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Here are the words* of some of the contest winners...!!

When we partnered with the A&E Television Network by sponsoring a school contest to launch the KNIGHTS OF THE SOUTH BRONX – the inspirational story of how one teacher made a dramatic difference in the lives of inner city kids using the game of chess – we knew we would receive equally inspirational entries.  And we did. 

1. Chess spells STRATEGY

S – Safe Environment
Chess provides a safe environment to practice decision making, problem solving skills, and new tactics. Did you try something new?

T – Thinking Skills
Chess teaches efficient methods in thinking by managing impulsivity and acting with forethought. Did you take your time?

R – Rules
Chess teaches respect for rules of behavior. Did you play by the rules?

A – ‘Adeptability’
Chess gives opportunities to demonstrate competence. This builds confidence in ability to correct mistakes and improve performance. Did you improve?

T – Taking Risks
Chess gives occasions to risk and the consequences of choices. Chess provides opportunities for courageous decision making. Did you show initiative?

E – Everyday Applications
Chess applies habits of many everyday activities such as planning ahead, decision-making, setting priorities, and dealing with people with different goals. Can you apply these skills at home or school?

G – Gracefulness
Chess teaches sportsmanship. Chess gives opportunity for winning and losing gracefully. Did you practice good sportsmanship?

Y – Yardstick
Chess enables children to experience the gap between what they think they know and what really is accurate. Chess acts as a yardstick to measure this self-discovery. Did you learn something new?

In this way, Chess spells STRATEGY and teaches students how to think.

Chess Chess Helps Every Student Succeed

2. "The nearly insurmountable low socio-economic, broken family, gang activity, and language barriers intertwine daily to undermine our work as educators to provide our students with the skills they need to become self-directed, productive members of society.  The hardships and uncertain futures our students face inspire us to explore and implement innovative instructional tools.  We believe chess has the power to equip our students with the "edge" necessary to maneuver the landmines posing daily threats to their academic/personal futures. Chess has the potential to transform basic academic skills into lifelong strategic skills by providing the opportunity for students to strengthen their higher order thinking skills.  Many students are too spontaneous and seek immediate resolutions to difficult situations.  Chess inheres the instructional capacity to teach students how to analyze their actions and consequences, and to visualize creative solutions for future possibilities.  Chess levels the playing field and transcends global boundaries and obstacles..."

3.  "...In a neighborhood where problems are solved with violence or neglect, students in this area will benefit from learning how to solve problems with their minds... For many of my students, their only ticket out of South Central is to use their reason and intellect.  Chess offers the means to learn these essential skills."
4. "The students enjoy games and they of course look at chess as something for smart people only. Most do not think of themselves as smart.  They could learn to win at this game and that would be the beginning, giving them confidence. The strategies they learn will help them in much more than chess.  They will learn steps to problem solving and conflict resolution. I know math skills will improve and the students will hopefully learn to stick with something long enough to solve the problem. This will carry over in all school subjects and hopefully life..."

5. “I utilize chess in our school as a board game program where all students participate equally. No concern for capacity, competency or ability in anyone. It is simple for anyone to begin to play chess. All students who play in our school, even at many different stages, can always have someone else to compete at their level, providing constant participation and hence, infinite progress in personal skill and self confidence.

The unique ability of chess is to increase thinking and concentration in a student’s memory, at a time of the life when the mind is constantly absorbing everything around them. These intense periods of concentration during a chess game, while also in a relaxed state of playful action, results in a progress of our students’ thinking skills. These skills develop by realistically encouraging a student’s independent reasoning, and also by allowing their own imagination to nurture during play. The more time involved in this thinking program, the more skill development one can recognize in the student. This learned capacity for intense and playful concentration applied to daily schoolwork, is part of a means to help to raise their participation in classes and raise grade point averages.

The students in our school are involved in chess following school. I anticipate our program will encourage participation and competition from other nearby schools.”

