Not quite a chess school, First Move occupies a unique niche in the chess world. Their focus is on teaching critical and creative thinking skills through the game of chess. (Says a review of our programme on chess-site.com – and with permission of the site, we now reproduce their full review here.)
The First Move foundation provides educational chess lessons to school children all over the country, but it’s not a chess school. It actually operates no brick and mortar locations of its own, and the majority of its business is done online. The children benefiting from its program are taught by different coaches and teachers in school districts all over. How can this be? It’s all made possible by First Move’s unique business model.
First Move – A Unique Model for a Unique Mission
Unlike a typical chess school, First Move doesn’t concern itself with teaching its students directly – instead, on providing a program that can easily be incorporated into a classroom. This unique method ensures that all children receive the benefits of chess. The First Move program is designed to enable educators, teachers, and coaches with no prior chess experience to teach chess confidently in their classrooms. You don’t need any chess knowledge whatsoever to implement the program, it works the same whether you’re a Grandmaster or you’ve never seen a chess set before in your life. When you put it like that, it almost sounds too good to be true!
Who Educates the Educators?
First Move does, of course! Their programs are designed to be implemented in a classroom or after school setting. It can be implemented in almost any educational environment, from the public school classroom to an extracurricular after-school setting, or even in a homeschooling program. Wherever you have the impulse to use it, it can probably be utilized!
Each lesson follows the same basic structure – the children watch an instructional video in which The Chess Lady, the cartoon mascot of First Move, walks them through the subject of the day. After the lesson, they’ll have exercises to complete in each of their workshops, and after that, it’s time to play! Each exercise may seem difficult at first, to both the student and even the teacher, but as long as the student follows the given instructions, they will succeed. This built-in success keeps children motivated and builds their confidence, along with their skills, with each win.
The consistency of the three-part system used in each lesson allows the students to know what to expect from each lesson, making it that much easier to digest. It also helps the teachers by supplying all of the education the students will need. While the teacher will be on hand to guide the learning experience and answer any questions, they don’t need to supply the actual lessons or lesson plans, which cuts down on their workload while still providing a top quality education experience to students. That’s a win-win!
Student Experience with First Move
The First Move lessons are optimized for group learning in virtually any environment. In the classroom, at a church group, after school, or even in a group homeschooling environment, these lessons will guide students of all skill levels through the key concepts each week, with no one being left behind.
That being said, the lessons are quite uniform, and they don’t leave much room for individualization. This program provides a good baseline chess education, as well as broader benefits such as cross curricular elements, critical thinking development, and fostering creativity.
First Move chess lessons provide a fun way to learn with others, but students who take to chess keenly may get ahead of the class. In that case, it may be beneficial to the child to be enrolled in more traditional chess lessons with a coach who can provide individual attention. As we’ve mentioned, First Move is not actually a chess school, so the lessons they provide will not be a replacement for individualized chess lessons that you’d receive from a professional chess coach or chess academy. Of course, First Move’s lessons are also more accessible and, in many cases, more affordable than the chess-focused lessons from a traditional chess school.
Once again, producing future chess masters is not the mission First Move is trying to achieve with its lessons, so as long as you don’t go into the program with unrealistic expectations, you should be satisfied!
Dedication to Education
The minds behind the First Move program are undoubtedly dedicated to education through chess. In fact, they consider their program to be first and foremost and educational chess program, as opposed to a chess education program. The focus of the First Move lessons is on developing creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking skills in children through the medium of chess, rather than teaching them how to become great chess players and having them memorize countless openings and endgame strategies.
The lessons are designed to be cross curricular, and to meet the academic standards of students in second or third grade, though they can also be used in other grade levels. The First Move lessons cover much more than just Kings, Queens, and Pawns – there are also math, reading, history, and science skills baked in. In fact, First Move’s lessons have been shown to improve aptitude in both reading and math!
First Move Pricing and Costs
One of the biggest benefits of First Move’s unique business model is that there is more often than not zero cost for the students benefiting from the program. If there is a cost, it is usually minimal, allowing children from all walks of life the ability to join in on a program without putting undue strain on their family’s finances. With the lasting mental and social benefits that this program impacts on its students, this kind of equal playing field for children is a huge benefit.
For educators and school districts, the program is quite cost-effective at just $225 for a new classroom to be set up with all the resources needed to teach all lessons. There is also an annual $45 per classroom subscription cost. At less than $9 per student, that’s not a bad price, especially when you consider the lasting benefits that the program has been shown to impart in its students!
Donating to First Move
Even though the curriculum is quite reasonably priced, we all know that our public schools don’t always have leftover money to be able to spend on extra programs, no matter how worthwhile they are. Luckily, First Move has a donation system which allows donors to provide funding for programs at their local public school, or wherever they like!
Sponsoring a school through First Move’s donation program is a wonderful way to give back to your community. But it’s not completely selfless – the children who participate in First Move’s programs learn critical thinking skills that serve them well throughout life, including once they grow up and become society’s CEOs, politicians, teachers, and more! Sponsoring a school in this way is a very effective, hands-on way to secure a better future for both the students in the classroom you sponsor and for yourself!
Oftentimes, schools and other organizations considering the First Move program are put off by the initial startup costs. However, once those same schools have completed the first year and seen firsthand the academic and behavioral benefits it imparts to its students, the organizations are more than willing and able to foot the bill for the annual subscription, which is substantially lower. So, to get the most bang for your donation buck, you may choose to fund the first year of programming in several different schools, one after the other. In this way, you can maximize your impact and provide educational chess lessons for thousands of kids!
Our Final Thoughts on First Move
First Move Chess is a one of a kind organization. Over its 15 years in business, it has supplied educational chess lessons to countless children, securing brighter futures for each of them. The impact of this is hard to quantify exactly, but has no doubt been immense. If you want to be a part of the good work that this organization is doing, there are many ways to get involved.
For educators, the easiest way to join the First Move family is to introduce the lessons into your classroom. In public schools, it may be a challenge to convince administrators that the program’s benefits will be worth the initial costs, but you may be able to soften the blow by securing a sponsor for the program, whether corporate or individual.
Speaking of sponsors, making a donation to First Move is another great way to get involved in their mission. Every little bit helps to make a difference in the lives of children in your own community and beyond!
We’re very impressed with the impact that First Move has been able to achieve in its first fifteen years of operation, and we encourage you to get involved in whatever way you can, whether it’s through a donation, as an educator, or by enrolling your child in a local First Move program. Hopefully they’ll have fifteen more years of success, and even more!
(This review of what First Move has to offer was reproduced with kind permission of www.chess-site.com)