By Daniel Todd, Scholastic Instructor
Preparing to teach chess classes in schools can be daunting, so here are three ideas that helped me:
1.To prepare myself, I purchased a recommended book: The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids by Richard James; however, I did not feel comfortable with one suggestion in Richard’s book. In Chapter 12 entitled “Playing Chess with Your Kids,” he suggests, “Encourage aggressive moves,” and in the second sentence states, “Chess is war – you have to kill the soldiers in the other guys army…”
I didn’t think that this was an acceptable way to teach chess in our schools, so instead I use language like, “Capture the other player’s piece” vs “Kill.” I point out that if the other player promotes a pawn, you will need those pieces. Later, I mention that they will almost always promote to a queen and we supply an extra queen.
2. Suggestions on engaging the students are out there, as well. For instance, the Saint Louis Chess Club suggested the use of chess poems and referred to a website with some. Since I couldn’t connect with any of the existing chess poems I saw, I made a few of my own. Feel free to use “Who Am I?”
3. I use the handout “mate in one” puzzles and when a student wins several games in our class tournament, knows the terms, or answers other questions, I’ll give them a Golden (Plastic) chess piece. They love these and use them when playing in our class tournaments. Although, now that I started this reward program, they expect it! But, it’s a small price to pay for a working rewards program.