Friday, June 28, 2013

my (10-15) favorite lessons, part 1

Hello Blog Readers!
    Later this summer, I am doing a professional development for my friend Sean at Success Academy, and possibly also for some school in Canada, and one component I was envisioning was a couple of hours of "My Favorite Lessons" delivered at high speed. Some no-prep, easy-set-up, time-tested, pull-out-when-you-have-no idea-what-to-do-today guaranteed-success lessons.
    So to motivate myself to prepare them ahead of time, I thought I would share them with you.
    Here's the first:

Mate in 5
   This lesson teaches mating patterns, planning, piece coordination, and creativity.  It can be done as a large group lesson, in small groups or pairs, or as homework. It's good for multi-level classrooms, since it exposes beginners to a lot of checkmate practice, while advanced students can be given paper and pencil and asked to list as many solutions as they can find.
    In the position below, explain that white gets 5 moves in a row, while black doesn't get to move. Students are asked to find as many checkmates as possible.

Usually, you get a flood of answers at first, which then slows down. Depending on what they have found/not found, I then ask leading questions like
"You found a lot of checkmates on h7. Can you find some on g7?"
"Can you find a checkmate with a queen and bishop? Queen and knight? Queen and pawn?"
"Can you find a checkmate with two knights?" (This is also the only mate in 4 in the position)
"Can you find a checkmate using a bishop and pawn (or) using a pawn promotion?"

A Swedish visitor, Jesper Hall, showed me that lesson a few years ago, and it always works like a charm.

In other news, the pregnancy is going ok. It's getting a little annoying, lumbering around, having to hold on to stair railings, unable to lift even moderately heavy things or drink wine, but overall it's not so bad.
     I'm endlessly amused by the baby kicking me.
     I'm also having very vivid dreams, which is fun.
     Strangers are all extremely nice to me. People smile at me on the street, and let me go first. Everyone talks to me, wants to know my due date, and seems impressed it's a boy. I always get offered a seat on the subway (the hands-down winner of offering the seat? Chinese males age 18-30. They get up 100% of the time.)
     Here is a funny ultrasound picture (not mine):

see the cat?

   In non baby news, we moved up to the top two floors of our house (unbelievable how much space there is) and are remodeling it. Remodeling is fun, like playing design-your-fantasy-house, only for real. Here is the bathroom floor tile I picked out:
 and here is our kitchen backsplash:
Fun fun fun!

Also, Jonathan bought the largest fridge I have ever seen, and it dispenses water and ice from the door! I live in the lap of luxury! (or I will soon, when it's delivered).

      I've been reading a lot, because I spend a lot of time lying around. In the last month, I finished:
How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America (Otis Brawley)
The Circumcision Decision: An Unbiased Guide for Parents (Lorna Greenberg, Susan Terkel)
A World of Hurt: Fixing Pain Medicine's Biggest Mistake (Barry Meier)
The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger (Michael Blastland)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)
Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery (Bill Clegg)
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Amy Chua)
The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius (Kristine Bartlett)
The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed State (Andrei Lankov)
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey (Blaine Harden)
Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (Pamela Druckerman)

They were all pretty-to-very-good, or I wouldn't have finished them. Except The Norm Chronicles, which was recommended in the Economist, disappointed me.

    That's all I have for you this evening. Hopefully I will blog 10-15 times in the next few weeks with brilliant lesson ideas for you. Also, I'll be attending the upcoming US Chess School and will take photos.


Unknown said...

Hi, just learning about your work. I run an institute for teachers across America. I'd like to interview you.
Don't know how to reach you. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Funny you ran across Jesper Hall, his Chess Training for Budding Champions (Gambit, 2001) is a nice, largely overlooked resource that is well written (even if the cover art is kind of silly). I eventually listened to his advice and started analyzing my own games.

NDB said...


I just watched the documentary on PS318 and the chess team and your passion and ability brought me here to say thank you.

I saw an earlier post with the frustrations you're having this year along with your pregnancy, but you were born to teach these kids.

I come from a long line of teachers so I'm a n expert on this. ;)

Best of luck and let me know the best place to make a contribution to your program


Anonymous said...

Congrats with the pregnancy and thanks for sharing this lesson material. Great idea!

Anonymous said...

i've visited here from time to time and enjoy what you have to say. i've also seen the documentary ps318 and enjoyed that as well. in part one, i don't know if i'm doing this position correctly or not. would 1.Ng5 2.Qh5 3.Qxh7#
is this the way the lesson works? do they have to be in exactally 5 moves or can it be less? thank you

Eric Strickland said...

What a great lesson. I'm definitely going to use it in my classes. Many thanks for sharing . . .