A chess lesson plan including top tips and recommended resources from, Hari Neocleous.

Chess is back! Back again!

After writing twice previously in R.I.S.E. about chess, its benefits and how it can be used in maths investigations, I thought now was the perfect time to share a chess lesson plan with you.

The plan below is based on a lesson from the Chess in Schools curriculum, with extra ideas and resources thrown in. I’ve used this lesson with children from Year 4 to Year 6 (8-11-year-olds). I hope it inspires many of you to bring chess into your schools!

Top tips for chess lessons

  • Quizzes or mini games are great starters.
  • Have a balance of 50% teaching vs. 50% play.
  • Plan for paired talk, jotting down responses, encourage collaborative learning.
  • Allow those who know more to play with all pieces at the end
  • Have something new each week and have fun! e.g. fun variation game/wordsearch/puzzle sheet/chesskid.com video/chess news

The knight lesson

Usually, this would be my fifth chess lesson as the knight is the fifth chess piece that I introduce to pupils (following the pawn, the rook, the bishop and the queen). I’ve chosen to share a knight lesson plan with you because this is where chess can get tricky for some children. The knight has a unique way of moving that needs to be mastered.

Objectives

  • To know how the knight moves and captures.
  • To explore the knight’s moves through mini games.
  • To visualise the knight’s moves.

Resources

PowerPoint, vinyl teacher demo board, chess sets and pieces. If you don’t have any physical chess sets in school, you can use online ones on sites such as Logiqboard and Acorn Chess (links in recommended resources).

Vocabulary

L shape, horizontally, vertically, attack, capture, fork, family fork.

Starter Quiz- ‘Who am I?’

Share properties of a chess piece, one by one. Children hold up the mystery piece they think I’m describing.

Main

Slide 1:

Introduce the knight. Show old and new knights from the past. Share point value, the knight = 3 points.

Slide 2:

Show children the starting position of a knight. Name co-ordinates. The white knights begin on b1 and g1. The black knights begin on b8 and g8. Show how the knight moves in an ‘L-shape’. It moves 2 squares vertically and 1 horizontally (‘2 straight, 1 to the side’). Stand up together and move like a knight. (Top tip: make the knight face in the direction it’s moving in)

Next, ask: what colour square is the knight on? What colour square does the knight land on? Ask children to explain what they’ve noticed.

Slide 3

Place a knight on h4, ask children to visualise how many moves the knight can make from h4. Encourage children to trace with a finger in air as they look at the teacher’s board. Show only 4 possible moves highlighting the
squares in colour.

Share and discuss saying, ‘ A knight on the rim is dim’. Ask children what this saying might be about.

Slide 4

Place a knight in the centre on e4. Ask children to visualise all possible moves.

Q: How many possible moves can the knight make from this square? Children can show with fingers. Share 8 possible moves. Be systematic, rotating round. Explore symmetry.
Extension Q: Where on the empty board can I put the knight, so it has only 3 possible moves? What about 2 possible moves? What does this tell you about the best position for the knight in a real game of chess?
Mention bringing the knights out early and controlling the centre. (These lessons happen later but mention these top tips.)

Slide 5

Show children how the knight captures the same way as it moves. It doesn’t capture all the pieces, it jumps over them, and only takes the piece on the square it lands on when it has finished moving.

Slide 6

Have slides with a knight and pawns. Children have to identify which pawns can be captured and which cannot.

Question: How many pawns can this knight capture?

Encourage children to use co-ordinates to answer.

Games

Game: Knight and 3 pawns

In this game, white wins by capturing all of their opponent’s pawns before they reach the other side or if black is blocked and unable to move. Black wins if it gets one pawn to other side or captures the knight.

Screenshot of Game 1 - Knight and 3 pawns

Game: Disco duel

In this game 8 teens (pawns) want to go to a disco, but 2 security guards (the two knights) are trying to stop them. Each child records how many pawns they get to the other side safely.

 

Screenshot of game 2 - Disco duel

Extension and extra activities

Optional worksheet

Children have a mini sheet with 4 chessboard puzzles where they circle pawns that can be captured. Some children may need to shade the L shape in a bright colour, making this move really secure in their minds. Have puzzles where they spot the correct knight captures and the mistakes. Optional game: Radioactive Horse Poo – This game begins with a white knight on b2 and a black knight on g8. Children will need counters/bits of paper. Players take turns to move their knights around the board. Every time a knight moves it leaves behind radioactive horse waste (a counter). You lose if you land on a counter or if you’re captured. By the end of the game children master the knight move and, when there are fewer safe squares, most children will visualise moves ahead to ensure they’re not trapped. This is an important skill in chess.

Extension

Children find the knight forks (where a knight is attacking 2 pieces at the same time) or a family fork (when a knight attacks 3 or more pieces at the same time). This links to the previous lesson on the queen. Discuss their game play at different moments throughout the lesson. Support those who need it. Encourage more confident children to teach their friends. Ask children for top tips if they were the pawns. (Talk about pawns defending each other, diagonally.) Ask children for top tips if they were the knight. Ask if anyone created a fork.

Plenary

Grandmaster test from Chess in Schools

This is a puzzle where a knight has to get from d4 to f6 in the fewest possible moves. Children should have a minute to visualise – praise them for tracing their finger in the air or moving their head in an ‘L-shape’. They can explore this further on their own chess boards.

Finish by referring back to the objectives. Give an opportunity for children to ask questions. Share any links for mini games/chess videos for those who want to explore the knight more at home.

Screenshot of the plenary activity - Grandmaster text for Chess in Schools

Recommended resources

Chess in Schools – Chess in Schools can help you find a chess tutor, support, and help you get started. Very keen children may also want to explore Chess at Home.
ChessPlus – For teacher courses and interactive games, check out ChessPlus.
Acorn Chess – Acorn Chess is great way to demonstrate mini games in the classroom, with clear rules displayed for both the teacher and the children (with lots of teaching slides). Children can play against the computer using a touchscreen whiteboard.
Logiqboard – Logiqboard is a free, interactive, sharable chessboard. You can use it to play chess, chess mini-games, strategy games, as well as explore maths and logic tasks.

Author

  • Hari Neocleous

    Hari is a primary maths SEN teacher who has over twenty years of experience teaching in London schools. Hari is also a primary school chess teacher, ‘Curious Maths’ teacher and LogiqBoard teacher. She is the maths column writer for Cherubs Family Magazine.
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