Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to teach chess to very young kids?

After trolling the internet for some clues on how to start really teaching the game to my kids, I found the following sites useful:top

From Duif's Place
This has some suggestions on how to play a game fairly. I had never heard of switching side mid-way. He suggests giving the child the option to switch sides but this sort of bothered me because of the obvious perfect strategy of waiting until the situation was completely hopeless and then calling for a switch.
I tried this once and she seemed to like it as there wasn't any real pressure on her to find good moves. I'm not sure that's such a good thing but anyway I suppose it's more important that she just plays at all than that the method have merit as a didactic tool.
I read about a young chess star whose grandfather played her without rooks when she was young which she claimed makes her "vision" for knights and bishops quite strong to this day while she occasionally misses good moves for rooks!
The kids liked the idea of playing with a clock but don't have any real conception of the consequence of taking time or losing on time so playing with time odds doesn't make a lot of sense right now.

Michael Goeller's blog, The Kenilworthian, has a 8 part series on his experience teaching a class which I thought was excellent.

I think he'd be an ideal tutor for the game, but he lives in NJ so I think that's probably too far for lessons. I especially liked his mini-games approach which I imagine is a much better way for young players to absorb concepts naturally through play rather than being taught these concepts directly. I also found his "pattern of errors" analysis very interesting. I think it too is an excellent way to classify areas of improvement and are a way that a coach can naturally add tremendously to the speed at which a young player can develop.

This list on Amazon with comments by David Small was a real eye opener for me.

It made me rethink the way I should probably approach improving my own game.

I would love to find a product like CT-ART 3.0 that is appropriate for absolute novices children. I'd bet that if the presentation is done well in a game like setting that it would do well. Or even video lesson sort of like the game of the week videos on ICC, but for kids and at a more elementary level.

[Update: I found Chess Tactics for Beginners by Conveckta to be ideal for young children]

I actually bought Susan Polgar's instructional DVD and was really disappointed with it. I don't think the content is bad but it was way too dry to keep my kids interested. It also started at too advanced a level.

But most annoyingly, the computer display makes no use of the great features that most chess programs have like arrows, or marks for critical points. Since it's just a video and not interactive at all I can't imagine any kids really getting into it.
A far better approach would be something like Bruce Wilcox's Go Dojo which teaches Go. That's for adults and is sort of rules based, but it's interactive: you actually make moves to answer questions and reinforce concepts, there are quizes and a game walk-throughs.
With a little modification that would be a great way to teach kids I think. My daughter even likes Go Dojo and did better at some of the elementary quizes than I did.

I am aware of a few chess software products for kids: Chesster and Chessmaster come to mind. I bought Chesster 2, and found it too difficult for teaching a 4 year old and even a little too difficult for my 6 year old with zero experience. It was also buggy and crashed my computer so I've given up on it for now. Chessmaster holds some promise. I may get a PlayStation 3 just to have a safe and easy way for the kids to use a chess program (really, it's just for the kids). But since we already have Nintendo Wii and there's supposed to be a Wii chess game in the work, I think I'll just wait awhile to see that.

[Update: I found Dinosaur Chess to be good for my 4 year old. It's also, in my opinion, the best way to introduce the rules to a complete novice]

The chess teacher at Alyssa's school has written a book for kids about checkmate motifs. I think it's a fine book, but I really believe that interactive programs are the way to go.

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun, though, looking for a computer based solution. Perhaps there is something about physically playing and learning with people that cannot be replaced.

Well, I'm taking care of that too. I'm arranging for 1 on 2 private lessons with Michael from Alyssa's school. They start this Saturday.


rondomingo said...

Thank for your informative blog. I have a 4 yo daughter (who will be 5 in Nov) and I would like to teach her how to play chess. I'm not a chess player myself so I'm looking for the best way to teach her. Any recommendations?

Thank you and look forward to hearing from you.

Ron Domingo

Koji said...

There's no substitute for teaching the moves to her yourself with a physical board. For basic skill development I think Dinosaur Chess is your best bet.

Laura Sherman said...

Hi! Bill Kilpatrick and I wrote a book called Chess Is Child's Play - Teaching Techniques That Work, in order to teach any parent (no matter their skill level) how to teach a child of any age (four and up) to play chess! We also have exercises for two and three year olds. The book is now in its second printing run and has been on amazon's bestselling chess book list consistently. It is very easy to use and has breakthrough concepts to help bring chess to the next generation. If you don't know how to play chess, you will quickly learn as you learn to teach your child!

Cathy Burkholder said...

I recommend No Stress Chess. It's like a regular chess set, but also has a set of cards that tell you which piece to move. It's really good for getting familiar with the pieces, and when you're comfortable with them, transitions gradually to real chess.

We bought it for our 5 year old, and he liked it enough that when we couldn't play more than a couple games a day with him, he taught chess to his 4 year old brother.

It doesn't teach strategy, but is great for getting started.

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