Every chess lesson should celebrate the fun of chess
‘Inspired’ is almost an understatement to describe chess teacher Huub van der Logt. He passionately explains his vision on chess teaching. “Every chess lesson should celebrate the fun of chess." The Dutch chess teacher uses Chessity as an important tool to achieve this objective.
“Chess is a game, it's about playing and enjoying yourself. Sometimes, that playful and fun element has almost disappeared. Chess is quickly associated with high performance or high IQ's. But first of all, it is a game that, for instance, you find in multi-game boxes. That’s where it all starts.”
There are many people who teach chess with the best of intentions, but not in a way that makes children happy.
“I have visited numerous chess clubs and schools to observe how others teachers teach chess. That has taught me that there are many places where the fun of chess is not celebrated. The children make worksheets, which they hand in for correction, and then they are given the next worksheet. There are many people who teach chess with the best of intentions, but not in a way that makes children happy.”
Huub knows that many children love learning something new. Most kids also love to play. So what can be more fun than learning in a playful way? “And that is exactly what Chessity is about: learning in a playful way.”
“Chessity is a future-oriented method. It fits in with the current generation of kids. Other methods have worked well and still work well, but are more and more part of ‘how things were’. If you want to listen to music, you can still put on a CD. But I find that I prefer MP3 or streaming music. That’s how I see Chessity as well.”
Huub isn’t the only Dutch chess teacher that has discovered how well Chessity suits modern students’ needs. Over the past year, Chessity has taken a huge flight as a chess-in-school teaching method in the Netherlands. Over 5000 Dutch children are now learning chess in school, thanks to a special educational project set up by Chessity in cooperation with the Royal Dutch Chess Federation, managed by over 25 volunteer chess-in-school ambassadors.
Huub learned to play chess when he was 12 and was out of circulation because he had mono. “When I finished all the books, I learned to play chess. I liked it so much that I also wanted to teach others.” Which is why, at 14, he walked into a local primary school. “At that school, I taught grade 1 through 6 for a whole year, even though I wasn’t really a very good chess player at the time. Since then, I have always continued to teach.”
For a year and a half, Huub has been teaching chess at his local village school, CBS Rehoboth in Oldekerk. In typical Huub style, tirelessly looking for ways to make the experience fun for the kids. With Chessity as his teaching method and all kinds of chess activities he came out with around it. From a chess puzzle competition to correspondence chess with a school in Canada. “That wasn’t just chess, the kids could also practice their English and learned how kids their age lived elsewhere in the world.”
Chess is a way to teach children things that have nothing to do with chess
As a chess teacher, Huub sees chess as a tool. “For me personally, chess is above all a way to teach children things that have nothing to do with chess as a game or as a sport.” He lists aspects like concentration, self-confidence, understanding cause and effect, analytical skills and decisiveness. “With every child, I want to discover: what can you learn more than mere chess. Chess is a way to experience, learn, master and refine skills.”
Learning to make choices
An example is a grade-8 girl he had in his class. “She was highly intelligent, but there was one thing she wasn’t good at and that was making choices. She always tried to read from other people’s faces what she should choose. In chess, she would always think a long time about her moves. To the extent that other kids started hating having to play against her.”
Huub gave her a 1 minute hourglass to limit her time to think, teaching her that she was fully capable to make good choices herself. And that it wasn’t a disaster if she made the occasional wrong choice. “If I manage to do something like that with children, my chess lessons are a success.”
With this in mind, Huub is happy with Chessity’s chat function. “I encourage kids to keep me informed via messages. As soon as they earned a star or completed a lesson, they can let me know.” To which he will respond with short messages like “Well done! See you Friday”. Although Huub has sixty students who work with Chessity, it doesn’t take up too much of his time. “It’s not like writing a novel and it is very motivating for the children.”
Involving parents in the chess lessons
Huub believes that it is also very important to get the parents involved. He has organised a special course for parents (‘Help! My kid plays chess’ – a resounding success), and uses the school’s two-weekly newsletter to keep the parents informed of what happens in the chess classes. Also, on the day of the parent-teacher interviews, Huub was present to give parents awaiting their turn a brief introduction to Chessity. “I was able to explain that Chessity isn’t about playing, but about learning in a playful way. That is an important difference.”
Learning about sea dragons has nothing to do with chess. Yet, chess can lead you there and it is great fun!
And as if that didn’t occupy enough of his time, he also designed a chess adventure for grade 3 and 4. Based on a chess treasure map he designed, the children made a ‘journey around the world’. With chess-related subjects as clues, which led to a real treasure: an giant outdoors chess set.
“The kids encountered lions in Africa, they met elephants in India, stood on a volcano and fought see dragons. We looked it up and now know that see dragons really exist, that they are about 20 centimetres in height and are only found in Australia.”
What that has to do with chess? “Not one thing! But it sure was fun!”, he says, with a grin from ear to ear. Because this story illustrates how he wants to teach chess. “Chess must always be about fun. Kids must leave the classroom with a big smile on their faces. If I don't succeed in achieving that, I should stop”.
Photos courtesy of CBS Rehoboth, Oldekerk
Who is Huub van der Logt?
In his daily life, Huub and his wife run a company in high-end textile prints and embroidery. “We deliberately organised our work in such a way that we each have time left to do the things we like.” In Huub’s case: promote the game of chess to young and old.
Huub not only teaches chess, he also set-up the Dutch websites schaakmaarraak.nl and Schaak maar raak Academy, where he writes about chess and how to improve our game, publishes chess magazines that can be downloaded for free, and sells chess-theme T-shirts and other products wirh chess designs.