Would you like to start a chess club at your child’s elementary or middle school?
Many NC elementary and middle schools have started chess clubs with the help of our Game Changer program. Here are are some ideas from these clubs to help you start your own school chess club:
- Have simple, fun goals: One club’s goals are to have fun, learn, and play lots of chess! Winning is intentionally not one of their goals, but as they pursue these three goals their children do win plenty of games and trophies.
- Meet regularly: Most clubs meet weekly or every other week after school. Some meet before school, during lunch, or during a special “club period” (when all clubs meet).
- Be inclusive: Most clubs are open to all ages and all ability levels. They invite beginners to join at the start of the year, so a parent or teacher and a few older students can teach them the basics. Students who already know how to play can join at any time during the year.
- Play lots of chess! Every meeting children spend most of the time playing chess. Even children learning how to play can play mini-games with only a few pieces. Group the children by ability rather than age/grade so that their games are more fun and challenging and so that they learn more from them. Some clubs record the results of their games, so they can see if anyone is winning most of their games and needs to move up to a more challenging group. Try to avoid moving students down. Have a parent supervise each group of about 16 children. These parents do not need to know how to play chess.
- Keep lessons brief and fun: Most clubs teach 10-15 minute lessons to their experienced players, so their students still have plenty of time to practice what they learn by playing chess. Many clubs have high school students teach; some use teachers, parents, or grandparents. Some clubs have middle school students teach with an adult helping to supervise the children. Most clubs use lessons from ChessKid or from the Chess Steps guide and workbook we provide.
- Get PTA support: If your club is sponsored by the PTA, you can get some funding but more importantly a lot of support with volunteers, meeting space, publicity, etc.
- Keep expenses low: Many clubs collect a small activity fee or ask for donations to buy more chess sets and eventually a few chess clocks. Most make their activity fee optional, for example collecting a $30 activity fee from those who are able to pay. While some families are not able to pay others contribute more. Most clubs deposit their funds with their PTA.
- Save with US Chess membership vouchers: Some clubs buy every student one year US Chess memberships by buying discounted group membership vouchers.
- Use ChessKid: Most clubs use the Basic ChessKid accounts that we provide with our Game Changer program. Some clubs buy discounted ChessKid Gold subscriptions through our program for all of their students, and some make them available to families who would like to buy them. Kids really enjoy ChessKid, and the ones who use it improve a lot.
- Buy chess sets and supplies online: There are several good online chess suppliers.
- Wear school or chess club t-shirts to tournaments: Most clubs wear school t-shirts or chess club t-shirts when they go to a tournament especially team tournaments. It is really helpful to have kids (and some parents) wearing the same shirt at large tournaments. Consider using the same t-shirt design for several years so families don’t have to buy new ones each year.
- Share photos and congratulations: Some clubs share photos and congratulations using Twitter or Instagram. Others use a private Facebook group.
- Use keychain chess pieces as prizes: A few clubs use colorful keychain chess pieces to reward effort, courage, and teamwork. For example, students can earn keychain pieces by teaching someone else how to play, playing in their first tournament, or doing 250 puzzles on ChessKid. Kids get really excited about these!
- Give every child a chance to play in tournaments: Most clubs hold their own tournaments. Some use their club budget to pay the tournament fee at a local event for students whose families can’t afford it.
- Publicize your success! All clubs share their tournament awards in school announcements and PTA emails and display their team trophies in the school trophy case. One club has a local trophy shop engrave every team member’s name on their team trophies.
- Share your success with the local news: Cape Hatteras and Watauga school clubs had stories in their local newspapers. Wiley Elementary was on TV.
- Consider using name tags for students to help parent volunteers learn their names. This is especially helpful for large chess clubs.
- Watch an inspiring chess movie together: One club went as a group to see Queen of Katwe in a theater.
- Invite a strong player for a simultaneous exhibition with some of your students. You could invite a strong player from the middle or high school where your students will go.
- Organize a tournament at the end of the year: You could run a club tournament with all of your students in one section. If your club is larger, you could have separate sections for each grade.
- Celebrate your success with an end of year party! Hand out trophies or certificates to the winners of your club tournament, recognize your graduating students, and enjoy some snacks. Hunter Elementary made a fun chess cake.
For more information, please see “Start an elementary school chess club.“
Please add a comment with your suggestions or questions.
Good luck with your club!