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I have been running the chess club at the local high school, which I graduated from 40 years ago. As part of it, I have been giving free lessons.

I have had several problems, and I am looking for suggestions on how to overcome them.

  1. There are very different levels of strength. We had a core group, but recently, an entire sports team started showing up. They decided to stay, and play, while they wait for their practice to start. They are much weaker than the rest, but they still enjoy it. Interest in the lessons within this group is mixed.
  2. Some kids miss meetings, so when they come back, they have missed a lesson. If this were an actual academic class, I could have them make it up, but that does not work so well when you are trying to keep it fun. That said, they get behind, and I don't want to move on without them.
  3. New kids show up, and have missed everything.
  4. Lastly, the time is limited to about 1:45 each Friday.

I have some ideas, but I thought I would get some from you before I mention them. The core group really has some interest, and have been enjoying learning more about the game. We might like to eventually form a team.

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    Maybe work on tactics - one does not need to have solved the previous position to attack the next one. In the lower brackets, it's also the quickest way to see improvement.
    – Allure
    Dec 13, 2019 at 1:44

5 Answers 5

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You could record your lessons for class consumption. This would be useful for students who miss lessons. Please make sure if it's legal to record group lessons in your school though.

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    +1, and good point about the recording. Many schools do have policies about that. Dec 13, 2019 at 18:51
  • There are no rules about recording LESSONS. Most schools do that these days. There may be rules about recording students. But you do not need to record them at all when you record a lesson. In fact a large number of schools put lessons on the internet for many subjects. Some teach exclusively on the internet. China uses internet and recorded lessons along with AI to customize the lessons to the students. And they saved money as well as are getting better results.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 13, 2019 at 18:54
  • @yobamamama, maybe not the lessons themselves, but the problem is that there are rules about if any kids somehow get in the shot, and I would probably need permission to record in the first place. Dec 13, 2019 at 23:15
  • You might need permission to record at all, but that would be a rare school. Keeping kids out of the shots should not be hard. And you can always edit before using any video.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 13, 2019 at 23:31
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Chess website at school summarizing lessons along with other school related chess info.

Point to chess websites for more that they can use especially if they missed.

Advanced kids play while you help newer ones catch up. What do you do with that much time anyway? They want to play not hear lectures. Go to each game and give pointers as appropriate to specific players.

Rotate openings, tactics, mates, end games, other topics.

Chess is not so much like math where everything builds so neatly on the other stiff so you do not really get behind except in the sense that you have already done more and so have moved forward.

Have a range of problems from easy to hard each time, so that everybody can do some and learn some each session.

End the semester or year with a tournament. Swiss style. Analyze the games and see what they need to learn most next semester/year.

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  • +1. I like the idea of maybe putting the lessons on the web for them. I have been rotating subjects to keep it interesting. The actual lessons are only 30-45 minutes, and then they play. Dec 13, 2019 at 23:17
  • Sounds good. And while they play you can help the noobies catch up some while watching their games.
    – yobamamama
    Dec 13, 2019 at 23:30
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Relate the moves for chess to the strategy of the sport they play as I am sure a really good analogy can be found like setting picks for basketball or football has endless comparisons for forks skewers and pins It also may help them in there sport to visualize better from chess tactics so win win. If they are weaker players than these concepts will represent the largest progression to there game anyway. good luck

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  • Thank you. I upvoted two of your answers so you can vote too. Dec 14, 2019 at 13:43
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I decided that I would break the class into two groups.

I will teach the real beginners during the first half of the club's time, and the slightly more advanced players during the second half of the club's time.

In addition, I will be printing out materials that I deem relevant, so if kids miss a lesson, they can take it home with them.

I simply do not really have the time to do more, but if I did, then I would probably like the idea of recording the sessions YouTube-style, and posting them.

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  1. Divide into groups

I totally back up PhishMaster's idea of breaking the class into a few groups based on strength. I have use 3 groups (complete beginner, average and above-average); this should work for general audience such as chess coaching is schools, I think.

One practice I have used is to personally engage with a few groups while the other groups are solving puzzles or playing (or playing from particular positions). For example, I give puzzles to average group and above-average group while I engage complete beginners. More importantly, the expectation from both groups are different - examples: (i) one group is asked to solve a few puzzles, whereas another group is supposed to solve all, (ii) if one or more students in the above-average group has solved all puzzles, I give them a handout with very slightly harder puzzles.

  1. Puzzles with different solutions at different levels

yobamamama suggested to have a range of problems from easy to hard each time, so that everybody can do some and learn some each session, which is a nice suggestion. This point is an extension of the same idea.

Here, a puzzle/position is given to different levels, but expectation is different from students at different levels. For example, a complete beginner is expected to find a capture (or the better capture); if they do more or try to do more, better; an average player is expected to look for tactics; whereas an above-average student is supposed to do a proper position evaluation.

Note that not all puzzles are suitable to be used this way. For this to work, players at all levels should feel satisfied with what they can do (e.g. there should not be a trick checkmate; if there is one and when you or someone discuss this, the beginners will be distracted from their task and try to grapple with an idea they are not yet ready to handle).

  1. Have them teach each other

Sometimes, sharing a class recording is not fun and/or efficient. In such cases, you can ask the above-average students in the class to teach others the topic of the last class. Ask them to explain with their own examples. I think this is better than repeating the material.

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