Friday, October 7, 2016

Chess in B-5

Seating charts can be tough.
Strategic, like Stratego. ("Jojo needs to sit up close to see the board better, but he's really tall and his head blocks others from seeing.....hmmmm")
Little bombs hide right under your nose, like Battleship. ("I didn't know they went out last year!")

Some classes are easy--you can let the computer randomize the kids for you, or if you want, seat kids so their names amuse you. You can have a Wild West corner and put Colton M.,  B. Weston,  A. Silverthorn, and Wayne H. all in one corner, and you can have the Alex corner and stick all the Alexandras, Alexes, Alexises, Allies, Lexys all together, maybe center them around an Obiyashi for some fun cognitive dissonance. Lately I've wondered about a row of Leys--Ryley, Kyley, Lee, Bailey, Hadley, Kayley, and of course the perennial Ashley.

So. Many. Moves. Some fatal!
But every year, one class will be a chessboard of tricksy dimensions. This year one of my classes has two Queens, and it almost doesn't matter where you put them because they are so strong wherever they are placed. They are powerful in their own ways, taking down Pawns with scorn or eye rolls or mocking laughter. The same class harbors an unpredictable Knight; how he moves from day to day is anyone's guess. He can be a strong ally to the Queens. There are a few Kings in the class, young men who love learning but have limited personal power and sometimes they are vulnerable. I am lucky to have a few Bishops, really super smart self-controlled students who are fantastic and compliant. It helps to move a Bishop next to a Queen or unpredictable Knights. When I set my pieces on the little seating chart boxes that represent their chairs, I have to use quiet kids or the English learners as Pawns to "block" the chatty pieces' volubility (and hey, that sometimes helps a quiet kid come out of her shell or the English learner practice his English more).

My class is in a double horseshoe in order to facilitate students addressing each other and so everyone can see the Almighty Promethean board. But that also means it's easy for Queens to make eye contact with each other, or even with the unpredictable Knight.

The moment of truth comes, of course, during the game itself. Sometimes kids have friendships with pieces I didn't suspect would block progress, and sometimes the seating is genius. Sometimes my game is limited by Individual Education Plans that say "Preferential Seating," and that leaves some pieces anchored all year.

Anyway, I just finished the chessboard for this tricksy class.  Truth will tell. I just wish I were a better chess player. 

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