6. “When [our] high school, a small, rural school with 120 students, started its chess program it had only eight students in the club. Ten years later, there are thirty-nine students in the club and each year its numbers continue to grow. The reasons for the increase in numbers may be multi-faceted. Chess not only improves a student intellectually but it makes them feel more intelligent. It allows many students who may not have the physical skills to compete in athletics to contribute as part of a team during the chess learning process and competition; our players meet individuals from other clubs with different social, economic and educational backgrounds… It can help with life problems as well, because if you were to transfer everyday problems to the chess board they could analyze and rationalize the proper decision about that life problem and turn it into a positive instead of a negative result. Because life is like a game of chess, and education is like a game of chess, students have to think of their next move on or off the board because sometimes one move can determine whether one wins or loses during the process called life or during the contest called chess. In the end, chess allows an individual to balance decision making with that mental image of the probable outcomes”
7. "....If chess can give kids from the Bronx of New York a vision and a way out, it could do the same for the kids from rural Mississippi.  They are not dumb kids - they just have never been told differently."

8. "[Our school] is located on [a Native American Reservation], and the students who attend its schools are descendants of the proud warriors who defeated Custer.  Yet evidence of that pride is sometimes hard to find, especially at school.  The No Child Left Behind Act has labeled the schools in our district as failures because the students don't make high enough scores on the required tests.  I don't know if the government realizes how that label affects the spirits of our children.

“We have a large population of second language students that I believe would benefit greatly from being exposed to chess. It would enhance our students’ logical thinking skills, as well as problem solving skills and logical reasoning… This is critical in our current situation of becoming citizens of the world and being able to analyze communication more critically in an age of explosive information technology. The rules of the game will greatly demonstrate to our students that there are infinite possibilities even though a discreet set of boundaries and rules would be followed at the same time. To be able to analyze a situation and anticipate an opponent’s next move is an invaluable talent which I believe all children would benefit from, regardless of ability…”

9. “ Having played chess almost all my life, and seeing how it helped me to succeed in my career and my life, I have made it my mission to help the students [in my community] learn how to play chess…”

10.“Where has all the thinking gone? Teachers map it for their students, but fear it is lost. Parents hope it for their children, but fear it is impossible. Kids want it for themselves, but fear not having it. Chess has it, but fears the children will not learn it. So, where has all the thinking gone? Gone to “Think Like A King” that teaches it.

Chess fosters critical thinking as a basis for a reflective life that learns to be responsible to self and others. As an elementary school counselor, my goal is to promote a culture of peace. I plan on using the concept of chess thinking to provide the experience and know-how to accomplish this task.

.... I intend to use chess in my counseling sessions, my involvement with special ed. Students and the gifted and talented. To my amazement over half the school [of 450 fourth and fifth graders] wanted to sign up to join a recess chess club. Daily, I am bombarded with students asking: When will the chess club begin? Chess has its own magnetic powers to draw students together, a counselor’s dream. A counselor’s nightmare, I have no systematic way to teach chess.

My vision also includes parents and teachers who will engage in chess with our students, and will together use chess to build a community of thinkers. So where has all the thinking gone? It will be here. With thanks to “Think Like A King”

11. “… Most of our schools are located on [an] Indian Reservation. Our district is one of the largest geographically and one of the poorest in the country. Because of the poverty, our kids live in an area where alcoholism and high unemployment are common. The majority of [students] here do not go off to college, or if they do, they are not successful and have to return home without a degree.

So, this fall I have finally been rallying the teachers in our district to start a chess club at their schools…

Thank you, I know that your software could help our schools gain the tools they need for chess to become a hugely beneficial part of our students’ lives.”

