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Mrs. Bishop
By Mrs. Christie Bishop

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of three blog posts that trace the journey of a classroom teacher as she learns how to play chess and initiates a chess program at her school. Mrs. Christie Bishop serves as a Pre-K teacher and chess coach at Genoa Elementary, a Pre-K – 4 school in the Pasadena Independent School District (ISD) in Houston, Texas.

My Students

I see chess changing not only the academics, but even the behavioral aspects of my students. We have had quite a few students that need extra reminders to behave and stay on task. It was always so fascinating to see what happened when you put a chess board in front of these kids. The focus was there, and they would just play. We have been able to see chess improve the focus for quite a few of our students and help them in the classroom. This, in turn, has a direct impact on the overall school culture.

Chess was also a good motivator for many of the students to complete their work in the classroom to then get to play chess during the school day. I encouraged the other teachers to use it as a reward for when work was done or to offer chess during indoor recess. The students really respond well to it and it is something they enjoy. Walking in during indoor recess and seeing most of the kids choosing to play chess always makes my day. School Culture

Student Benefits

Chess teaches so many skills that students can use in the classroom and the real world. We focus on problem solving during the game. They learn to think before moving and we hold to the rule of you touch it you have to move it, because it teaches them to step back, look at everything, make a plan, and then act. The skill of thinking before acting is something they can use in all aspects of life. Our students are taught social skills by learning how to communicate the proper way during a chess game.

We also do not tolerate bad sportsmanship and speak often about being a good winner, but also a good loser. We don’t shy away from the aspect of losing. In most events there is a winner and a loser, it’s life. The students understand that when they lose a game there is something to learn from it. Reviewing games is an important tool to help students learn what to do next time. It’s also an opportunity to ask them what they think they could have done instead.

Our School Culture

Our chess club has become well known within the school, throughout the district, and around the community. This has really increased the positive reputation and outlook of our school. It really gives our school something to be proud of and it shows. Our students are proud to be a part of a great club. If you walk into most of the older grade classrooms you will see chess somewhere. We showcase our chess club through bulletin boards, the community newspaper, on our Facebook page, and on our morning video announcements.

I believe that our chess program has helped improve the behavior of some of the students, which then improves the culture within the classrooms and hallways of our school. We teach our chess club students to make new friends at club by playing with people they don’t know. We have kids from bilingual classes and English classes playing and talking with each other. The 3rd graders and 4th graders interacting and learning from each other has really increased that culture of togetherness within our school. I feel like this really helps our school by them building those friendships with students in different classes and grade levels. I always enjoy hearing them talk about their friends that have moved onto middle school. They have wonderful memories that I know will last. School Culture

A Legacy

We don’t just have these students for the time that they are in chess club. They start learning chess with me in 2nd grade, then they are in club for 3rd and 4th grade if they choose. It doesn’t end there though. We keep in touch with our chess kids even after they leave our school. We often have alumni return to help with our clubs and to learn more about chess. We have students that we had in chess club that we still get to see at competitions each year. Some of them were in club that first year and have grown into wonderful young men and women in high school.

What my husband and I love most about coaching chess club is “our chess kids” as we call them. They aren’t just students; they are so much more. It is building that legacy, that reputation where everyone knows how awesome chess can be.

Master Classes

Every year I get more and more students and parents asking me on the first day of school or at meet the teacher night, “when will chess club start?” It’s a beautiful thing. I have students who are in the younger grades asking about joining chess club and it’s always so hard to turn them down. As we already have so many 3rd and 4th graders in club, I can’t imagine adding more. I always let them know that I’ll teach them chess at school in 2nd grade. And I provide them with chess websites to learn more on their own to get ready. My usual recommendations are and, with parental guidance of course.

As if we didn’t have enough chess in our lives, we also invited our alumni to come back for chess after the 3rd and 4th grade chess club is over. We call it our master class and we work on more advanced strategies with them. Students in the master class range from 5th to 10th grade. All of our students are encouraged to continue chess after they leave the school and look forward to seeing them grow in all areas. We keep in touch with the families and it is a pleasure to be a part of their lives.

Links to Mrs. Bishop’s Activities

Mrs. Bishop’s personal website that includes her chess club information:

Genoa Elementary School’s facebook page:

Mrs. Bishop’s twitter is @LadybugCJB

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