An important new book for chess teachers, coaches, and parents has just been published by New in Chess. Titled The Chess Instructor 2009, it is edited by Jeroen Bosch and Steve Giddins. Unlike my own Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators and Science, Math, Checkmate: 32 Chess Activities for Inquiry and Problem Solving, The Chess Instructor 2009 assumes that the adult reading the book already knows how to play chess. In contrast, my books give basic chess instruction (such as chess rules and algebraic notation) to help the non-chess player who wishes to utilize chess in an educational setting.
Because of the variety of chapters in The Chess Instructor 2009, I will make several blog postings reviewing it. As I review it, I am considering whether to adopt it as a text for my online courses, which are designed for adults who wish to use chess in education. In the Chess I (ED 4358 and ED 5344) courses, my students write lesson plans that use chess to meet educational goals and objectives. In Chess II (ED 4359 and ED 5345), each student designs a chess program for an institution. As I read Chess Instructor 2009, I am also looking for great ideas for my own chess teaching with children. Currently, I volunteer teaching chess at a middle school. In the summers, I work at chess camps that serve grades kindergarten through high school.
One chapter that immediately stood out was Cor Van Wijgerden’s The Step-by-Step Method. Wijgerden describes how he developed his curriculum of the same name, which is approved by the Dutch Chess Federation and is also for sale in the United States. An International Master, Wijgerden first wrote lessons for top junior players. Then he partnered with the late Rob Brunia to extend the lessons down to beginners. Now, according to Wijgerden, the first five steps take students from a rating of zero to one of around 1800.
Step-by-Step chess content includes teaching students how to make a double attack to win material. For example, in Step Two of the curriculum, a typical problem might be that black has a king on f7 and a rook on c5. Where should one insert a white queen to win material in a double attack? Answers: Either a7 or f2 is correct, but wrong would be f5 because of black’s response Rxf5. This level of problem is perfect for several of my middle school chess students.
Wijgerden also covers the practical and emotional sides of a typical chess hour with a classroom of students. Wijgerden advised that the ratio of lecture to chess play be 1:3. Take emotions into account when conducting a post mortem, as in, “Don’t take away the pleasure of the winner by announcing that just before the end of a game the opponent missed a mate in three.” Also, “praise three times and only then give a critical remark.” My son William, age 12 and rated 1300, concurred, “I want lots of compliments because criticism hurts more than a compliment repairs.” I plan to implement Wijgerden’s double attack chess content and post mortem advice in my middle school classes. So this particular chapter was very valuable to me. In my next several blog postings, I'll review more of the 16 chapters in Chess Instructor 2009.