Today when most of us think about the potential of serious games in the classroom, computer-based games come to mind. With all the attendant issues about the ratio of students to computers, software trouble shooting, not to mention tightly prescribed lesson plans and class periods, however, it’s not surprising the original enthusiasm fades quickly. Deborah McCoy, new to chess herself, guided her third graders in a chess lesson as part of a pilot program in Donnelly, Idaho.A story out of Idaho, where chess is being taught in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms, shows there’s another way — with no batteries required — that can be equally effective. The New York Times reports that:

Once a week, Deborah McCoy, a third-grade teacher in Donnelly, Idaho, unpacks chessboards and pieces and spends an hour teaching her 20 students how to play the game. […] Mrs. McCoy does not do this because she is passionate about chess; she barely knew how to play before this school year. But she began teaching it as part of an unusual pilot program under way in more than 100 second- and third-grade classrooms across Idaho. […] “One of the things that we hear is that too much of what we do is based on rote memorization,” Mr. Luna said. “The part I really like about this program is that kids are thinking ahead.”

Mrs. McCoy said she has been pleased with the results.

“So many kids spend their time plugged into video games, iPods, television and so they are more isolated,” she said. “They learn give and take in chess. There are courtesies that you follow. It has been really beneficial for them.”>>> story continues here

The program in Idaho was developed by America’s Foundation for Chess, who have created a standards-based curriculum, First Move™, utilizing the game of chess as a learning tool for 2nd and 3rd grade students. It promises “students have fun learning, while the requirements set forth by the No Child Left Behind Act, and state standards are being met.” More information is available here.