I coach chess in various schools in and around Cambridge UK. As I used to be a competitive chess player myself, getting hold of teaching materials has never really been a problem for me. Add in a projector and a laptop with Chessbase installed and I was ready to go in any classroom. I was not actively looking for new teaching aids but I fell in love with the online tutor LearningChess.net.
The main challenge in coaching chess as an after-school club activity is to cater for students with wide age and ability range. Some children have been playing and taking part in tournaments for years while others just pop in for a single term. A few have never played chess before. Hence the recurring dilemma of ‘What shall I teach today? Shall we see how the Knight moves or look at the Minority Attack instead?’ I first came across LearningChess.net at the London Education Conference in December 2014.
As soon as I started playing around with it I saw its great potential for helping me bridge the ability gap of my students. It is a perfect homework tool as the program is suited for self-study and everybody can learn at their own pace. No matter what chess skills the individual has to begin with, there is great sense of achievement in a no-pressure, playful environment, where everyone makes steady progress and gains rating points.
I regularly use the Learning Management feature to check on the activity of my students; it is extremely useful to know who has done what and how they got on with the lessons. Not to mention the pleasure of looking through their games … I also got into the habit of using LearningChess.net in the classroom with a Smartboard. My favourites are the Grandmaster lessons: they are short and sweet and contain top-notch chess without fail.