#18 Chess


Chess can sometimes be regarded as ‘old fashioned’ by pupils and staff alike, but I have always found it to be a powerful and useful social tool to encourage friendly competition, improved social skills and interaction between pupil categories that would not usually meet.

Chess can help pupils with the following:

  • Problem solving.
  • Social interaction.
  • Self discipline.
  • Tackling curricular work.
  • Consideration for others.
  • Encouraging and controlling competitive instincts.


As with other clubs, it is essential that activities are undertaken in an exclusively allocated space. Equipment and extra materials should be laid out in advance if at all possible. Pupils may be given special incentives (such as permission to eat and drink in the library) if the activities take place at lunch time.

Chess is often a magnet for pupils with behavioural difficulties. They tend to behave completely differently in front of a chess board than they do at other times. This is a phenomenon that has been commented on by teachers, senior management and support staff.

Specialist chess equipment is available at very reasonable prices for club quantities, and funding can often be obtained from ‘curriculum support’ budgets.


The English Chess Federation produce a lovely booklet which contains a good introduction to the subject:


2 Responses

  1. It’s great to hear another librarian say these things about chess. I began a club in my k-6 school several years ago and it was an immediate success with the students. I now coordinate our divisional chess tournaments for early years and mddle years students.
    You are absolutely right about how kids behave while playing chess. I have had several students with behavioural or social problems who learned so much about self-control, losing graciously, and interacting with others.
    Students were allowed to come to library during recess breaks or other times during the day (with teacher permission) to play chess. The club was going so well that I began teaching chess to our grade three students as part of the math curriculum. Again it was an amazing success. The students couldn’t wait to come to the library for chess class. I also won over the grade three teachers who, now that I have left the school, have continued to teach it to their students.
    The Chess Federation of Canada has a great teaching document that is free to download for schools. It was my bible, You can also purchase at very reasonable prices teaching sets with vinyl boards and large pieces. It’s also great to have a demonstration board that hangs on a wall for teaching purposes.
    I highly reccomend chess as a library activity.

  2. Nell,
    Thanks for your comments. You’ve obviously observed the brilliant effect chess can have on pupils’ behaviour, social skills and mental agility. I think it also makes them feel better about themselves.
    I currently encourage chess in a Further Education setting with very attractive wooden boards and pieces. It’s an altogether less frenetic environment, but the principles are the same.

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