I recently posted about the three services primary schools might like to provide for their pupils.

The first of these is teaching chess to beginners.

Please understand, before I go any further, that learning the moves is not the same as learning how to play chess. If you’re running a chess club without insisting that the members have learnt chess correctly first, you’re doing your pupils no favours. You’re also, if you’re employing an external chess tutor, doing him or her no favours. (On the other hand, in the real world, you may not have the resources to do chess any other way.)

To take an example from one of my schools. It’s a great school and usually I get a reasonably good intake but this term we had only three new pupils. They fit neatly into three of the five categories outlined here. Boy A is a 1. He plays chess at home with his dad, but has very little idea what he’s doing and doesn’t understand all the rules. I suspect his dad doesn’t understand all the rules either. Boy B is a 2. He told me the first week of term he’d read my book, but he knows even less about chess than Boy A. It seems his parents bought him the book and expected him to teach himself, but chess doesn’t work like that. Boy C is a 4. He knows nothing about chess and, because he’s getting no support at home, doesn’t remember anything from one week to the next. He also requires 1 to 1 support during the class, which makes it difficult for me to give much time to the other children.

There are four ways schools might wish to address this problem.

  1. Put chess on the curriculum. I’ll write more about this in a future post. If you’re interested (and in the UK) you might want to contact CSC, who will be able to help you, or you might want to talk to me about alternative approaches.
  2. Use minichess in gaps in the school day, and perhaps run minichess competitions as outlined in various earlier posts. The main purpose of this site is to provide material for schools wishing to take this approach.
  3. Run two clubs, one for beginners (which will introduce the game using minichess) and one for children who are able to play a complete game. Ideally, the beginners’ club would be led by a teacher, perhaps using a chess tutor as a TA.
  4. Provide coaching resources for parents, explain what is required of them, and have children take a simple test (to demonstrate they know the moves and understand check/checkmate/stalemate) before joining the club.

I’m happy to discuss any of this with any primary school in the UK. You can contact me here. If you’re within easy reach of me (Twickenham) I can probably help you directly if you want.

One thought on “Teaching Beginners in Primary Schools

  1. Very interesting post (and blog). The primary school my daughter attends has been unable to run their chess club this term, so I have been considering volunteering. I am enjoying your blog and especially the posts about chess in primary schools

    I had been wondering about the balancing act with regards to catering for children of different levels of experience. It seems like it a difficult challenge if you only have one class, that hopes to provide all 3 services either out of choice or necessity.

    p.s. Your book, The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids arrived this morning, so going to have a read this weekend.


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