Infectious Thinking: Chess

IMG_1618 2I was glancing around my classroom before I unplugged the Christmas lights and took off, yesterday, and I saw this: A chess board had been “put away” by being placed on the Red Bin. The Red Bin is the place where notes, money, messages, etc. for the office are placed first thing in the morning. They then get sent down to the office with our lunch count in the green envelope seen under the chess set.

IMG_5301We are just beginning our school chess club, this year. I accepted too many members, and don’t have enough of the nice big vinyl boards with 3 inch plastic pieces for everyone. (Christmas idea;) So, we have been using a mishmash of different sets. The one in the picture is magnetized, that’s why the pieces can stay in place.

What struck me about this pic is the concept of actually sending the board to the office! Did a student think that this was a message for the secretaries? Should we move a piece and share the board with another class? There is a buzz around the school of students becoming increasingly interested in this “thinkers game”. I have been working on populating a webpage from my classroom website with chess related information that could be helpful not only to the members of our club, but any beginning player. Mr. Vitale, my third grade teammate and partner in running the chess club, and I have made several videos to post on this website. My dream is for the whole school to become interested in playing chess. I wouldn’t be upset if other elementary schools caught this vision. Wouldn’t it be great for our district, state, country to learn, practice, and master thinking strategically, analytically, as well as creatively?

Mr. Vitale and I began a chess game this past week during lunch. We couldn’t finish it, so it remained set up in Mr. Vitale’s room. He couldn’t help but show and talk to his students about it. I took pictures and shared them with my class. By Friday, we were able to complete the game, but only after both of our classes worked on analyzing the following images to help with potential moves. It was fun, exciting, motivating, and infectious. By Friday, my students were sneaking onto Chesskid.com whenever they could. I found iPads with chess games begun, hiding under notebooks.

Here is an idea: Teachers sign up for the Chess Challenge. The magnetic board travels around the school, visiting learning spaces (not just classrooms). A chess enthusiast, either chess club member or one of my students or myself, can visit participants, if desired, to help with some chess instruction. (In other words, teachers shouldn’t feel like they have to be good at the game to participate.) A paper with notation will accompany the board. This will also be posted on the website for classes to keep up with the game, virtually. The color a class is responsible for will depend on which is moving at the time the game arrives at their doorstep. If it is Black’s move when Room 205 gets the board, then they are part of the black team. When a class captures a piece, they get to keep it until the end of the game. They can display it as a chess trophy. Much of the game is strategy, so rooms could even display thinking by posting writing or drawings of the ideas that prepared their move. Perhaps awards could accompany the moves that displayed creative, analytical thought.

My aim is to not only spread the love of chess, but inspire thinking, especially an affection for analytical reasoning. Lets get kids excited about using their cognitive abilities as much as they are pumped to tackle, shoot hoops, hit home runs, etc. The brain may not literally be a muscle, but it should definitely get exercised!

Sources:

Editorial Staff. (2013, October). Treat Your Brain Like a Muscle: Exercise It. Retrieved December 1, 2018, from https://www.toyourhealth.com/mpacms/tyh/article.php?id=1885

Is The Brain A Muscle? (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2018, from https://www.top-health-today.com/general-health/is-the-brain-a-muscle/

Poetry is Classy

This topic does not need much introduction. I’ve always thought that poetry was classy, and I tried writing some when I was young, to no avail. A couple of years ago, I had a story idea that began innocently enough, but morphed into a poem. Each year I get it out at this time for a few reasons. The story has to do with magic and witches. At the beginning of the year I am impressing the importance of spelling and teaching the use of dictionaries. And then, recently, I have taught poetry around Halloween because there are loads of cute, funny, and frightening poems.

Today, I put the poem into a Google Doc that I shared with my class, complete with definitions of vocabulary words and comprehension questions. A month or so ago I posted a blog about sharing creativity. The concept was that the more a lesson is taught, it lives on. For this reason I am sharing my poem here. I hope that you like it. I will mention a couple of thoughts about it at the end of the blog.

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It may not be award-winning, but we found it fun to read. There are many “teachable” elements to the poem, also. My favorite is the idea of poetry breaking the rules. Lines 20 and 30, “Of course not,” are an example of this. The rhythm of the poem is broken to symbolize the youth not following directions, therefore messing up the spell. I actually remember chuckling to myself when I wrote these lines. The poem bounces along, and then it burps. The line “Maybe” (63) is another hiccup in the rhythm. This one symbolizes breaking the spell… Perhaps it will be broken.

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Class is an attitude.