Suppose you’ve practiced and mastered the mechanics of working with the students to distribute a deal, using the Deal Records or the Coded Cards. You have the knack to direct the students, in a timely manner, to put one card, one hand, two hands, four hands face up on the table to illustrate the concepts being introduced in the lesson.
More than that, you’ve developed the talent to implement the unique feature of cards on the table...a Card-by-Card ‘movie’. You can direct your students, when appropriate, to play the cards one at a time so they can see a deal played out, expert style.
Also, the students, through your skillfulness, can be directed to quickly get the cards back in suits and in the Bidding Box.
In other words, you’re ready to go. Now the question is; What next? There are so many ways the teacher can use the Cards-on-the-Table technique to focus on the lesson concepts --- and not be distracted by topics unrelated to the lesson.
It’s a challenge to know where to start with examples of how to use the cards themselves to teach a lesson. Let’s look at an example from The Impact of the Opening Lead Against Notrump Contracts.
The focus is defense. One consideration is how to handle the Bidding and Declarer Play to keep these aspects of the deals from dominating the defense concepts being introduced.
The first chapter, in this text, starts with a closer look at leading fourth best from the longest and strongest suit when there is nothing else to guide the player on defense: partner hasn’t bid and the declaring side has bid only notrump.
It’s necessary to review the bidding before making the opening lead. This can be done using the Bidding Cards, not playing cards.
Something like this.
“Let’s consider an auction that comes up frequently. South take the 1NT Bid from your Bidding Box and put it face up on the table, to the left, upside down to you and right-side up to the rest of the players at the table. Without looking at any cards in South’s hand, we have an idea what to expect.”
At this point, you could ask what we would expect when we see the South hand. Continue with the auction asking West to put the Pass Bid on the table, to the left and upside down. North puts the 3NT bid on the table, using the same idea...to the left and upside down. East, South and West put Pass Cards from the Bidding Box on the table.
At this point, you could ask what the maximum number of points you would expect North to have. You could have the students discuss what other things you would expect...no four card or five card major suit. At this point the students are not distracted by looking at specific playing cards during the bidding and this should be a quick description of the bidding and a good conceptual review for those who need it.
When the auction is over, the focus is on the West hand, the player making the opening lead. West would be asked to put the thirteen cards face-up on the table. The mechanics of simply leading fourth best could quickly be discussed. There’s nothing much to this idea...they probably know it anyway.
The next step is to ask West to make the opening lead, fourth best, and then to pick up the twelve cards remaining after the fourth best card is led and put them back in the Bidding Box. There is one card face-up on the table.
North is asked to display the dummy. There are 14 cards face up on the table; the opening lead and the dummy.
Then the East hand is put face-up on the table. There are 27 cards face up on the table; the opening lead, the dummy and the third hand.
Now, looking at twenty-seven cards, there is the chance to talk about the Impact of the opening lead. What card would East play and why; there’s more to defense than the opening lead, which can be almost automatic.
The choices made by third hand are very important. What information is there in the dummy? What does the opening leader know about the third hand, by simply looking at the dummy. What could third hand ‘tell’ partner that partner doesn’t already know?
The details of the lesson aren’t the focus here. It’s the idea that already four patterns have been used to display the cards: one card, 13 cards, 14 cards and 27 cards.
As long as the teacher is practiced using this method it all goes very smoothly, and the students are involved with the game and each other. It’s a three-dimensional experience. Flip charts and even sophisticated data presentations tend to be a “flat” experience.
The Better Bridge material is taught through carefully constructed deals, designed to introduce concepts on Bidding, Play, and Defense.
A frequently asked question among teachers is whether to have the students first play the deal and then discuss what might have happened ---or to turn all 52 cards face-up, discuss the deal, and then have the students play it.
Popular opinion goes to letting students play the deal first. In fact, this is a very popular opinion. So much so that it seems useless to have a discussion about whether it’s a good idea to give the answers to puzzles in the deal first, and then have students play the deal again.
It took a long time before I tried this method of working with the deals and it came as a result of reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, a world- class chess player and a world champion in Tai Chi.
When I shared with the students, that Watizkin suggested that at times we’re too impatient to learn new things without being satisfied to try an idea, over and over…until we own it.
If the students played the deal after the answers were discussed it would be a different experience. They would see new things that they hadn’t anticipated.
The students were enthusiastic about this way of learning. I never looked back.
The question, however, is more than whether the students should play the deal on their own first, or the other way around. It’s when the teacher feels the best experience for the students would be to try the deal on their own.
Clearly there are advantages to both ways. Also the teacher can guide the students through some of the deal and then have them experiment with the deal on their own.
Bidding concepts can clearly be shown through what are known as Transitions. Suppose, for example, you’re introducing the requirements for a 1NT opening bid, part of Bridge Basics I, Chapter 2. Start with the cards divided into suits in the front of the Bidding Box. Then direct the students to display one hand on the table that illustrates a 1NT opening bid:
- ♠ Kxx
- ♥ Qxx
- ♦ AJxx
- ♣ KQx
The teacher directs the students to alter the hand slightly to see if the hand still qualifies for a 1NT opening bid.
“In hearts add the ♥J; in clubs take away a low club.”
Now this hand is on the table
- ♠ Kxx
- ♥ QJxx
- ♦ AJxx
- ♣ KQ
It’s still a 1NT opening but the pattern is now 4-4-3-2 instead of 4-3-3-3.
Then these instructions are given:
“In hearts, take away a low heart; in diamonds, add a low diamond.”
Now this is the hand:
- ♠ Kxx
- ♥ QJx
- ♦ AJxxx
- ♣ KQ
It’s now 5-3-3-2.
As the demonstrations continues, the Lesson Plans suggest more transitions which illustrates that balanced hands with too many or too few points are not eligible for a 1NT opening bid.