For 40 minutes each week, second and third-grade classrooms at Voigt Elementary School are bustling with excited students immersed in First Move, a medieval fairy tale themed chess program.
The program was introduced at Voigt and Jollyville elementary schools for the first time this year after teachers completed training during the summer. Students watch an engaging video about the history of each chess piece before solving chess puzzles with a partner and playing chess games online.
“As teachers started seeing the critical thinking skills and attention from the students, they love it and the kids love it,” Principal Cheryl Hester said. “You see 100 percent engagement and the benefits of chess teaching our students patience and cooperation.”
First Move engages young minds and teaches critical and creative thinking skills through the game of chess, according to the organization.
Students have gravitated to chess largely because of its reputation as a highly strategic game, which empowers them to persevere and keep learning, said Amy Shumake, Voigt third-grade team lead.
“It’s a game, but we know it’s helping with critical thinking and planning,” Shumake said. “It’s accessible for all of our students. It doesn’t have to be a club after school so it really meets the needs of all students.”
The program may build into an after-school program to continue growing participation in the program and expand offerings to fourth and fifth-grade students.
“First Move helps us figure out skills and strategy,” said Cesar Barrientos, Voigt third-grade student. “I like learning new chess characters and how they move.”