Teaching and Learning Chess at FEDAC Schools in Catalonia
At the 25 FEDAC schools in Catalonia, we teach chess for one hour per week as part of our EduEscacs program. EduEscacs is a complementary activity, within school hours and for all students, from preschool to secondary school (3 to 16 year-olds).
The chess activity is part of our innovative educational project #avuixdemà, which was released as a result of our commitment to educational quality in the 21st century.
We consider chess at school as a pedagogical didactic tool, which helps us to:
- develop in our students the executive functions of the mind,
- work on values from a fun and motivating side,
- develop students’ attention and concentration
- increase motivation for learning
- work on social and affective skills, such as empathy, patience, respect for
others, knowing how to lose or self-improvement, among others,
- teach problem-solving, creative thinking and abstract reasoning in the classroom.
Our chess program has received in 2023 the Pedagogical Innovation Certificate by the Ministry of Education of Catalonia. During the 2021/22 academic year, it was also selected in the prestigious Spanish EduCaixa program for evaluating educational projects. Furthermore, we created the eduescacs.cat website with the following objectives:
- Share our experience in the implementation of educational chess as a complementary activity in schools, with students between the ages of 3 and 16.
- Create synergies with other entities and educational centers that implement or want to promote educational and social chess programs with children and young people.
- Train and empower teachers from FEDAC and other schools and educational centers who want to introduce themselves to the world of chess as a pedagogical tool.
The TRACIS method
At FEDAC schools we implement the TRACIS method to teach chess to our students. TRACIS an acronym that stands for:
TRACIS combines a group of specific activities that promote learning based on interaction, communication and reflection between students-students, students-teachers and students-family. This learning becomes durable, functional and transferable, which increases students’ interest in the game of chess.
Some main keys to the TRACIS method to make chess educational and social in our schools are the following:
TRACIS Features (Set 1 of 2)
- We encourage students to play chess games with each other regularly. These games not only allow students to apply what they have learned, but also encourage communication as they have to discuss their strategies and moves with their fellow players. This helps develop social and communication skills.
- We organize sessions where students can analyze their own games with the help of the teacher or other more experienced students. This encourages reflection and discussion about decisions they have made during the game, as well as an understanding of strategies and mistakes.
- We host discussions on chess-related topics such as openings, tables, historical games and grandmasters. These debates help improve students’ discussion and argumentation skills, as well as promote understanding of the strategies.
- After chess games and activities, joint game evaluations are conducted with students to discuss the results and lessons learned. This joint feedback is very instructive and fosters a deeper understanding of the game.
- We organize chess activities where students have to work in teams to solve chess problems or play games in teams. This encourages cooperation and social interaction.
- We promote friendly competitions. (There are no winners and losers, WE ALL LEARN) of chess in the school and between other schools. We also hold friendly competitions open to the participation of all students, teachers and family members. These competitions are a great opportunity for students, teachers and families to interact with each other and challenge each other.
- We use multimedia resources, such as instructional videos or chess websites to bring diversity to learning. In addition, we have a Google site where FEDAC teachers can share their successes, debate and exchange ideas, knowledge, activities and experiences.
TRACIS Features (Set 2 of 2)
- We encourage self-learning. Students learn not only from the teacher but also from their peers and from their own experiments and interactions with the game of chess.
- We organize group chess sessions in which students can play simultaneous games. This promotes interaction between the students and the educator as they have to discuss plays and strategies in real time.
- We encourage mentorship between more experienced students and those who are beginners. This can be an opportunity for younger students to learn from peers who already have a deeper understanding of the game.
- We encourage students to create their own chess problems or design positions on creative boards. This activity will encourage creativity and collaboration as they can work together to create new learning situations.
- We bring professional chess coaches or expert players as special guests for presentations and training sessions. This can be inspiring for students and provide them with a unique opportunity to interact with experienced people in the world of chess.
- We organize trips to local chess tournaments or other chess-related events outside the school environment. This can be an opportunity for students to meet other chess fans and connect with a wider community of chess enthusiasts.
- We use online chess platforms and forums to connect students with other chess lovers worldwide. This can encourage interaction, practice and continued learning.
- We allow students to evaluate each other on their chess games. This can encourage constructive feedback and improve understanding of the game.
- We encourage students to research chess-related topics such as the history of the game, famous strategies or biographies of grandmasters.This research can be shared with the class, promoting discussions and fostering interaction.
Our experience at FEDAC schools shows us that the TRACIS approach not only improves students’ chess skills, but also encourages the development of their problem-solving, communication and social skills. When young people play chess, they have to use higher-order thinking skills, analyzing actions and consequences and visualizing future possibilities. In countries where chess is widely offered in schools, students show excellence in the ability to recognize complex patterns and consequently excel in mathematics and science.
About the Author
Ramón Pérez Rodríguez, Graduate in Primary School from the University of Girona and Lcdo; in Psychopedagogy from the Open University of Catalonia. Coordinator and teacher of the Educational Chess Project during school hours “EduEscacs” of the FEDAC Schools in Catalonia. Educational chess trainer for teachers and professors of the Department of Education of the Generalitat of Catalonia from the Chess in School Project. Member of the Chess and Education Research Observatory of the University of Girona. Coordinator of the website: eduescacs.cat.