I am a (soon to be) teacher at an intermediate school for 6th and 5th grade. I’ve been playing Go since I was in 9th grade myself, and I started two Go clubs in North Carolina before starting this program in Tennessee. I am in school for secondary chemistry education, so I have not had much time to play on OGS, KGS, or Baduk pop. I have been able to start a program at my school with the support of school administration and grants through the AGF.
We launched our program late last year, and student engagement was high. I had to create an application process to sort through those with the highest interest, and received applications from over 20% of the student body. Considering they’re in fifth and sixth grade, that’s more impressive than it sounds. I narrowed the applicants into a group of 30 students who came on alternating days where they could play from 7:30am - 8:30am. The game is naturally interesting and motivating for children. Aside from club members, there are also many students who have kept interest in the game heading in to this year that did not get to participate in the program during its launch. I hope that I will be able to expand membership this year to cater to a wider base of students.
I started with capture Go, and that’s what we played for most of that program’s duration. It was only during the last four weeks of school that I began to scaffold students into the full rules and territory objectives.
We held a 13x13 tournament with no handicaps. It was many of these children’s first experience with competitive play. There was excitement, there were tears, all of the tension and joy that comes with competition. We were give three hours to conduct the tournament with students returning to class as games were won and lost. The final match was intense. A group of six students were allowed to watch the Final match with the stipulation that they could not comment or suggest moves, but I didn’t discourage excitement and expression. Even at such a low level of play, those mind blowing moments where an unexpected play changed the course of the match caused unrestrained outbursts of excitement. Both players were being cheered on up until the very end when the game concluded with a score difference of 4.5 points. The victory was this student’s crowning achievement for the year. The winner was a 6th grader with regular behavioral issues, trouble at home, and poor grades. But, for that day, he was the champion! I saw him later during summer school and he called out to me across the field “You’re looking at the champion Mr. Wentworth! Best Go player in the school!”
He and his fellow Go club members attempted to start a Go club at their new school for 7th and 8th grades, but the principle turned them down. I am so proud of them for trying, all the same, and I’m working on helping them out.
This year, I am developing lesson plans to adhere to TN math standards so that teachers can make use of the game for collaborative learning labs. I also want to create a program with verifiable academic results to present those results to the principle over 7th and 8th grade. It will be up to the teachers, but I’m emphasizing that to benefit from the intrinsic motivation that games can bring to education, students need to be allowed to play and enjoy the game before assignments start being paired with it. Personally, I think the assignments are also fun, but I’m not in the shoes of a 5th or 6th grade student. So, students should have at least one dedicated sessions for learning the rules, playing, and having fun with their friends.
For the next objective, students will play, and be asked to score their match. To score their territory, they will create rectangular area models. They will create two alternate models for each area they are scoring. This can be used to demonstrate the commutative property of mathematics by manipulating the models to reach the same total that is being measured. A concrete connection to the abstract thought we begin to expect of them in these grades.
The third objective will operate about the same way, but students will write equations in (LxW) plus the adjacent area or minus stones occupying area. Once they have created their mathematical expression, they will follow the order of operations to calculate their scores. Again, they should be asked to do this in at least two different ways.
The fourth objective involves game records, which will be used to introduce the coordinate plane, negative numbers, and ordered pairs. The center of the board, “Tengen” is 0. On a 13 x 13 board, values range from -6 to +6. A student will be assigned as a scribe to record the game, and the role of scribe will rotate between partners in groups of three.
The results of the game can be used to create various models and can be played with mathematically in a variety of ways. I’m still in the development phase on this and I will continue tying the activities into TN educational standards. I will also be creating worksheets that align with these activities and I will publish them for common use for anyone else who is interested.