05 July 2015

Chess Curriculum - Short Versions

I ended my previous post, Chess Curriculum Inventory, saying,

That makes four posts, seven resources, eight documents. What chess wisdom do the documents contain? I'll look at that in my next post.

Two of those eight documents stand out because of their brevity:-

No.3: Think Like A King - A Curriculum Guide for Scholastic Chess • David MacEnulty • 21 pages • school chess curriculum guide.pdf

No.4: CURRICULUM FOR BEGINNERS AND INTERMEDIATES, Highland Park Scholastic Chess • Jerry Neugarten • 36 pages • HighlandParkCurriculum.pdf

Is it possible to teach chess with so little guidance? Let's look at what the two contain. The 'Think Like A King' curriculum, copyright 1998, starts,

About the Author • Six years ago David MacEnulty became the first full-time New York City public school teacher to teach chess as an academic subject. Working in a large elementary school in the South Bronx, his team has won first place trophies at the New York City Scholastic Chess Tournament for four consecutive years, and is one of the top five elementary chess teams in the nation. From 1994 to 1997, his students won more than 500 individual and team trophies.

The table of contents lists 12 chapters, called 'phases'.

A: Beginning Curriculum
01 Pre-Chess Skills
02 Basic Moves & Rules
03 The King
04 Special Moves
05 The Value of Pieces
06 Beginning Tactics
07 Opening Principles

B: Advanced Curriculum
08 Strategic Thinking - Getting Beyond the Basics
09 Creating Opportunities
10 More Checkmates
11 Endgame Strategies
12 Specific Openings

How is it possible to cover all of this in a few pages? It turns out that the document is marketing material for related software. Another section of the document, titled 'Basic Equipment & Teaching Materials', informs,

Food for Thought Software’s Think Like a King™ School Chess Software System was designed specifically for schools, to provide the necessary Educational, Motivational and Management tools for a successful chess program.

If I had realized that at the beginning of my survey, I might not have included the document on my short list. But there it is and I'll leave any further investigation for another time. The Highland Park curriculum, dated 2010, starts,

This curriculum dates to 1995, when I began teaching chess. It began as a list of topics to be taught in a sequence that I thought made sense. Over the years I fleshed it out and added new sections. This year Phillip Yontez, one of our coaches, gave it a careful edit, added some additional sections and improved the diagrams. We have tried to keep it as short as possible while still covering the basics. Combined with game reviews, it contains enough material for approximately fifty 45-minute lessons aimed at grades K-8, sufficient to fill a school year for a club meeting twice a week. - Jerry Neugarten

The table of contents lists five chapters.

The rules of the game and a few basics (5 pages)
Basic strategy (5)
Basic tactics (11)
The endgame (10)
Playing in tournaments (3)

Once again, 34 pages are not enough to cover chess in any depth, and we quickly see that the document is a list of topics to be covered in a certain order. The two longest chapters consist mainly of diagrams giving examples in basic tactics and endgames. This is obviously not a standalone document, but is more of an outline to be supplemented by other material. It assumes that the instructor is already fairly knowledgeable about how to play chess.

While reviewing the two documents, one curiosity caught my attention. Food for Thought Software, the company behind MacEnulty's 'Think Like A King', is listed with a PO box in Highland Park IL. Is there a connection with Neugarten's Highland Park Scholastic Chess or is this just a coincidence?

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