I have started running a chess club at a new school this term and I’ve noticed quite a few positive things about it.
Having contacted the school a few months ago, they got back to me in September and after some discussion I wrote a note to parents with information about a proposed club in order to gauge the level of interest and when it would suit them for the club to take place. I was very happy to see that rather than printing out lots of paper, the school office very efficiently emailed it to all parents, and within hours I had responses expressing interest, and telling me when it suited them.
It quickly became apparent that the club would be viable in terms of numbers. Rather than communications with parents going via the school office they allowed me to contact parents directly by email – which I did. I sent out a booking form with all the details of when, where and how much. Within a week I had 18 students signed up, paid for, and eagerly awaiting their first session. Things seldom move that quickly!
In the first session 14 of the students were already had a good enough grasp of the rules to play full games while I identified 4 that were essentially beginners. This was a bit of a surprise since I had made it clear that this club was not for beginners, but, rather than turning them away I decided to have a separate table for the beginners as well as teaching the improvers. So far, this has turned out to be manageable.
What I tend to do is spend the first half of the session teaching using a demo board, and in the second half they practise by playing each other. While these games are in progress I spend some time with the beginners explaining how the pieces move, etc. and get them playing games with pawns and individual pieces, one at a time. This format seems to work for this group.
One thing I’ve noticed teaching chess in schools is that the lunch time clubs are a lot more orderly than the after school clubs. This is a lunchtime club and their behaviour is almost too good to be true. This means that despite having little more than half an hour for the session we are able to make progress each week because they listen and behave themselves. I run an after school club at another school with only seven students at present, and yet they make more noise and are more difficult to teach than this lunch time club of 18.
Although the improvers in the club can play full games, they were still a bit hazy about some of the rules, such as castling, pawn promotion, en passant, etc. I have spent the first few weeks getting them all up to speed on these rules before we move on to tactics, endgame training, introducing them to different openings, and everything else. I’m looking forward to it – and I’m very pleased to say that they are too!