Use Learning Stations to Manage Staff and/or Differing Ability Levels in Chess Classes
A common challenge for chess teachers is finding ways to manage students with different levels of skill or learning speeds in one classroom. Another challenge is how to make the most of help offered by volunteers and others who may not know how to play chess and may change frequently. Luckily, both of these problems can both be addressed with the same solution: learning stations.
Stations are often used in preschool and early elementary school, but can be used effectively at any age. Each ‘station’ or ‘learning center’ is designed to facilitate a particular activity. Many times, the activities at each station are completed independently (e.g., completing a chess puzzle) while the teacher works with a small group of students (e.g., covering lesson material). Sometimes students are allowed to pick and choose among activities; other times, they must complete all offered fare.
Punch cards or sticker charts can be used for younger students to signal completion, and has the added benefit of helping to keep them motivated. If you are so inclined, you can offer a small reward or special privilege for completing all of the activities.
In addition to the benefits listed above, stations help break up the class, allow students to move around the classroom in a non-disruptive manner, and provide the opportunity for students to explore a variety of tasks (increasing engagement).
Here are some examples of stations that you can use for your chess club:
- Lesson station – Students can be grouped by skill/knowledge level. Groups cycle through this station and participate in a lesson tailored to that group’s needs.
- “Homework” or chess worksheets – If your program includes homework or worksheets, students can complete this in class.
- Puzzle station – Chess puzzles can be provided that are tailored to the skill level of each group.
- Activity station – If you have planned activities such as those included in our curriculum, they can be completed at a separate station. Ideas include: crafts like making one’s own chess set (see link), writing a chess poem to remember a particular rule, learning about a famous chess player, and playing a chess variation or skill builder game (e.g., Domination).
- Computer/Device station – Devices or computers can be set up with chess software and apps (see recommended apps, here). Not all kids have access to technology at home and, even when they do, they may not be familiar with how to use some of it. Apps and software can be chosen to support the lesson or kids can be allowed to explore on their own. GM Ashley’s app, Learn Chess with Maurice Ashley (iOS), includes lessons, a playing engine and many of the skill builders that we feature in our curriculum, so it provides a great opportunity for extra practice.
- Playing Chess – Students can play regular games or play using specific guidelines that you set up (e.g., playing with only certain pieces or from a position that you prescribe). If your space permits, students can also do chess relays (such as playing with a giant chess set or regular set in the middle of the room and teammates take turns running up to make a move).
- Academic Connections – Students can participate in activities designed to make connections between chess and academic subjects such as chess math problems, reading literature featuring chess, and map work featuring chess history.