As educators, we receive lots of inquiries from parents and other teachers asking how their child or classroom is stacking up compared to their peers. When working with very young children, this is a hard question to answer. There are so many factors that make up how a child is doing and these can change on a per-day, even per-hour, basis. Is the child sick? Do they get along well with the tutor? Did they eat something at lunch they didn’t like? Did a sibling get to wear the student’s favorite spiderman shirt and that put them in a bad mood?
Rather than having a standard performance evaluation, we here at Chess at Three have three factors we look at. We feel confident that recognizing when a student passes over one of these milestones, it is a good metric to indicate their progress. The 3 factors are: Understanding a Key Concept, Retaining and Practicing Information and Having Fun.
Understanding a Key Concept – Chess is a sum of difficult moves done on a 64 square board. The possibilities that one can do in a single game are overwhelming to even think about. Compound this with the millions of historical chess games available to study and analyze and you can see how chess education can get out of hand really fast. This is why we like to celebrate the key concepts that our students learn in chess. Did a new student learn about the direction diagonal? Great! Did a beginner figure out a new opening sequence? Bravo! Did someone finally understand all the directions a knight can move? Perfect! It is okay that a student doesn’t know how to play a full game; if they are learning the concepts that make up a chess game, it is a victory. Remember that early baseball players don’t start with fast pitch, they work up from t-ball and that is okay!
Chess is full of difficult concepts; it’s why so many people are scared of the game. Our curriculum is designed to take these difficult concepts and break them down in a way that a three year old can truly understand and remember. Take for example the word diagonal. Most young 3 year olds have a very hard time with this. Is it forward/sideways? Backwards/sideways? Cutting through the corners?
We don’t start by introducing diagonal as a self contained concept. Instead, we tell a silly story about two siblings that love colors. One loves the color white and the other green (these are the same colors of the square on our chessboards). When these siblings play chess they prefer to stay on their favorite colors. Necessarily then, when they move the move is diagonal. After a child practices this move, we tell them it is a really cool direction called diagonal. In future lessons when they make a great diagonal move they can tie it back to this lesson and feel good that they learned something new. Learning in a fun and exciting way also helps them retain this new information.
Having Fun – All of our lessons center around having fun. It is not a Chess at Three lesson unless it is fun! Make silly voices, do fun dances, ask exciting questions. If your child is having fun, the lesson is going well. Make sure that they are always smiling, giggling and genuinely engaged. This will help every lesson feel like a homerun!
Try to use some of these concepts when working with your own children. Break down difficult concepts, make things memorable to help retention, and always have fun!
See you next time on “Inside a Chess Lesson”