Step by Step Method

Discussions regarding the 70,000 Free Chess Sets for Schools in England.
Richard James
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Step by Step Method

Post by Richard James » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:26 pm

Has anyone out there had any experience with the Step by Step method of teaching chess which has been used very successfully in Holland and elsewhere in Europe for many years?

It is endorsed by the Dutch Chess Federation and is used in the majority of schools and clubs in Holland and Belgium.

The course has been translated into English and is available for purchase over the Internet.

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Charles W. Wood
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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Charles W. Wood » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:27 pm

Richard James wrote:Has anyone out there had any experience with the Step by Step method of teaching chess which has been used very successfully in Holland and elsewhere in Europe for many years?

It is endorsed by the Dutch Chess Federation and is used in the majority of schools and clubs in Holland and Belgium.

The course has been translated into English and is available for purchase over the Internet.
I haven't seen it, but I would love to take a look at it.
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Richard James
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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Richard James » Wed Jan 28, 2009 10:38 pm

I have the complete course (apart from one volume which disappeared, as things do, at school and is currently being re-ordered) and have some views on the subject.

I will await further postings before expressing my opinions.

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Paul McKeown » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:17 am

Richard,

When I lived in the Netherlands, the club I played for used this approved course for its juniors. I was one of the assistant coaches for a while. I thought the material was very lucid and that serious consideration have been given to the paedagogic aspects - how people learn, the stages that they go through. I believe that the material is also suitable for teaching adults as well as teenagers.

I would commend this course to the BCF as a suitable basis for its coaching work for juniors up to approx. 130 - 140 level, at which more tailored, individual, coaching might become more useful.

Basically, I wish that I had been introduced to chess in this systematic way, rather than via the haphazard self-taught way that I was, falling into all the Reinfeld and Horrorwitz traps along the way.

I see that the following (Dutch language) website gives a good introduction to the method:
http://www.stappenmethode.nl/, although sadly not all the scripted diagrams work properly. If anyone is interested I could translate parts of the site for them.

Regards,
Paul McKeown.

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Peter Sowray » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:10 am

Richard,

I think the Dutch course is very good - I use it all the time.

Best regards,

Peter

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Michele Clack » Thu Jan 29, 2009 6:14 pm

Richard
This Dutch course sounds very interesting. What is it called and which websites is it available on please?

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Richard James » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:31 pm

Charles/Michele

The English language version of the website is at http://www.stappenmethode.nl/stepsmethod/index.html.


Paul

Many thanks for your comments and sharing your experiences of the course in Holland.


Peter

I was hoping you'd reply as we've spoken briefly about it IRL and you told me you'd seen it. In which environments are you using it? If you're using it in schools, is this in clubs or on the curriculum?

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Richard James » Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:09 pm

This brings up several issues concerning chess in schools which I will outline here. (These comments mainly relate to the concept of introducing chess to children at the age of, say, 7. The introduction of chess in secondary schools is a very different, and very important issue.)

1. There is an enormous difference between chess on the curriculum and after-school or lunchtime chess clubs. In the former case you can and should use some sort of structured course to teach chess within the classroom. Within the confines of an after-school or lunchtime club it is much more difficult to do this as you will typically have a wide range of abilities from complete beginners perhaps through to serious players who are on the national junior tournament circuit within the same room. Most chess in the UK is in the form of chess clubs of this nature whereas in some parts of the USA, for instance, there is also a lot of chess teaching on the curriculum. Some of you will know a lot more about junior chess in Europe than I do. A few years ago we were talking to the local education department about introducing chess on the curriculum in some primary schools in Richmond but unfortunately the talks came to nothing. I was also hoping to get chess on the curriculum for Y3 at the Independent School where I am currently based but for internal political reasons I have not been able to do so.

2. If you put chess on the curriculum you have a choice of methods which you can use. There was an interesting article in the Times the other day comparing the worksheet-based Kumon system of maths teaching with a very different system of teaching maths (visual/multisensory) used successfully in France. Different children will benefit more from different methods. In chess you would have a similar choice. If you want a system which is partly worksheet-based then the Dutch course is excellent. As Paul said it has been very well thought out and developed over many years, and, unlike most early years chess teaching is very much based on an understanding of the cognitive development of young children. The book I am currently writing for CfS is a first attempt at an alternative method of introducing chess to young children, using chess partly as a cross-curricular topic and partly as a means of introducing specific cognitive skills.

3. Junior chess in England is very much based on competition (EPSCA, UKCC etc.) whereas the Dutch system is very much based on skills development. I understand there is the same difference between the two countries in junior football. You might like to consider which country is, per head of the population, more successful at both football and chess. The Dutch Step by Step Method is very much based on developing tactical skills through exercises of gradually increasing complexity. There is very little about openings beyond general principles. In England, on the other hand, we concentrate more on preparing children for competitive chess by teaching them things like Scholar's Mate, a few opening traps and some basic checkmates. We are sometimes asked to give Little Johnny some chess lessons specifically to prepare him for a forthcoming tournament, when LJ's parents, assuming they have some knowledge of chess, will expect us to teach him some new openings and traps.