12. “… Our school is 85% Title I with a 10% shelter population…. Recently, students have shown a dramatic interest in playing chess….. [and] as a school we would like to incorporate a chess program systematically across grades 6-12 as an additional instructional tool. The skills addressed by chess are parallel to the skills addressed in their academic courses. Thinking and reasoning, decision making, drawing conclusions and inference are key to literary understanding and its application across the content areas. Looking at it from a socially developmental point of view, chess supports the building of positive self-esteem and personal assurance often lacking in students who are struggling achievers…”
13. “[Our school] chess club has been active for seven years, and has taught the fundamentals of chess to hundreds of elementary school students. Largely unfunded, our students have been meeting every Monday morning for the past several years without the benefits of chess clocks or professional coaches. Our chess club coordinator …. has collected a body of research on scholastic chess and is in the process of planning a district-wide study to compare the standardized test scores of chess players and non-chess players on the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test. We hypothesize that chess playing students will score significantly higher in both verbal and non-verbal areas, as well as mathematics and problem-solving. We plan to utilize the results to pilot a district-wide program that will reinforce cognitive skills in academic subject areas with chess, including using chess to teach probability and logic. Among the other areas in which we hope to see the most growth are pattern recognition and spatial-temporal reasoning, both of which impact overall cognitive ability. In addition to this, we are sure to find a number of non-academic benefits (i.e. increased self-esteem and better social skills) which would be of value to any students. We look forward to adding further evidence to the growing conclusion of many scientists, school administrators, and educators: that, in the words of Dr. Gerard J. Dullea, ‘Chess makes kids smarter!’”

14. “I am a special needs teacher… I currently run an after-school chess program. I see students who were unmotivated to complete homework or classwork assignments become star students after joining the chess club…

I have two former students who are shining at the high school. One of them was not used to the social aspect of middle school and had a difficult time adjusting. He had no friends, was failing his classes, and was “acting out.” He soon became the [chess] club president, made several close friends, met the requirements for the “Honor Roll,” and became a class leader. He continues to come every Wednesday after school to help me run the chess club because the High School does not have one. His teachers tell me he is one of their best students and his family tells me they have become closer because they now have “Game Night” at their home.

Unfortunately, there are few activities for students who do not participate in sports. Chess has provided an avenue for the disenfranchised students at my school to shine. It teachers them to think through things… to see that there may be several steps involved in solving a math problem… that by adding details, their writing springs to life. It has even brought families closer.”

15. “…Our school was once known for having city chess champions. This software would give me the tools to begin rebuilding that empire. As an inner-city school, we need to give these children every opportunity to excel. By playing chess, these often volatile students learn to discuss, plan and negotiate, rather than reacting with anger. The lessons learned in chess go way beyond the game, as evidenced in “The Knights of the South Bronx.” As a staff, we have discussed how to build our chess program. This software is the missing piece. Please help us help our students”
16. “… I envision using the “Think Like A King” chess software to help students develop chess as a way of thinking. Without the software, I would be able to do little more than provide a place to play chess. Instead, I want to develop an after-school program and to help teachers integrate chess into their curriculum…. We want to inspire and challenge students to develop strategy and higher thinking skills… My dream is that soon there will be a whole new group of students with chess as their “favorite sport.”
17. “Children are bombarded with fast, action packed commercials, video games and films. Many children in our school are at financial and emotional risk. I have found that chess is a way for them to become involved in a meaningful social and intellectual pastime. They think of nothing else when they play chess and they look forward to the calm environment and the opportunity to play…. They learn patience, sportsmanship and cooperation through playing. I see them developing social graces that they didn’t have when they came in. There is no doubt in my mind that chess increases one’s ability to plan strategies, helps one to concentrate more, forces one to be flexible, promotes cooperation and gives children something to look forward to and be excited about. Our Superintendent… appreciates how chess challenges and stimulates the intellect, and started a citywide initiative… With classical music playing in the background, I watch with joy as my children play chess with different partners and see how involved they are. When time is up, they hate to leave…”
18. “…Over 67% of our students qualify for free/reduced lunch, and the English language is a daily barrier for our students and parents… When we were designing [our afterschool program], we went to visit a program in a nearby city and attended their Chess Club. It was amazing to see how involved the students were with this game, and how enthusiastic they were to learn new strategies and to test their skills on a competitive level through local competitions. We want our kids to get as excited as they were and to show them a game they will love to play for life. The teachers feel this game will help them think strategically, improve their math and decision making skills, and get them interested in something besides TV and gameboys! …”
19.“The 21 st Century Community Learning Center would like to start a Chess Club. We believe that this would offer our students a fun and entertaining way to acquire critical thinking skills, self discipline, raise self esteem while subliminally raising their standardized test scores and grades. Our students are disadvantaged, inner-city students…. Our program has been offering a fun, educational curriculum in a safe and nurturing environment. Crime amongst juveniles of this age level has decreased 89% in our area since the start of our program… “

