As a teacher, I am always looking for new and exciting ways to engage my students and I think that I have found their new passion: bridge.
I had been intrigued by an article about teaching mini-bridge to children, which suggested that it had been proven to improve pupil concentration and social interaction; I’d also learned that Microsoft’s Bill Gates was interested in this apparently most complex of card games. Anything that gets kids using higher-order thinking skills is a winner in my book, so I decided to get in touch with a local club.
This led to our very own bridge whizzes, Kevin and Hamish, coming in every Wednesday to teach my P6 class. It didn’t take long to dispel any notion that bridge is strictly for the older generation. The game had the children engrossed and now they all fist pump when they see Kevin and Hamish.
There are many benefits. I have found that the game has improved mental agility as the children continually have to count the cards and work out the complicated scoring. Also, the strategic and logical thinking required helps them in maths and in social interactions. I have found, too, that children who struggle in maths have come on leaps and bounds through playing bridge; their confidence in the subject has soared.
Mini-bridge was actually created for educational purposes. Children sit in tables of four, divided into two partnerships. The aim is to win as many tricks from your opponents as you can. Things can get pretty complicated, but we all know that children love a challenge. As one boy, Harry, says: “I feel proud every time I play bridge.”
The children love bridge so much that it has become a golden-time activity in school, with my class starting to teach younger children – and this in an age when we are often told that children would happily spend all day on their iPads.
Bridge appeals to children who play computer games. Another pupil, Tommy, says: “I love it because it’s tense and you need to be good at strategy games.” He even prefers bridge to games on his iPad because he gets to play with his friends.
Many children have taught other family members, and we are determined that this will be a sustainable activity in our school. The children are keen to run an after-school bridge club for members of the local community.
I urge other teachers to give it a go. My children rate each lesson we do and, when asked what they would give bridge, replied: “All the aces – and the trump cards!”
Anne Hutchison teaches at Carmyle Primary in Glasgow. She was named teacher of the year at the 2015 Scottish Education Awards