Monday, September 20, 2010

Chess Club

Photos of the class. The room isn't normally filled with concrete and wheelbarrows. People in the area were building a new canchita nearby at the time, and they used the classroom to store their supplies.

I started a chess class here in Huaycan 6 weeks ago, and I can now safely say that it's becoming a success. The class is in Zone Z UCV 231 with a group of kids who can sometimes be unenthusiastic about classes. Yes, they've started arriving to my class 5 minutes early! This might seem unremarkable, but it's extraordinary for a class that is on Sundays and a group of students who habitually show up a half hour late ("Peruvian time").

The students have been incredibly enthusiastic. Even though the class is 2 hours long, they rarely are ready to pick up the chess boards at the end. And 2 kids were so invested in the game that they started playing for money in my last class. Money hasn't exchanged hands yet, so I technically haven't encouraged gambling in my class.

I think I love the class as much as the kids do. I usually have to work really hard to get the kids to stay in their seat and learn the material (the kids in one of my classes are fond of climbing out the windows). But in this class, they're so excited to play that they can hardly sit still through a lesson. I've started shortening the lengths of my lessons from an hour to only 20 minutes. I've discovered that the kids will read and study all material I give them. So I can briefly explain the important points of my worksheets in class and let them play chess for longer, and I still know that they'll learn the material.

The kids are improving so quickly that I'm almost to the point where I will run out of lessons and they can learn more by just playing. I'm not sure what I'll be teach them in another month, but I'll worry about it when I come to it. For now, I'm just taking it one class at a time. My curriculum so far is below:

Week 1: Names of pieces (in English and Spanish!) and how each moves; how to set up the board properly

Week 2: Rules for check, checkmate, stalemate, and castling; the 3 ways to get out of check

Week 3: Opening strategies (in general); forks

Week 4: Chess notation; basic checkmates (ie double rook, back rank, queen next to the king, etc); 4 move checkmate

Week 5: Opening strategies in response to e4; pins; strategies for each piece, strengths and weaknesses

Week 6: More common checkmates; attacks, defenses, and threats (how to know when to capture or attack pieces)

Plus we do several "find the checkmate in one move" puzzles at the beginning of each class

If anyone reading has ideas about future lessons, please let me know!

For now, I'll just leave you with a fun linguistic fact about Peru. Instead of using "kill", "take", or "capture" to describe taking another piece in chess, Peruvians use the word "comer" or "eat". So instead of having kids yell "He took my queen", they yell "He ate my queen!" I think it's a really awesome way to describe it, and will probably be saying that my pieces were "eaten" by the time I return.

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