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28 Aug

Innovative Chess Curriculum

Teaches Critical Thinking Skills

Chess, a classic game of strategy, originated in India some 1,500 year ago. Legend has it that the ruler of India asked his wise men to devise a way to teacher the children of the royal family to become better thinkers and a means to also create better generals on the battlefield. Chess was the result. Brownwood ISD and Spring ISD use chess as a learning tool to teach critical thinking skills, advance math and reading skills, improve behavioral and social skills, and build self-esteem in 2nd and 3rd grade students.
The First Move curriculum was professionally designed, maps to state standards and is easy and fun to teach.

How Do The Students Benefit?

Students see chess as a game and do not realize the powerful learning that goes on while they play. Learning to play chess promote courtesy toward others and sportsmanship. Chess develops self-esteem, builds team spirit and requires concentration. Students who play chess are taught to focus for an extended period of time, and will analyze situations to predict an outcome. Chess encourages students to discover patterns and use logical deductive reasoning to solve problems. Chess levels the playing field, or board, in this case. Age, gender, ethnic background, socioeconomic status and spoken language are irrelevant factors while playing chess. Our districts have also found that because most of our students have never been exposed to chess, all students start from the same level of experience.

We have brought chess to the schools because we believe it directly contributes to academic performance. We believe chess enhances intellectual development by fostering the following skills:

Focusing– children are taught the benefits by observing carefully and concentrating. If they don’t watch what is happening, they can’t respond to it, regardless of the intelligence.

Visualizing– children are prompted to imagine a sequence of actions before it happens. We actually strengthen the ability to visualize by training them to shift the pieces in their mind, first one, then several moves ahead.

Thinking Ahead– Children are taught to first think, then act. We teach them to ask themselves “If I do this, what might happen then, and how can I respond?” Over time, chess helps develop patience and thoughtfulness.

Weighing Options– Children are taught that they don’t have to act on the first thought that enters their mind. They learn to identify alternatives and weigh the pros and cons of various actions.

Analyzing concretely– Children learn to evaluate the results of specific actions and sequences. Does this action help me or hurt me? Decisions are better when they are guided by logic rather than impulse.

Thinking Abstractly– Children are taught to step back periodically from details and consider the bigger picture. They also learn to take patterns used in one context and apply them to different but related situations.

Strategizing– Children are taught to weigh their moves in terms of potential short and long rang actions, which can eventually facilitate the connection of life’s short and long range goals. They are also taught the need to re-evaluate their plans as new developments change the situation.

Juggling Multiple Considerations Simultaneously– Children are encouraged not to become overly absorbed in any consideration, but to try and weigh various factors all at once. This requires them to see multiple patterns, which develop thought process.

None of these skills are specific to chess, but they are all part of the game. The beauty of chess as a teaching tool as it stimulates children’s minds and helps them to build these skills while enjoying themselves.

How is the chess curriculum taught?

First Move is offered during the school day as a supplemental program to the existing core curriculum. Chess is taught for pone hour, one day a week. All 2nd and 3rd grade teachers receive a “chess box” with information on access to the streaming online videos, oversized demo chess board, chess boards and pieces and lesson plans. Teachers simply follow the lesson plans and facilitate the learning.

Reece Blincoe is Superintendent of Brownwood ISD and Dalane Bouillion is associate Superintendent of Spring ISD

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