Feedback from that post above suggests that many bridgelovers may want to try a similar project. In order to ensure volunteer bridge players, schools, bridge teachers and even bridge federations all avoid the pitfalls, here are a few tips:
1. Do not assume that a willing helper who is an experienced bridge player / teacher (of adults) will be able to empathise with youngsters. Do not assume either that helpers can be relied on to attend.
2. You cannot have two teachers giving children different advice that confuses them. Keep an ear and eye on what they are being told at the other tables.
3. Show humility. If, unlike me, you are one of those superhuman players who never makes a bidding or playing error, then it is time you did. Make a mistake to prove that you are human. Thereby reinforcing the theory that your novices should be patient and wait for their opponents to give an early Christmas present.
4. Do NOT give them any instruction sheets until they - or their parents - ask for them. After all, you can't reprimand them for not studying non curricular lessons. So what's the point. In any event, they learn far quicker by making errors at the bridge table. Instil in them the philosophy that noone makes the same mistake twice.
5. Do NOT use a blackboard. Sports teachers don't use blackboards and bridge is a...SPORT. It is the competitive (sporting) side of bridge that attracts youngsters, so get them out of classroom mode.
6. Get them warmed up like you would any sports stars at a training session. Start the lesson with a 5 minute CONCENTRATION and MEMORY test in the form of a fun competition. To get their brains tuned in to bridge - and to take their minds off mobile phones, cartoons and pizzas! My usual routine is to throw cards on the table and ask them to add up the points. The first child to get the correct number is given a card. Then they can earn cards quicker as I name three, four or five bidding cards which they must take out the bidding boxes. But they cannot start taking them out till I have repeated the denominations twice. If your students are of different ages or academic standards, put them into teams to even up the odds of victory.
7. As soon as they are capable, get them to score the results of a board on the traveller. Explain the vagaries of the scoring system to give them a head start over the adults. Given the prevalence of team events, it baffles me that so few experienced bridge players know that 2 spades plus 4 doubled (small slam) scores more than 4 spades plus 3 doubled (making all 13 tricks)
8. Build up their CONFIDENCE early in the lesson. And simultaneously silence the (rare) one who thinks he or she is better than the rest of the group. The bidding box test above can be used for that purpose: Give a less confident pupil four cards in sequence to take out (1C, 2D, 3H, 4S) and then give the overconfident child four cards to remember which are out of sequence (e.g. 2S, 1D, 5H and 3NT). Then ask them to then put their bids back in the box as quickly as possible for a bonus card! Tricky when they are out of sequence!
9. When the time comes to be able to introduce one of the very few essential conventions, make sure the pupil understands exactly why he is being asked to make a non natural bid. To reinforce my philosophy that all bridge bids are logical. The best example is the Jacoby transfer. So often club players tell adult beginners that they must use it simply so that the weaker hand goes on the table. That explanation won't hold water when your 8 year old partner has more points than opener! Give the whole story. Explain that it allows you to stop the bidding at the 2 level. Demonstrate also how you can invariably make two more tricks by bidding one level higher - even with zero points.
10. Don't complicate a simple game for the little ones. For the tournament in France, my pupils will only be using the conventions referred to in the four short lessons reproduced on this site. Minimum conventions = no misunderstandings = ZERO ZEROES
11. Finally a suggestion that you teach them before they reach the ripe old age of eleven. There are too many other distractions later on. Girlfriends, extra homework, and other sports etc. In my experience, an intelligent and enthusiastic 8 year old is just as capable of getting to grips with all the bridge basics as an 11 year old. Teaching bridge to receptive youngsters is actually mentally rewarding - and can be great fun for the tutor as well.
The PYRAMID method
I have to admit it was more by accident and necessity that I developed a teaching method that allowed me to take on as many students as wanted to learn the game. A method that I have refined to the extent that it can be used as a template for any good bridge player and teacher to SINGLEHANDEDLY start a schools project with the potential of accommodating, say, 200 kiddies aged 7 to 11. One teacher for 200 pupils has the enormous advantage that they are all learning the same system.
Not impossible or undesirable. Far from it.
THE SECRET FORMULA:
- The talented pupils become teachers.
- The most promising and advanced pupil “teachers” then supervise and teach the teachers.
It is as simple as that. And this pyramid system has enormous advantages over traditional teaching methods viz:
- Very young children enjoy being taught by teachers who are only slighty older than them. Not least because they are less nervous of making mistakes.
- The extra responsibility of allowing, for example, a child as young as eight to supervise / mentor / teach a child of seven encourages and improves the confidence of the 8 year old teacher. Wth the result that he/she then punches above their weight. The pupil teachers are forced to remind themselves of (and practise using) the basics. Instilling good habits at such an early age is paramount to the system`s success.
- No teaching manuals are required. The pupil teachers effectively replace the manuals
- The pupil teachers can empathize with relative beginners who are only a couple of years younger than themselves. They all speak the same language. The same jargon. Dare I say a gifted 10 year old is usually better at explaining Jacoby transfers and stayman to an 8 year old than an experienced member of the local bridge club!
BIDDING BOX CONNUNDRUM:
With all due respect to the WBF and their affiliated national Federations who do a good job encouraging youngsters to take up a game which boosts the powers of logic, can someone explain to me why boxes contain cards that don't mean what they say. Goodness knows how much time teachers waste trying to explain to a seven year old why bidding 7NT actually means they must make thirteen tricks. The bidding boxes for my bridge babes have "PLUS SIX" indelibly marked on each card. As I said, for every brainteaser in bridge there is an obvious, simple and logical solution! Trevor 5/4/17