In 2014 we started to teach chess to all of Key Stage 2 children as part of their curriculum. Now each of our Key Stage 2 classes receive a 45 minute chess lesson each fortnight. As well as the fortnightly chess lessons a weekly chess club, run by a professional coach, draws dozens of children. We hold internal tournaments as well as entering national competition. The County Chess Team also meets fortnightly out our school.
There are many benefits that are directly associated with chess in class. It’s not so much about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It’s about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions. Chess teaches higher level thinking skills such as the ability to visualize, analyze, and think critically.
Research shows, there is a strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement. In 2000, a landmark study found that children who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including maths, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability (Smith and Cage, 2000).
Chess levels the playing field as it crosses all socio-economic boundaries. It is a universal game, with worldwide rule consistency. Age, gender, ethnic background, religious affiliation, size, shape, colour, and language don’t matter when playing chess. Everyone is equal on the chessboard.
The way chess can incorporate and relate to other core subjects makes it an amazingly powerful tool. Chess is one big science experiment; every time you play a game you are testing hypotheses and learning by trial and error. Chess is rooted in history and can open a door to history knowledge. Our current game of chess developed in the Middle Ages in Western Europe, though it began in India at least 1500 years ago.
As children play chess, they begin to see the importance of thinking ahead, trying to figure out what their opponent might do next and what their alternatives are too. This ability to anticipate outcomes can transfer to their reading comprehension. Students can predict outcomes, and realize that characters in their stories are interconnected, just as just as they and their opponent, and the pieces on the chessboard are.
All the skills that the children are learning, whilst having fun playing a game, are transferable. We have already seen increases in concentration, improved behaviour and academic development and hope this will continue as chess becomes embedded into our school life.
If you would like to know more about the benefits of chess in the classroom, please have a look through this document: