Teaching Chess to Kids

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Are you interested in helping your students or children learn more about strategy and planning? Chess can be a great way to develop students' thinking skills. This lesson walks you through the steps in teaching chess to kids.

The Beauty of Learning Chess

Chess can be a marvelous game for enhancing students' cognitive development on a variety of levels. Whether you want your students to think about strategy, develop their planning skills and working memory, or simply engage in friendly yet meaningful competition, the game of chess can make a wonderful addition to their lives.

Yet teaching chess to kids is not necessarily straightforward. It's important to break down the game carefully into its component parts and walk kids through it step by step. Furthermore, you will want to make sure your students get plenty of opportunities to practice and ask questions as they learn the game.

The steps in this lesson will help you teach kids to play chess without invoking stress. Of course, you will want to modify some of these steps to meet the strengths and needs of the specific children you are working with.

Teaching Chess to Kids

Let's go through basic instructions for the game of chess and ideas to think about when teaching it to kids.

Explain the goal.

Before young people can really play chess, they need to understand the goal of the game. It can be helpful to use metaphors and explain that each player is in charge of a team (like a soccer team) that wants to capture the other team's captain, called the king. In the meantime, you want to avoid getting your own captain captured! When you have captured the other king in a way he cannot escape, it's called 'checkmate.' The first player to get checkmate wins the game.

Introduce the Players

One of the trickiest aspects of chess is learning the part that each piece plays. It can help to make a chart that kids can reference. Even better if students help making the chart themselves! Include a picture of each kind of piece, its name, and the kind of movement it is allowed to do. Give kids plenty of chances to practice these different moves and internalize them before you begin a game.

Arrange the Board

Teach kids to arrange the board so that every player begins in its proper place, with a second row filled with pawns. Again, drawing on sports or dance metaphors to explain the importance of a starting position can be meaningful to many students.

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