There are some very important issues which need to be discussed concerning how we teach, organise and promote junior chess in this country. If the Chess for Schools scheme is to be successful we need to consider them as a matter of urgency.

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Peter Sowray » Fri Jan 30, 2009 12:04 am

Richard James wrote:Charles/Michele

The English language version of the website is at http://www.stappenmethode.nl/stepsmethod/index.html.


Paul

Many thanks for your comments and sharing your experiences of the course in Holland.


Peter

I was hoping you'd reply as we've spoken briefly about it IRL and you told me you'd seen it. In which environments are you using it? If you're using it in schools, is this in clubs or on the curriculum?

Dear Richard,

I have used some of the Dutch material for both group sessions and individual lessons, but not in a systematic way.

There are two aspects that I find particularly useful.

1) The workbooks have a lot of good material, so I don't need to expend effort developing my own stuff (yes, I know, I'm lazy :D )

2) Because the course is structured in 5 steps, I can use it to judge the level of an individual pupil or a group. So, for example, if someone finds level 2 stuff too easy and level 4 material too challenging, it gives me an excellent benchmark.

Your subsequent post is very interesting. I hope it generates debate.

Best regards,

Peter

andrew martin

Re: Step by Step Method

Post by andrew martin » Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:35 am

The whole system looks extremely good. Chess is most definitely taught in a haphazard way in schools and would benefit from a structured syllabus among the younger age groups. The perception of chess in our culture is the biggest challenge.Talented kids or indeed many children are quite often dissuaded from getting better at chess by boys and girls of their own age who ridicule the whole idea.

Andrew

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by JustinHorton » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:47 am

Andrew - do you think that happens, or starts happening, at a particular age?

(I partly ask because there's a certain age, roughly eight, at which children often stop reading, largely or entirely. I wonder whether the two things may be related.)
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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Peter Turner » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:50 am

This thread has the potential to become the most important development in junior chess training for a long time - an agreed/approved national curriculum designed by pratitioners!! Sincere respect to Richard (and others) who have developed their methods and made them available for general use but far too many of us have worked in a rather unco-ordinated fashion, reacting to situations as they arose rather than starting out with a researched, structured method. It would be fantastic if a youngster moving between school/academy/coach/junior club etc could continue with the same curriculum & method. Having a 'core structure' should not inhibit the creativity and flare of the individual tutor.
Has anyone ever used the book by Julian Simpole? - 'Junior Chess Training: Improve your Chess and Win'. Quite a big book, 360 pages with a 56 page appendix titled, CHESS A complete package for use in schools wishing to offer chess as a GCSE examination subject. Contents of the appendix: Rationale, Curriculum, Course work and apitude tests, Written set paper, Marking scheme and answer sheet for the written set paper. I have one, possibly two of these books which I can post if of genuine interest to anyone.

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Neill Cooper » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:43 am

Richard James wrote:This brings up several issues concerning chess in schools which I will outline here. (These comments mainly relate to the concept of introducing chess to children at the age of, say, 7. The introduction of chess in secondary schools is a very different, and very important issue.)

1. There is an enormous difference between chess on the curriculum and after-school or lunchtime chess clubs. In the former case you can and should use some sort of structured course to teach chess within the classroom. Within the confines of an after-school or lunchtime club it is much more difficult to do this as you will typically have a wide range of abilities from complete beginners perhaps through to serious players who are on the national junior tournament circuit within the same room. Most chess in the UK is in the form of chess clubs of this nature whereas in some parts of the USA, for instance, there is also a lot of chess teaching on the curriculum. Some of you will know a lot more about junior chess in Europe than I do. A few years ago we were talking to the local education department about introducing chess on the curriculum in some primary schools in Richmond but unfortunately the talks came to nothing. I was also hoping to get chess on the curriculum for Y3 at the Independent School where I am currently based but for internal political reasons I have not been able to do so.

2. If you put chess on the curriculum you have a choice of methods which you can use. There was an interesting article in the Times the other day comparing the worksheet-based Kumon system of maths teaching with a very different system of teaching maths (visual/multisensory) used successfully in France. Different children will benefit more from different methods. In chess you would have a similar choice. If you want a system which is partly worksheet-based then the Dutch course is excellent. As Paul said it has been very well thought out and developed over many years, and, unlike most early years chess teaching is very much based on an understanding of the cognitive development of young children. The book I am currently writing for CfS is a first attempt at an alternative method of introducing chess to young children, using chess partly as a cross-curricular topic and partly as a means of introducing specific cognitive skills.

