask.  Try to find answers to them.


            If possible, bring sources that provide answers to important questions.



Close to the class date, confirm with class-o-crat:

      time of class

      any special needs

      If you need help, will someone be available to help you carry and set up your things?



Make copies of your handout. Put them with your supplies/materials.


            To figure out how many copies to make, check your size estimates, event/feast limits.

            It's better to have too many than too few.  Often people will ask for additional copies.

         *** Don't leave your handouts at home! ***



Practice teaching your class on friends at home.  (Invite them over for food!)



If you are teaching a hands-on class and you are providing materials, make up a kit for each

person. This will save time getting things passed out at the beginning of class.



Check your supplies/materials to make sure you have everything.  Put them where you

            won't be able to forget them. (Like in your vehicle!)


            Tote boxes are GREAT!


If you will be charging a fee, bring money to make change and something to keep it in.



That day....


Wear something you'll be comfortable in.

Get to the site early.

Check the time and location of your class.  Double-check it!

Find your room.  Locate the nearest bathroom.  You will need it!

Carry your supplies/materials to your room.  If possible, set things up ahead of time.

            (If you need help ferrying stuff, check with the class coordinator or the event steward.)

Look over your notes/handouts.  Add any last-minute comments or ideas.   


4. Presentation


Zero hour, or Some things to remember....


It's ok to feel nervous.  Just try not to let it show.  (Too much!)


Very few people will be there early or on time.  Don't start talking about important points for 5 minutes, or maybe 10.  In that time:

      Pass out your handouts.  (Put extras by the door so latecomers can pick up copies as they enter.  Ask someone sitting near the door to make sure everyone gets one.)

      Collect money (if there is a fee) and take roll (if students signed up in advance).

      Tell a little about yourself.

      Introduce the class;  tell what you intend to cover.

      Get to know your audience;  ask questions.  Find out about their skill level and expectations.  Ask each person to tell their name and where they are from.  Use this information to personalize the class.

      Find out about their expectations for this class and questions they would like to have answered later ("Question Garage").


People will trickle in and drift out.  DON'T LET THAT THROW YOU!!



At the beginning of class, ask someone in the audience to signal you 10 or 15 minutes before the class ends so you will have enough time to wrap things up.



Make sure everyone in the class can hear you.



Don't speak too quickly;  give your students time to absorb what you've said.



Make eye contact;  look around the room.



Convey enthusiasm for your topic, through your voice, eye contact, gestures, etc.



*** In hands-on classes, be LAVISH with your praise!



When demonstrating, make sure everyone in the class can see.



Never apologize for what you don't know.  We are all here to learn.



Always say so when you don't know the answer.

                  (You will regret it if you offer incorrect information.)


Try to build in opportunities for people to comment, share ideas, discuss, etc.



Thank everyone for coming!  Smile!  You're done!


5. Problems


Tough Stuff ...


Teaching to your audience


            Sometimes, in spite of what you wrote in your class description, you do not get the audience you intended.  You may find that you need to quickly change your approach or method once class has started.  Be flexible!  Try to be prepared for last-minute changes!


Fielding Questions


Listen to the question.  Make sure you understand what the person is asking.


If you're not sure what the person is asking, get them to clarify:

      "Could you give me an example?"

      "Do you mean ....?"


Repeat the question so all can hear it.


            Answer questions succinctly.


If you have a long, involved answer to a question, answer it after class. Wait until after class to answer specific questions that are not very relevant to most of the audience.



Dealing with "chatty" students or "hecklers"


            Ask a friend to sit in on the class;  devise signals to use if problems arise. When

you signal, your friend says something like, "I'd like to hear more from our

instructor about ______________ ."


Encourage participation, but don't allow anyone to monopolize or take charge of your class!  If it becomes apparent that someone is trying to usurp your class, deal with the person politely but firmly.  Here are some possible things to say:

      "That's very interesting.  I'd really like to hear more about that after class."

      "I'm sorry, but that's beyond the scope of this class."

      "This is a class for beginners.  Since you are obviously much more advanced than the rest of the students here, you may not want to waste any more time sitting in on this class.  Perhaps you could find a class more suited to your skill level."

      "Goodness!  Look at the time! I'm afraid we won't be able to finish if we don't return to my agenda."

      "Thank you for sharing that with us.  Let's hear from someone else."

Practice saying these at home while looking in a mirror!


Pitfalls to avoid ...


Lack of focus


            Make sure there is a point to your class.  Keep it in mind all the time!

            Your point should NEVER be "See how wonderful I am!"


Lack of sufficient material to fill the time allotted


            Don't count on your audience to "fill in the gaps" you create.


Don't waste class time


            Arrive on time.           

Set up in advance, if possible;  if not, plan your set-up so it takes as little time as needed.

            Bring everything you need with you.


Keep in mind that your audience will be HEARING your words, not READING them.


Most adults today aren't used to following the thread of an argument from start to finish;

that makes the speaker's job much more challenging.  So,            

      At the beginning, state where you are heading and how you will get there.

      Allow time for your listeners to "process" information before going on to the next point.  Give a "summing-up" sentence to allow them to take in what they have just heard and to get ready for the next point.  

      Make sure it's clear how the new point relates to the previous one.

      Spell unfamiliar words for the compulsive note-takers in the audience.


6. Post-mortem




Keep a copy of your handout, notes, list of materials, class coordinatort information, etc., in a file.  Date the file. You may want to jot down how many people attended.


Evaluate how you did.  Make notes on things you would do differently next time:  what worked, what didn't.  Don't be afraid to try something new or change you approach.  Would having more (or less) time help?


Ask someone who attended the class for a critique.


Talk to other teachers in your field;  find out how they teach classes on your topic.  Attend others' classes in your field, to see how they do it.


If you teach the class again, all you'll have to do is pull out the file and update it.


Information to give to the Class Coordinator


About you

Your SCA name __________________________________________________________


Your modern name _______________________________________________________


Street address ____________________________________________________________


Phone number _________________________


E-mail address ____________________________________________


Brief bio about you/your persona ____________________________________________






About your class


Title of Class ___________________________________________________________


Description of the class (1-2 sentences) ________________________________________






Audience level ___________________________________________________________


Class limit, if any________________________


Fee, if any ________________________


Amount of time needed________________________


Special needs/facilities, if any________________________________________________




Scheduling requests, if any________________________________________________




Class Title                                                                                                                                          


Taught at                                                                                                                                            














   Type of class






   Class size



   Time limit



   Facilities/Special Needs



   Set-up Time



  Description of the class (1-2 sentences) ______________________________________






Plan your class ....


List materials, supplies, to bring




Outline your class




Budget your time




Copyright 2007 by Della Hutchison, 1194 Marshall St., Milton, PA 17847. <hutchnsn at bucknell.edu>. Permission to copy/reprint is cheerfully given;  please remember to credit the original author, should you do so.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org