Amy and all
Clay can be very daunting, but with a few tips, I think you can overcome your fears.
1. Establish distinct areas in your room for work in the drying process, for dry work, for bisque ware and for glazed ware.
2. For work in the "working on" or "drying process", make sure it is away from poking, prying hands.
3. Slow drying is the only way to avoid cracking. Slow drying=unveiling of work slowly over a few days. Unveiling means you first cover the work in a plastic bag left open a few days, then take it out of the bag.
4. Make sure WHILE students are working on the pieces (over days) that their work is covered with damp paper towels and airtight plastic bags. Damp paper towels are not drenched paper towels.
5. In bisque firing you can put work inside other work, or real close to each other.
6. In glaze firing you can NOT put work inside other work, or real close to each other because the glazes will stick to each other if they touch.
7. Buy established glazes (like AMACO), and read the directions and follow them. 3 coats means 3 coats, anything else will bubble. Also, the coats should be done in different directions for complete coverage.
8. Use students thumbs as a guide. Nothing should be thicker than their thumb. Otherwise if it dries prior to firing, there might be parts that still are wet, which will cause explosions.
9. When putting two pieces of clay together, students must slip and score. Scoring means roughing up the surface, and slip is a mixture of clay and water. I say that slip is like denture cream and the scoring is like roughing up the gums. (can you tell I'm an old teacher??)
10. And lastly, wedging is real important. It gets rid of those pesky airbubbles. Little ones as well as high schoolers can wedge the easy way. You can even have them wedge using the floor. I have them make their clay into a brick, and getting into a rhythm they keep rotating the brick by pounding each side and rotating. Essentially they are compressing the brick and thus "farting" out the airbubbles. (I know you know my kids love it when I say fart).