The Checker King

Jackie Carter Breeden

I am presently teaching 8th grade English at Albritton JHS on
Fort Bragg in North Carolina. I started teaching in my own
classroom in 1979, at Welch JHS in Welch, WV. The three
years I spent there will remain in my memory forever.

I taught 7-9th grade Remedial reading in a school with no textbooks
– just supplementary materials. This was my first full-time
teaching experience. The students in my class had reading
levels from Pre-Primer stage to 6th grade. I had my work
cut out for me.

There is one student who stands out more than most. “John”
was the best checker player I had ever encountered. He could
barely read on that Pre-Primer level at age 14, but he could play
a mean game of checkers. He absolutely hated to be beaten
– especially by me. I realized I could use this to my advantage.

I made up some checkerboards that had reading skills on each square.
I inserted challenges like; “Give me a word with a short
‘a’ sound”, “Which word has a long ‘e’ sound – ‘bet’,
‘beet’, or ‘bat,'” and so on. The rule was that before
John could make a move, he had to perform the task. He had problems
at first, and I would beat him every time. Eventually, John got
to where he could perform the tasks, and was back to winning.
I would let him keep those tasks he mastered on the boards for
a while so he could beat me. Then I would replace those
with harder skills.

I am proud to say that after two years with me, John was able
to read on a third grade level. We played checkers like
this at least twice a week. I will always remember the checker
king, and I hope that he has continued to be a successful reader.

About Jackie Carter Breeden

I am Native American – Cherokee. I was born and raised in New York. I received both my BA in Secondary Education with a major in English, and MS in Reading Education at SUNY Oswego.

I taught Remedial Reading, grades 7-9, in Welch, WV from 1979-82. I taught one year of freshman English at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina 1982-83. I have been teaching 8th grade English/Reading at Albritton JHS on Fort Bragg in NC since 1983. I enjoy reading and writing poetry and short stories in my spare time.