When new coaches initially see the make-your-own chess set activity in our chess curriculum, their reactions are quite varied. Of course, many, particularly primary school teachers, immediately see the benefits of this craft activity. Understandably, to some it seems like more trouble than it’s worth. It does require planning, some supplies that may not be on hand, and some mess. Others see it as a distraction from the goal of learning about chess. However, we have been including this activity in our programs for over seven years and it never disappoints, particularly for students in primary grades. Here’s why we think it is worth the time, trouble and mess – all of which can be minimized (more on that in our upcoming how-to article):
- Increase investment in chess: What kid wouldn’t want to play using a chess set that they made with their own hands? By making it themselves, they increase their own investment in playing.
- A chess set for every student: Handmade sets are a great way to be sure that every child has a low-cost, but cherished chess set to take home.
- Engage the students’ community: The excitement is contagious. Many family and friends will have a hard time turning down a kid when they are asked to play on a set the student made with their own hands.
- Give them time to get ‘hooked’ on chess: For some kids, chess isn’t initially very engaging. For these kids, adding some other activities to your class can help keep them coming long enough to get hooked. Making chess sets can take a few minutes of each class for several weeks, longer depending on the particular approach. Some kids may keep coming just to finish their set. By the time they are done, the hope is that they’ve become invested enough to keep coming.
- Develop additional skills: Art activities help build many skills including fine motor, planning and an impressive array of other skills and capacities. They also give kids a chance to express themselves and develop their creativity.
- Reinforce important chess knowledge: Making a chess set and board emphasizes how many of each piece are included in a chess set as well as how the board is laid out (including how the letters and numbers from algebraic notation identify each square).
- Engage volunteers: This is a great activity to assign to an eager parent or other volunteer. You may have some skilled artists among your potential volunteers who might be willing to take on this activity. They can work with students on this activity in groups, freeing you up to work with other students.
Click here to check out our post on how to plan and execute this great activity. You may also want to click over to our article on using learning stations to learn about one way to incorporate activities like these into your classes.