Hip Hop Chess

As much as I love being the non-conformist I would be remiss in writing a blog on the week celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and not draw attention to it. To me Dr. King’s birthday is the unofficial jump off of black history month. It opens up the conversation in our schools about the history of black people in America. This normally would have been the classic slavery and inequality for people of color is a black eye on American history and is still continuing to this day blog. That was until @sisyphus reposted this blog by Adisa Banjoko and Arash Daneshzade. I did not have any prior knowledge of who Adisa was but I was very familiar with Arash. His posts on twitter frustrated me on many levels (@A_Daneshzadeh). The first problem for me is that his use of vocabulary is so extensive I had to look up every other word. The second problem was that I wasn’t seeing many answers about how we can fix things. It looked like a lot of complaining about the problems in education without giving any answers. I was completely WRONG!

Here is an excerpt from the blog cited above:

Teaching students, “The World Is Yours”

A few years ago, I was asked to speak at a high school for Black History Month in San Francisco, CA. Their original speaker had bailed on them, at the last minute. Rather than open my talk with a lamentation of US slavery, I focused on Dogon discoveries in Astronomy, and Moorish science contributions that served as the foundation of the European Renaissance. After citing the role of the African Islamic influence of Europe’s’ rise out of the Dark Ages, I asked the students how many enjoyed what they heard.  Almost all the hands went up. I said, now ask yourselves this question: How is that you have been in school for at least 9 years and this is the first time you are hearing it? It is against all political, social, and economic odds that Black children are expected to excel.

As we approach Black History Month in 2016, I’m already torn between my genuine love in celebrating Black achievement, and the sad circus many schools turn the opportunity into. American schools have a long way to go in sharing the more dynamic aspects of African contributions to global civilization.

That is just one small insert from an article that is amazing. I did some digging.  It turns out that Adisa Banjoko is the Founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF) and author of Bobby, Bruce & Bam: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess. Arash is a Hip-Hop chess instructor as well as an educator. After doing a quick google search I found this on the Hip Hop Chess Federation website:

Since 2006, HHCF has introduced and taught thousands of youth the game of chess not only as a game of wit  but also as a metaphor for the importance of incorporating strategic thinking as a necessary process for making the right moves in life.  Coupled with the practical philosophies and disciplined teaching of martial arts and framed in the many positive, but often underappreciated aspects of HIP-HOP Culture, HHCF continues to expand its educational outreach efforts throughout the United States. HHCF has spent many years deepening the valuable relationship it has forged with local schools and various community based organizations by being able to provide life enriching programming in a safe setting to youth who otherwise have limited access to high quality alternative learning, culture and arts experiences. The HHCF uses its unique program as a platform to promote the idea that every young person is High In Potential and has the capacity to Help Other People (HIP-HOP framed differently).

Playing chess is fine and dandy but what does that have to do with education you may be asking yourself? I was asking myself the same thing when I read this a little further down on their site :

Research shows that student test scores improved by 17.3% when regularly engaged in chess classes, compared with only 4.6% for children participating in other forms of enriched activities.  In approximately 30 nations across the globe, including Brazil, China, Venezuela, Italy, Israel, Russia and Greece, etc., chess is incorporated into the country’s scholastic curriculum. Just as athletics are a part of the required agenda at schools in the United States, chess has been that way in the European, Asian and African Nations abroad. Chess is a universal language for young people across the globe.

I don’t care much about test scores but I know my administration does!! The wheels started turning. What can I do as a physical education teacher? Then it hit me! To celebrate Black History month, I can teach chess in my class. If you are asking what does chess have to do with black history here is the answer from the article that Arash and Adisa wrote:

Today, most Americans think of chess as an upper echelon “White” game. In fact, the game only made it to America after the Moors (African Muslim scholars) conquered Spain from 700 AD until 1400 AD and brought their books and chessboards with them. After teaching the game of chess to the Christians and Jews, it spread across Europe. The English loved chess and when some rebelled and settled in America, so too did the game. Colonial Americans such as George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson became obsessed with the game.

My teaching of chess will be much different. My students need to be active. Most do not know the first thing about chess. I will introduce the history of chess to my students. The next step will be to set my gym up as a giant chess board. I will use poly-spots to mark off the dark squares. We will use the warm-up to go over each chess piece and the movements it can make. I will accomplish this by using the Gifs I created here in the shared Physed Google Drive. An example of this would be all the students would be pawns. They would be asked to jump the appropriate amount of spaces forward a pawn could move on either its’ first move. We would then move on to all the other pieces using various locomotor movements for each piece. This would teach them how each piece moved.

Once the students understand the pieces they can play online for free using their Chromebooks or iPads.  One site they can use for individual play is http://www.sparkchess.com/. Another site they can play versus each other is http://en.lichess.org/. I will have a timer set for 45 seconds. When the timer goes off the students will have a choice of two physical activities to pick from. As soon as they complete the activities they will go back to their game. I may tinker with the time or have the student choose a movement to do after their chess move is complete. The lesson, in theory, is always different than the execution in real life!

Q1. What does Dr. King’s birthday mean to your class? #slowchatpe

Q2: What role models do your ss have that are PoC? #slowchatpe

Q3: Have you gone to martinlutherking.org? How is this a lesson we can pass on to our ss? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do you identify your racial bias? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who is a resource that you rely on to help you with sensitive issues? #slowchatpe





2 thoughts on “Hip Hop Chess

  1. Pingback: 7 of 9 Dimensions of Wellness: Interpersonal | #slowchatPE

  2. JosieHolford

    I love the idea of setting up the gym as a giant chess board. Great way to integrate the ideas with the need for kids to be active (and interactive.) Would love a report on what happened and how well it played out.



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