Who here thinks chess is a profoundly complicated, layered, and almost unattainable game? Anyone feeling daunted by the idea of teaching your child how to play?
You’re not alone!
From the game’s roots in seventh-century India to its recent resurgence in the wake of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, chess has always been considered a cerebral, intellectual pursuit.
Chess curricula have become increasingly popular in classrooms and after-school programs over the past several years. Parents and educators value the importance of chess skills for their students, encouraging chess education around the world.
Multiple studies have proven that learning and playing chess sharpens critical thinking, encourages thoughtful planning, enhances math skills, hones verbal development, boosts emotional intelligence, and increases IQ. It also happens to be pretty fun, too!
But while chess is almost universally considered to be an excellent game for kids, many educators still debate the perfect age to begin a child’s chess journey.
This is where Chess at Three shines!
When we first began teaching chess in 2006, we started kids at the unheard-of age of three. Before we came along, children typically didn’t begin learning the game until they were eight or nine, as chess was thought to be a game for older children and adults.
Faced with the daunting task of teaching three-year-olds in the traditional chess education style, we decided to try something a little out of the ordinary while keeping tried and true techniques in mind.
Chess at Three turned to two very different styles of learning and decided to combine them. We started with the Russian Method, a chess teaching tool that focuses on grasping and understanding one piece at a time, one lesson at a time.
We wanted our students to fully absorb the rules governing each individual chess piece before moving forward with the higher-level aspects of the game.
Next, we added the element of storytelling. Children have an astounding ability to retain stories down to the last detail. It’s incredible how the young mind can remember long stories but not abstract facts. Simply telling a child a chess rule may confuse them because they have nothing concrete to connect it with.
So instead of asking kids to memorize rules by rote, we reveal those rules and concepts through stories. This pedagogical framework allows the student to decipher the game alongside our fun, silly, relatable characters.
Enter King Chomper and King Shaky!
By fusing the Russian Method with creative, educational storytelling, the Chess at Three curriculum was born.
Here are the 7 reasons why the Russian Method and storytelling go hand in hand!
1. Take me out to the tee-ball game.
Tee-ball is an excellent analogy for the way we teach chess. With its simplified rules and low-stakes introduction to basic skills, tee-ball is the perfect first step into the world of baseball.
We often compare our curriculum to setting up the tee-ball tee for young chess players. As students learn to play, one step at a time, we set them up for success down the road in competitive play and tournament matches.
2. A strong foundation is critical.
We can all agree that a strong foundation is the first step to a good education, no matter the subject! The Russian Method encourages lasting chess knowledge because it doesn’t allow students to move forward until they have fully mastered an individual piece or concept.
Our curriculum also utilizes mini-games within each lesson to give our students practice repetitions, allowing them the right amount of time to gain confidence in each aspect of the game before moving on!
3. Not the how, but the why.
Chess at Three students learn how each piece moves by listening to silly, memorable stories! Focusing on stories that reveal why a piece moves a certain way allows students to remember basic rules while having fun and engaging their imaginations.
Storytelling allows students to enjoy learning the chess rules as they hear captivating stories about their favorite characters.
4. Let’s go bowling but give me those bumpers, please.
We’ve all groaned as we’ve watched our brightly colored bowling ball take an unfortunate swerve away from the pins. Our dreams of a strike go straight into the gutter!
Many children (and adults) prefer to add bumpers to the lanes, keeping the ball on track and making it easier to practice the right techniques for nailing those last-frame spares.
We often compare our teaching methods to adding bumpers to a bowling lane. Our tutors keep their students’ chess education simple and straightforward by focusing on one piece at a time instead of introducing everything all at once. Our stories serve as the bumpers, keeping our students engaged and motivated to succeed!
5. One step at a time.
Chess is the most complex game in the world. The unique positions and move possibilities on the board are endless! After just four moves on the chessboard, both players have 288 billion moves at their fingertips!
While this is a thrilling statistic, many students and parents feel chess’s openness makes it overly complicated, especially for three-year-olds. Chess at Three approaches education in a manageable, step-by-step way. Instead of overstimulating students by teaching the game as a whole, we break chess down into accessible bites, one lesson at a time.
6. Scaffolding is key.
We all understand how vital scaffolding is to the process of erecting a new building. It provides safety and structure as the builders create their masterpiece. Chess at Three takes the same approach to teaching. We use a scaffolding method to systematically build on our student’s previous knowledge as we layer in different pieces and concepts.
Our students don't move forward in the curriculum until they’ve gained a full understanding of each piece and its mechanics, thus building their chess knowledge with the safety of strong mental scaffolding.
7. The Russians must be doing something right.
Russians are consistently rated the best chess players in the world. They have the highest number of grandmasters by far, and many of their players start at a young age. Russian teachers tend to approach chess foundationally, something we emulate in our curriculum.
There you have it! The Russian Method and creative storytelling genuinely go hand in hand to create our fun, engaging curriculum. Are you ready to learn more about our program and let your child’s chess journey begin? Sign up for chess lessons today!