3. Junior chess in England is very much based on competition (EPSCA, UKCC etc.) whereas the Dutch system is very much based on skills development. I understand there is the same difference between the two countries in junior football. You might like to consider which country is, per head of the population, more successful at both football and chess. The Dutch Step by Step Method is very much based on developing tactical skills through exercises of gradually increasing complexity. There is very little about openings beyond general principles. In England, on the other hand, we concentrate more on preparing children for competitive chess by teaching them things like Scholar's Mate, a few opening traps and some basic checkmates. We are sometimes asked to give Little Johnny some chess lessons specifically to prepare him for a forthcoming tournament, when LJ's parents, assuming they have some knowledge of chess, will expect us to teach him some new openings and traps.

There are some very important issues which need to be discussed concerning how we teach, organise and promote junior chess in this country. If the Chess for Schools scheme is to be successful we need to consider them as a matter of urgency.
Richard, you raise some important issues on which I have rather controversial views. I believe that chess as a game should be enjoyed. Therefore the main thing that most English children want to do is play chess, rather than be taught how to improve. They can quickly switch off if you try to teach them when they want to play chess. However, they will reach a stage when the enjoyment of winning (or the pain of losing) means that they do wish to improve. But even then teaching should be a minor component of their chess activity. Dutch children may well be different, but in England most children like competition, and can be stimulated to improve by it. (An anology is watching films: How many teenagers would go to the Cinema if whenever they did an adult told them to read the reviews before hand and then have a discussion with them afterwards?)

If you wish to have chess on the curriculum then you must have a professional syllabus to help justify why it is there, with clear aims and objectives and means of demonstrating learning. I personally do not believe chess should be on the curriculum - it is mainly used by Prep schools as a way to get all their pupils to learn to play chess so that their teams are stronger. The measure of success seems to be in terms of chess results not academic chess progress of all pupils taught.

Chess in Secondary schools is an important issue, and one that has not received enough attention. Since the introduction of the comprehensive system inter-school secondary chess has died in many parts of the country. It is predominantly played in Independent and state grammar schools. If you look at the list of schools who reach the knock-out part of the National Schools tournament and you find very few comprehensives in the last 10 years - Bluecoat Oldham being the main exception, and it benefited from a very strong youth chess club. In Surrey where we have 20 schools playing inter-school chess only 2 are comprehensives, and they play in the lower leagues.

The first issue in comprehensive schools is many schools do not want chess nor see how they can benefit from it. So when chess players appoach they are not interested. This is close to an insurmountable problem (refered to in this forum), and one to which there is no simple problem.

But that does not mean that we cannot have teenagers playing chess. Many will have played at primary school and we need to have structures that keep them interested in chess as they get older. Juior clubs can help with this, but even there the drop off rate is very high. In my experience at my own junior club they may stay for a year or two but few very carry on playing after that (my latest trial is to have a senior club meeting after the junior club and plkaying in local leagues).

So should we try to get into comprehensive schools or just support teenage chess where it does occur? Chess for Schools might give us new opportunities but we will need to have a clear strategy on how we use it.

I already have one proposal that I plan to intoduce in the SCCU - a new Secondary school chess tournament that is free to enter, only 4 boards and in which strong schools would be separated from weaker schools.

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by William Stimpson » Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:08 pm

I believe that chess as a game should be enjoyed. Therefore the main thing that most English children want to do is play chess, rather than be taught how to improve. They can quickly switch off if you try to teach them when they want to play chess. However, they will reach a stage when the enjoyment of winning (or the pain of losing) means that they do wish to improve. But even then teaching should be a minor component of their chess activity. Dutch children may well be different, but in England most children like competition, and can be stimulated to improve by it. (An anology is watching films: How many teenagers would go to the Cinema if whenever they did an adult told them to read the reviews before hand and then have a discussion with them afterwards?)
This enjoyment of winning or pain of losing is a good motivator to drive people to learn but I wonder whether you are over stating the case that English children would not enjoy learning something new.
I do think this is cultural, the most obvious and previously made comparison is with football. In the UK children play competively from a very young age and spend less time learning how to play than their dutch counterparts. This leads in later teenage years to a vast gap in class between the two, once professional clubs get hold of the teenagers they work hard to correct this.
My own thoughts are that competition provides a positive feedback from playing, the challenge is therefore to create the same with learning. I assume you are aware of the work David McEnulty, it is my understanding that there is an element of competition about the learning process in their schools program; I fail to see why a similar approach can not be made to work here.

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Re: Step by Step Method

Post by Neill Cooper » Mon Feb 02, 2009 11:11 am

I'm afraid I am not aware of the work of David McEnulty.

Yes, some do enjoy learning something new but not many. I'm sure that most juniors graded over 100 will seek to learn to improve their game, but the vast majority are not that strong.

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