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“Chessays” are a collection of chess-related essay ideas especially useful when teaching creative writing, British literature or medieval history units


Language Arts, Social Studies  


9, 10, 11, 12  

Title – Middle Ages Chessays
By – Lisa Suhay
Primary Subject – Language Arts
Secondary Subjects – Social Studies
Grade Level – 9-12 (Also great for ADD, ADHD)


      “Chessays” are chess-related essays.
    This Chessays lesson is useful for teaching British Literature of the Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of Spain and for creative writing classes. Even if none of your students have ever played chess, introducing the game and playing it with a purpose will increase student concentration and reading comprehension.


  • Chess boards
  • paper
  • pencils
  • Book Birth of the Chess Queen
  • Film A Lion in Winter
  • Visit for rules. They may even supply free chess sets, as will most state chess organizations.


    It could be a week or an entire semester!


      Step 1: Take at least two class periods to teach and play chess with the class.
    Step 2: As the class is playing explain that “chess is a story rewritten with each new game. It is the tale of two warring kingdoms. Each piece is a character: a king, all-powerful queen, side-winding bishops, knights jumping around on horses, a row of infantry men marching straight ahead – they are your foot soldiers (a.k.a. pawns), and the two sturdy castles or rooks.”

Writing Assignments:

      Basic Chessays:

        Imagine this is a battle wherein two queens fight bitterly to protect their kings. Why are they at war? Love? Territory? Did the kings begin the battle over power, jealousy, or some grudge? How do things progress? What are some parallels in literature?

      Advanced Chessay:

        Draw parallels between how the role of women in literature and history evolved as did the chess queen. The game didn’t even have a queen when it was invented in India as a way to teach warfare to young princes. The chess queen didn’t make it onto the board until shortly after Eleanor of Aquitaine, just about the reign of Isabella.

      Research paper:

        Many powerful European queens may have contributed to the alteration of the chess game. Who? When? Why?

      Chessay #1:

        What chess piece do you most relate to and which one would you most like to become someday?

      Chessay #2:

        What is the connection between chess playing and courtship in the Middle Ages?

      Chessay #3:

        From Pawn to Power. “Today I am a pawn on the chessboard of life, but someday if I make the right moves…”


      Find the chess characters in the text of any story on the Middle Ages or even modern day stories. Who is acting like a knight? Who is being used as a pawn?

E-Mail Lisa Suhay !

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