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Chess Bingo: Educational Tool for Young Kids Learning Chess

For about a year now, I’ve been volunteering at a local elementary school to teach chess to kids in the 2nd through 5th grade. Over that time I’ve come to realize that teaching young children is not at all like teaching an adult. I could tell you that a knight moves either two squares horizontally and one square vertically, or two squares vertically and one square horizontally, jumping over other pieces during the move, and only capturing on the last square. You might need me to repeat that once or twice, or perhaps show you one example, but then you’d remember the move and be ready to move forward in about a minute’s time. You’d pick this move up quickly, but most kids need a lot of repetition and practice to remember a move as complicated as the shape of the letter “L.”

There are loads of chess curricula and lesson plans available for purchase that can help you teach the moves and strategies of chess, and they usually come at a pretty steep price; First Move, for instance, charges more than five hundred dollars per classroom for their clever ideas. I tip my king at that kind of expense personally, and the school at which I’m volunteering isn’t that resource-rich. Todd Barstow’s Teaching Chess in the 21st Century is a more affordable guide (at about $15) with handy strategies for incorporating mathematics instruction, but even with this book and Murray Chandler’s charming Chess for Children, I still find myself looking for more ways to help kids who are eager but a bit more slow on the uptake practice their moves.

Today I gave the kids a game I’ve drawn up called Chess Bingo. It’s a pretty simple exercise, but I found it to be effective. Each student gets a sheet of paper with a chess board printed on it, complete with the letter-number system for identifying ranks, files and individual squares. Click on the thumbnail for a sample:

Chess Bingo Sheet: Rook at d4

Chess Bingo Sheet: Rook at d4

Just as different regular bingo boards contain different sets of numbers placed under different letters, so different chess bingo sheets have different chess pieces placed in different locations. As an instructor reads out the positions of individual chess squares (“a4″… “e7″), students cross out those positions if the chess piece (or pieces) placed on their board could move to that position in one turn. A student wins the Chess Bingo game by crossing out all the positions to which the pieces on his/her board could possibly move in one turn. (In the sample sheet above, that set of positions is a4, b4, c4, e4, f4, g4, h4, d1, d2, d3, d5, d6, d7, d8.) When a student calls out “Bingo!” play pauses for the instructor to check the student’s work for accuracy and completeness. To turn this into a learning moment for the whole class, reproduce the student’s sheet and responses on a demonstration board (or by using an opaque projector) and ask the rest of the class to evaluate it.

By playing Chess Bingo, students practice three chess skills: referring to positions by location, learning the moves of pieces and … learning that as in life, chess is not fair. As more and more students win Chess Bingo and share their work with the rest of the class), smart students will object: “Tina didn’t have to fill in as many squares to win as I did!” Turn the outrage into insight: what pieces tend to have more squares to which they can move? These are the more powerful pieces (think Queen). When pieces are placed on what squares do they tend to have more possible destinations? These are the more powerful locations (think middle of the board). Students will learn that in chess power comes from opportunity, that power can be quantified, and that it’s unevenly distributed. Chess starts to sound like a PoliSci class, which isn’t surprising considering the origin of the game.

If you find yourself working with an elementary chess club in a resource-poor school, I hope you find this Chess Bingo exercise to be of some use. Below are some links to some Chess Bingo sheets in png format:

Chess Bingo sheet 1
Chess Bingo sheet 2
Chess Bingo sheet 3
Chess Bingo sheet 4
Chess Bingo sheet 5
Chess Bingo sheet 6
Chess Bingo sheet 7
Chess Bingo sheet 8
Chess Bingo sheet 9
Chess Bingo sheet 10
Chess Bingo sheet 11

12 comments to Chess Bingo: Educational Tool for Young Kids Learning Chess

  • Jim,

    Take a look at Chessology – kids love it for learning chess as the colors change depending on whether you are looking at a good or bad move.

    Rob

    • Jim

      Rob,

      I’ve just finished taking my first look, and I love the idea of it. Chessology looks to be very useful… but you should make readers more clearly aware that the FREE version is NOT the full version. Instead the text of the website indicates that all you ask is for users to visit your website. That’s not completely accurate.

  • Jacob

    This is funny, I was google searching trying to find tools to teach my kids chess. We home school so we get the chance to teach in a lot of fun ways that public schools dont have because of the 1-1 time. It would be hard for a teacher with 35 kids to do the same types of things. I think chess is the greatest game ever and it changes how people are able to think and solve problems. I believe that a solid chess player is usually a smarter person and better at problem solving so I am working on putting in in as part of our cirriculam

    Long story short, I find it hilarious that I ended up routed back to IT. Turns out that almost everything I need on the net can be found in past posts at IT…

    Jim, any other great resources you use besides the couple listed?

    • Jim

      Hey, glad it helped. We are everywhere, just like the Bugaloos. Teaching Chess in the 21st Century is the best one for incorporating mathematics, but I’ve already mentioned that.

      I’ve found that something called the Pawn Game is a great way to start Chess off, especially for younger kids and for kids with short attention spans. After the kids have the pawns down, introduce the King into the Pawn Game, with the King’s capture leading to an immediate loss. They’ll quickly notice that the King can’t go certain places without the game immediately being lost, which is a way to introduce the concept of “check” and “checkmate.” Then one at a time add the rook, then the bishop, then the knight to the board, and before they know it kids will be playing with all the pieces.

  • qs

    Jim are you a good chess player?

  • Jacob

    Have you used to “Dinasour Chess” with younger kids? Any thoughts on it?

    • Jim

      If you mean the video game, no, I sure haven’t. Since I usually deal with kids in groups of 10 to 15, putting them individually on computers would cost a lot of money and not take advantage of the social learning that happens in groups that size. But since you’re dealing with your own kids in smaller numbers, maybe it’s the ticket. I see that they’ve got a free trial, and if I were in your shoes I’d try out that trial first.

      • Jacob

        I am torn on it. It is fun and interactive, but, its a video game which I usually avoid like the plague… Of course, even though its a video game its not some ridiculous thing, its educational and still has a lot of the benefits of discovery of chess for a 4 year old. Its a game that he can learn to win and continue to be challenged without knowing that dad is leting him do it…

        The fact that it is a video game makes it a challenege for me…

  • Julie morse

    Jim

    I was going to use your chess bingo with some 2nd graders BUT the board is not in conventionally orientation. Usually a b c d e f g h where the white square is h 1 , the white pieces are at the bottom of the board . Your board shows h 1 as a black square so the black pieces would go on the bottom of your board. Did you mean to do this?

  • Julie morse

    In reply to the Dinosaur Chess game comment : I have used as an app on my i pad2 I bought headphones and splitters at RadionShack You can split the splitter into four so if you are home schooling , then three children and one adult can listen in. My grandson who is 7 loves it and he can play pretty OK chess mostly because he has loved repeating the games and challenges and he loves the the dinosaurs. The i pad version still has a few bugs. It sometimes freezes and you have to start over. Hopefully that will be fixed. You can also get it as an i phone app. I have not ever seen the video game version but I love this app version . The only games my grand kids get to play are all on apps. Their favorite is Stack the States and Stack the Countries and Dinosaur Chess is a close second for the moment.

  • Nick

    First off, I’m impressed with your dedication to volunteer and give your time to teach kids how to play chess. Nowadays, modern technology has introduced us to a number of applications and devices which we can make use of in teaching the little ones. It quite worth it in the sense that it’s going to make them better pupils and students at school.

    A website called online-chess-coaching is in one mission with the other chess enthusiasts in molding and shaping kids’ academic performance in school. You might want to check its activities and programs conducted.

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