Spring has brought us a lot of rainy days lately, which keeps us inside a lot. Instead of giving in to the constant requests for t.v. and video games, we have been trying to pull out the chess board more and more. Both of my older sons learned to play Chess in first frade, but my youngest who is only just four is interested enough that he knows the names of the pieces and how they move. To me, Chess is more than a great rainy day activity. It is also a beneficial part of any home school or classroom setting.
Students who play chess can expand their knowledge in many ways, such as:
- Critical Thinking Skills: Chess is essentially a thinking game. You have to remember the many ways that different pieces to create a strategy that will not be outdone by your opponent. All of this builds critical thinking skills, which are vitally important in all types of math problems.
- Strategy building a.k.a “There are Multiple Ways to Solve a Problem”: Developing a strategy to win a game is the same mental skill as developing a strategy to solve a math problem. When playing Chess, you often have to change strategies mid-game in response to the moves of your opponent.
- Vocabulary: From the names of the pieces to the word “check”, there is are history and language lessons to be taught through the vocabulary of Chess. Additionally, these words have made it into our every day language. For example, “Treating someone as a pawn.”
- Reading about Chess: There are tons and tons of books about Chess, books where you can learn how to play or increase the number of strategies you have. My boys have Chess for Kids and love reading about new strategies that might help them beat their father in Chess. This could also be a great opportunity for a lesson into the beginning of internet research as there are many online sources to learn about chess as well.
- Learn about the History of the Game: Chess is a very old game, dating back to Ancient India. Learning about the history of a game they enjoy can help expose them to the concepts of the spread of ideas between civilizations, the changing and tweaking of ideas over time due to new political and religious environments and even government censorship as Chess was banned in France in 1254 through an anti-gambling law. Students could even do Biography Projects on famous Chess masters.
- Character Education: Chess is a hard game and someone always loses. Kids need to learn to be good winners and good losers in life. My middle son has a hard time when he loses a game. However in Chess he is always learning new moves and so his goal now is not to beat his brother, but to learn something new each time he plays.
- Use Simulation Games: There are lots of ways to play Chess against the computer. This means that students don’t even need a partner and it gives them a chance to learn new moves. When we play Chess, we talk about observation. Observing what our opponent is doing can be more important to winning than knowing our own next move. Also, it is a way to learn new strategies that you can use in future games.
- Building Global Citizenship: Chess has essentially the same rules worldwide nowadays (this was not always true!) and with the advancement of the internet, children can play with other kids around the world. I have seen students who do not speak the same language sit down to a game of chess and play happily together for hours. My boys use the website Chess Kid to play chess with kids all around the world.
In a classroom, integrating Chess can be as simple as having boards available for indoor recess, math centers, or other downtime. Or it can be an integral part of your day using these strategies:
- Teach all of the kids the rules at the beginning of the year. Split the class into two teams. Set up a game board in the front of the room. When a student is caught being good, they get to choose a move for their team. The winning team gets a special prize.
- Play against another class. Send e-mails or letters between the two classes playing a long distance game. This would be a great addition to a penpal or e-pal program.
- Have chess boards available each morning as morning work or at the beginning of math class as an activator. Teach kids how to track their moves so that boards can be put away quickly and games can continue from one class to the next.
Have you ever thought about playing Chess in your classroom?