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Designing a Workshop: Get Clear with an "I can..." Statement

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

Tori McElwain with The Quilt Patch by Tori


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Clarity is so important when it comes to planning a workshop, designing the lesson, and describing the workshop in marketing. A goal or objective is the first step in clearly planning what you want to teach. Sometimes shifting the perspective can make writing an objective a lot easier.

An “I can…” statement helps to flip your perspective from teacher to student. It helps you clarify exactly what skill(s) you want your students to learn in class. This can help with your planning, description, and marketing.

Here’s an example. If an instructor wants to teach free motion quilting, they might start with a goal of "teaching students free motion quilting." Rather than focusing on what you as the instructor want to do, shift the perspective to illustrate what you want the learner to say after they leave the workshop and start it with "I can...". What you want to teach should fit into 1 sentence. So, for a beginner free motion quilting class, you can reframe and clarify what your students will say after class such as “I can free motion quilt."


That naturally leads you to the next question. How can you teach them to free-motion quilt? What will they be able to do after the class to show that they can free-motion quilt? This is where the "I can..." statement can help. What specifically will they be doing to learn to free-motion quilt?

Get very specific here, such as the designs will they be able to recreate when they quilt their next project. You may want to show beginners how to do a few basics, like meander or stitch in the ditch. In my dream free motion quilting workshop, I think meander, loops, and "Ls." So my "I can.." statement would be “I can free motion quilt “L’s”, meander, and loops on a quilt sandwich.” Pull from your experience here. What would you have wanted to start with? Keep in mind, the first step should help them build confidence.

Now that we have specifics, the next question is how can I prepare them to create “L’s”, meander, and loops?

Answer: Small quilt sandwich to practice with (OH! That means I'll have to start with basting!).

Okay, so step 1: Create a quilt sandwich for practice, demonstrating how to baste.

Step 2: This is where your experience comes in again. What is the easiest first step? Jump into "L's"? Should they do an exercise before starting "L's"? It's up to you!

To compare: The first objective "I can free motion quilt" is broad and doesn’t help clarify what you want to teach. The second gives you a road map from creating a quilt sandwich and teaching specific motifs to help them master the beginning skills of FMQ.


There are so many ways to market and figure out the best descriptions for your workshop. The "I can..." statement can be another tool in your toolbox to help you figure out a well-worded and clear description.

For your description and marketing, an “I can…” statement can be used directly and it can help you identify the transformation of the workshop and the pain points you’re addressing. Keep in mind pain points could just be a challenge or frustration, or a small step that is just stumping your learner.

For directly inserting your "I can..." statement into a description you can say "Learners will walk away knowing how to _____." or "Learners will walk away saying 'I can _______." at the end of that phrase, you can even add in the transformation.

The transformation I can see from the example “I can free motion quilt “L’s”, meander, and loops on a quilt sandwich.” is a quilter who has successfully pieced a top and now needs to complete the quilt. After this workshop we are dreaming up, they will be able to add beautiful free-motion quilting designs to their top. The top will be complete and have added a design with free-motion quilting.

Let's look at a few challenges or pain points new free-motion quilters might face. Make a list and identify the 2 or 3 you know your workshop can solve. If you're not sure where to start, look at your past self or ask new quilters - they are a great source for gathering information on challenges.

Free Motion quilting panel from Quilting with Darla

For our dream workshop, I would think that these new free-motion quilters are bored with straight-line quilting and would like to add more design to their top with topstitching. They could be stuck because of the overwhelming amount of information out there. What thread, batting type, and backing are best? How does their machine even do "free motion"? Starting tends to be the hardest part and your workshop is there to solve those challenges and frustrations! From your list of challenges and frustrations, write a solution for each one to use in the description. You don't have to use them all, but pick 1 or 2 and try them out.

We can work solutions to those challenges and the transformation into a description. You don't have to use every challenge you see, but try out 1 or 2 and see how they fit.

For example:

The Magic of Free Motion Quilting workshop is an introductory workshop to equip you with 3 basic free motion designs to help liven up your quilt and get you started on your free motion quilting journey! Learn the best materials for a quilt sandwich, how to get comfortable with your machine, and the 3 easiest FMQ designs to master before you add magic to your quilt top!

Because we used an objective and an "I can..." statement for clarity and planning and added a transformation with a solution to overwhelm, we were able to add color and fun without losing clarity. The description above is fun, clear, and addresses the biggest challenge we identified! Sounds like a fun workshop, sign me up!

To see more about descriptions, objections, and marketing, Check out my Marketing Your Workshop Section.

Need help with an existing workshop or course? Check out my Optimize Your Course! For Quilt and Craft Instructors blog post and the accompanying checklist to improve your course.

I also offer a Course Academy and 1-on-1 Coaching! If you're stuck, need ideas, or someone to hold you accountable and make sure you get your course done to make it impactful and profitable - check out my Course Design offers here!

Grab Your Free eBook, Design Your Workshop, here.



For Marketing help check out my Marketing Your Workshop Section

Want to see more from me, Tori? Sign up for the monthly Newsletter here!

Grab Your Free eBook, Design Your Workshop, here.


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