The whole class can make the figures/players with paper clay and chess boards with paper squares or ink. Paper clay is cheap and dries in a few days and then kids can paint it.
The game of chess is old and like the deck of 52 playing cards goes back to feudal times and the competitive wars between monarchs.
This game motivates the kids. I especially like four children playing (2 on each team) as the team members talk strategy and bicker in English so much. They can be very ammusing. The teacher acts as both English coach, peace and rule keeper and can be the 4th player if only 3 children are present.
1. Clay, modeling, drying, painting, etc. King, queen, bishop, knight (or horse), rook (castle is better) and pawn (peasant foot-soldier). Kids also learn check, checkmate, strategy and many small sentences of direction (Take the castle. Ah, you killed by bishop! etc.).
2. Teach and ask the kids about the roles/duties of each segment of society. Where are the women and children and grandparents?
3. Tell them this is a rigid rule-bound game. Real life is not played by rules. Some people use poison or marriage, alliances and ninja and traps to reach their goals. Some flee their kingdoms or get help from overseas. Sometimes plague breaks out. Life has random events.
4. Show them the moves of each class of warrior/player. Often the best way to show the moves is to dive in and play. Kids catch on quickly especially when the teacher starts killing/taking their main players. Stress helps them learn.
5. Emphasize the power of each player. Example: “The queen is very powerful. She can go anywhere, in any direction and sweep across the board, but only the Knight can jump over others. The pawn is a poor peasant/farmer, a foot soldier. He is fed poorly, can’t move quickly, has little of no armour, poor weapons, no horse and is easily killed.
6. I show kids my own main strategy, which is to move a pawn and get the queen out quickly across the board (with the bishops) and to attack, attach, attack. Kids soon see that this often works well.
7. I show the kids that chess can be played solo, by changing seats, or by turning the board around (no ESL learning in this, however), and with an internet partner (little ESL value). I also show them some variations we sometimes play:
A. Lead with castles (not the queen). B. Lead with bishops. C. Remove both queens.
Kids need to be monitored so they use English and not their native language. Enjoy!