Students in HCDE special schools use chess to strengthen socialization, academic skills

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May 11, 2017 by HCDE-Texas


The game of chess is more than simply moving rooks and knights on a board, as students at Harris County Department of Education’s Academic and Behavior Schools know well. After weeks of preparation culminating in a chess tournament, students gained countless social and academic skills. These strategies can be applied to the classroom and beyond.

Through a partnership with nonprofit organization Perfect TeamPlay Inc., nearly 30 students at AB School East and West joined the Chess Club, where Coach James Hudson taught them more than just the rules of the game.

“Perfect TeamPlay Inc. is a nonprofit that uses chess and other activities to mentor and motivate students,” said Hudson. “In addition to academic benefits, chess provides students with skills to become productive citizens.”

Since many students at HCDE’s AB Schools deal with intellectual or behavioral challenges, chess offers benefits that can be applied to any situation in life. From critical thinking and strategy, to patience and time management, chess can be used as a fun education and socialization tool. Since chess is a game that expands the mind, it can also improve overall behavior and self-esteem. AB School West Principal Dr. Victor Keys also notes that students “practice following directions and accepting consequences and criticism – qualities that are important in the real world.”

HCDE staff and parents have also noticed the students are using these skills in their every-day life.

“We’ve noticed the skills our students gained through chess – time, attention, patience and strategy – have transferred into the classroom and throughout the school community,” said AB School East Principal Mindy Robertson.

During the chess tournament, students were encouraged to participate in a Chess Math challenge, a new aspect of the Perfect TeamPlay Inc. tournaments. The challenge involved giving each chess piece a corresponding number and incorporating that into various mathematical equations. Several students excitedly volunteered to participate in the challenge while being cheered on by their peers. The exercise further advances student math skills; and it also works to build self-confidence.

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