This spring, we had the chance to catch up with Robin Ramson, the Founder of DC Chess Girls: a Washington, D.C. based chess non-profit dedicated to encouraging more girls to play chess. When we spoke, she had just returned from a national tournament where her daughter got to compete with children from all over the country.
I know you have lots of stories about chess making a difference. Can you share one story with our readers?
The first one that comes to mind is that of a girl in our program who also participates in a school-based program. There weren’t many girls in the school-based program and the boys were much better than her when she started. Her mom said her daughter almost gave up many times, but ultimately had the courage to keep going due to her continued involvement with with DC Chess Girls. The other girls in the club were really supportive and we do a lot as a club to encourage tournament play. I think providing this kind of encouragement is essential. It takes so long time to get good at chess that recognition for effort and achievement of certain milestones can make a huge difference. I think girls respond well to people noticing their effort (not that boys don’t), so we make sure that we do just that. The other girls in our program are competitive, but they don’t participate in school programs. Even though the other kids on the school team had much higher ratings, it was this girl who ended up getting awards. In addition to the support, we’ve been lucky to have great coaching. I say ‘lucky’ because we are an all-volunteer organization and I hire only experts or above. Our coaches analyze games and provide lectures to prompt thinking about how the girls can take their games to next level. In addition to the chess improvement, the mom said her daughter has become more focused, less intimidated about taking tests, and shows more persistence when tackling difficult subjects.Continue reading “Chess Coach Interview ~ Robin Ramson, DC Chess Girls”
Domination: Our top post in 2016 shares a skill building game that teaches students to see the board at a glance. This post includes video instruction by GM Maurice Ashley and ideas for making the game more challenging (hint: play the “mean way” and use a clock). If you like Domination, you might also like Quibs, a skill building game using queens and bishops.
One of the most important goals we had as we developed the MATCH Chess Curriculum was to help chess coaches, schools and other organizations scale chess programs in a sustainable way. Since strong players with excellent teaching skills can be hard to find/keep due to availability and/or cost, there was a pressing need to create a curriculum that would make teaching chess possible for anyone who is good at working with children.
I teach chess, so why should I worry about branding?
Imagine that you are a school administrator. You have specific policies on how the students at your school should be taught, disciplined and treated in general. You find a chess coach who fits with your approach. However, as the coach’s business expands, they end up hiring another coach to teach at your school. That coach doesn’t use the same approach. As a consumer, this feels almost like a bait and switch. You ‘bought’ one thing, but got another.
Imagine that you are a parent. You’ve hired a chess coach to teach chess to your child. Perhaps you are happy with the coach, but they occasionally send substitutes that you don’t like. Perhaps the substitutes don’t have the same teaching philosophy, sometimes repeat material, or skip ahead.
Alternatively, you sign your child up for a second chess class with the
same provider, but the second class seems to jump in at a different point than where the first one ended. You don’t know if your child is getting a well-planned chess education. Maybe you are uncertain whether the material has already been covered. When you talk to your child, it might sound like material is being repeated. Does it need to be? Is the coach is delving deeper into the topic or is it poor planning on the coach’s part? How can you tell?
In each of these scenarios, the likelihood of continued enrollment and referrals is jeopardized. We have heard each of these complaints about service providers many times. As service providers, we often don’t think of ourselves or our company as having a brand, but whether or not we plan and cultivate a brand, we do have one. Continue reading “Chess Business Tips ~ Branding for Chess Coaches”
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.
Divide group into teams. Each team gets a board. Teams are set up in two different rooms or far enough away so that they cannot hear the other team’s deliberations. A third board is placed in the between the two groups with a clock. The game is played on the middle board, but it is copied on each team’s board. Runners go to the middle board, make a move, and hit the clock. If the runner forgets to hit the clock, time continues to run in the other team’s favor. Ideally, coaches or teachers work with each team on their move, planning ahead while the runner waits for the other team’s move. Once the other team makes a move, the runner comes back, makes the move on the team board and waits (or another runner gets ready) for the next move. Teachers and coaches do not offer specific moves, but general help, such as asking questions (e.g., What other moves would be good? What do you think the other team is planning?). Continue reading “10 Great Chess Activities for Clubs, Classes & Schools”