20. “We would be thrilled to be able to utilize “Think Like A King” with our Afterschool Chess Club and in our classrooms. Four years ago, I adopted our school chess club which consisted of about 10 to 15 students. The club quickly grew to 80,100 and now 130 chess hungry students. It is like candy for their brains and I feel like Willie Wonka.

One of our greatest challenges is providing adequate instruction to this large a group… Individual and small group instruction is almost impossible with these large numbers. A program such as [Think Like A King] would be ideal for us. We could also use it in our 2 nd and 3 rd grade classrooms who are now incorporating some chess into their classrooms as part of their math curriculum.

As one of our 5 th grade chess players once shared with me, “Because of chess, I get better grades in school, I think before I write down an answer and I don’t rush through my work, I’m more patient and I think ahead. At [our school] we truly believe chess has a positive impact on school and social success.”

21. “[Our middle school] is a large rural sixth through eighth grade school with a poverty level of over 40%. The affecting poverty, however, is more in a social sense rather than economic. Our community is less than forty miles from [a large city], yet many of our students have never been there. This simple fact points to some of the inherent poverty of world view our students sometimes exhibit. A lack of ability to see beyond ourselves seriously inhibits learning and understanding.

Chess, with its broad appeal and multi-leveled challenges can inspire confidence and surges of synaptic functioning unlike any other activity.A chess program, while initially teaching the standard higher order thinking skills and brain patterning usually associated with the game, would most benefit our students by giving them a common language with other people across social, language, economic, cultural and age barriers.

22. Currently, twenty to thirty young people arrive at school thirty minutes early, often ahead of the instructors, simply to be in an atmosphere of academic acceptance. These students’ ability range from special education classes to the gifted and talented; they simply do not have another place to study or access a computer. No one requires or pressures these students to attend; they are here because the door is open. These students would be our core group of future chess masters. These students, with or without additional intervention, are the future of [our community].”
23. “[Our school] is a school of immigrants, transplants and kids who are just struggling. Eighty percent of our kids come from homes where the home language is not English. We have 40 countries represented, and thirty languages spoken. Recently, we’ve almost ‘adopted’ almost 100 kids who evacuated from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 90% of our kids live in poverty. Our kids struggle with math; they struggle with English; they struggle with school, period. In fact, we all struggle at [our school] – teachers and students alike – it’s a tough school. What we do have … is a wonderful afterschool program to keep kids off the streets. Every day a group of dedicated teachers stay until 6:00, tutoring with kids and offering clubs and activities that will open the world to them. We have a chess club now, that has had some success, but the Think Like A King program would get even more students involved. Chess doesn’t require English proficiency, a lot of background knowledge, or a lot of money. But it’s a game that opens minds, as well as communication between folks. Think Like A King is a perfect program for our school, where kids need to open their minds to other possibilities, other realities.”

24. “I teach science at a school that is 65% Hispanic and 15% Native American. I teach grades 7 th through 12 th. Few of our students seem interested in academics, but I can really connect with my students through chess. I started the chess club at the beginning of the school year. We’ve had several meetings and are planning to do fund raisers so that we can afford boards, pieces, and clocks (we have no clocks and the boards and pieces are what I have been able to get from thrift stores.) I want to be able to get the kids on more standard equipment and get them used to playing by tournament standards.

I allow my students “free time” when I finish my lectures. So even though the club has only 12 members at this time, many more of my students are quick to grab the boards during free time to pay a few minutes before the bell rings.

I am struggling to get my students to view academics as a viable option for their future. I really believe that chess provides me with the means to reach them.”

25.“Inner city schoolchildren are often deprived of learning mind stimulating games such as chess. This past summer some summer school teachers introduced chess to our low achieving students. It was a long process to teach them, but many of the children felt a sense of achievement when they truly started to understand the basic moves. Some even tried to teach their parents what they had learned. Summer school was only 4 weeks and we could only dedicate ½ hour of instruction a day during that limited time period. We believe if we had a better system to teach these children chess during the regular school year we could help improve analytical thinking and improve test scores. Our school has had some of the lowest test scores in the city. Our school system has given us a new principal who has been trained as a turnaround specialist. He is trying new and exciting ways to motivate these children in their academics and improve behavior… I would like to suggest expanding the afternoon programs to include chess. I feel this will teach them strategies, critical thinking skills, patience and discipline that they all so desperately need.”
26. “I work in a public school at the edge of nowhere. At least, that’s what the students think. I teach a Reentry program for students who have been kicked out of their own schools for violence, drugs, and other behavioral issues which, as I learn about their personal lives, make almost perfect sense. Many of my students lack stability in their lives. To be successful, they need to learn organizational skills, reasoning, thoughtfulness, sportsmanship, and a healthy sense of competition. They need an activity that encourages the highest levels of analytical and logistical thought. They need an activity that is challenging, accessible to all ability lives, and is fun. Those are reasons why, as a parent, I taught my own children the game of chess. My students desperately need access to a similar experience, but our school does not have a chess club. Many of my students do not know the game.
27. Our school is under-funded and does not provide clubs or even sports activities, but we do have a dedicated staff, bright and energetic students, and computer rooms. I would use your chess program, “Think Like A King,” to create an activity that all students could enjoy. Installed in our computer rooms, accessible to the entire school, it would provide a common activity and a common dialog. We could form a chess club. We could enter tournaments. We could, some day, with hard work and computer coaching, be at the Nationals.”
28. “After reading the articles and looking into all the benefits of what chess could bring to our school I was amazed at the results. We are a low socioeconomic and inner city school that provides a quality education to those students who may not have the opportunity to experience things that we are able to provide. We attempt to give the students opportunities that may not be afforded them on a daily basis. Every teacher that chooses to work at this school does so out of a labor of love and teaching. It would be exceptional to build our students’ self-esteem and critical thinking skills… I can only imagine the satisfaction of seeing children be successful on their own and self-correcting while becoming fantastic chess players in the process. It would be a wonderful opportunity for this community to sing the praises of our children and what a great gift we could give these students. A gift that otherwise could not be afforded to them.”
29. “[Our] high school is an urban school with approximately 1100 students of whom the majority are low-income minorities. Most of our children are below proficiency level in reading and math. Engaging more of them in chess would develop the requisite analytical skills necessary in both reading and math. Chess competition would also give them a vehicle for activity outside of the traditional sports arenas. Many of our students have been incarcerated and need to learn better interpersonal relational skills, non-violent means of achieving peer admiration, and non-academic avenues for building self-esteem. If students bring a positive self-image into the classroom, then they are more likely to attempt the work. Subsequently they are more likely to attend school regularly. Currently we have approximately 50% of our students absent on a daily basis. An engaging chess program would hopefully be the catalyst we need to spur our students into improving their outlook and actions towards development of a positive future role in our society.”
* Essays may be excerpts from original entries. Highlights are added for emphasis.


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