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Tips for Teaching Beginners

Help your students feel secure in their new learning environment. It will build their confidence. The more actively the students are involved in the learning process, and the less “teacher-directed” the activity, the better. The teacher is the facilitator of the learning, so the timing of the lesson, and maintaining class energy, are vital.

(1) General Course Structure

4 or 6 lessons, (2 hours each) are recommended. Play 4 hands per lesson, followed by a thorough discussion after each. A break after one hour is optional. Don’t be afraid to leave material OUT of a lesson if the students can’t manage it – they will learn when they’re ready to, not when the teacher wants them to. Teaching beginners is a time for simplicity. The lessons should be “user-friendly”, with plenty of play and student activity.

Refer your students to the Beginner Video course, six lessons to match “Play Bridge: A Workbook for the Absolute Beginner”

(2) Suggested Course Content

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Lesson 1. The Mechanics

(Video 1).

This is the best chance for the teacher to “sell” the concept of bridge to students, and this lesson will have a big impact on their enjoyment of the game.

Beginners are usually people from different card playing backgrounds. It’s a real experience for them – new people to meet, a new environment, new concepts to learn, new rules and vocabulary to grasp.

Suggested Procedure

(a) Explain the deck of cards, the partnership, the concept of tricks, and winning points. Play a hand to practise collecting tricks. Deal randomly. The dealer starts the play, leading whatever they like. The only requirements are to follow suit, and to play in partnerships.

(b) Introduce the concept of a trump. Deal another hand, turn up the last card, and this will be trumps. Play the hand.

(c) Explain the concept of declarer and dummy, looking for a fit. Introduce point count: HCP (high card points), and LP (length points). Practise hands this way. Also mention the defenders’ role, and the opening lead (top of a sequence).

(d) Ask the class to deal a hand, and practise adding up, and writing down their points. The side with the majority of points will be the declaring side. Declarer will be the player with most points. NB: no need to introduce bidding at this stage.

(e) Ask declarer’s partner to place their cards face up on the table (dummy). Declarer, keeping their cards face up, looks for a fit. If there is one, have that suit as trumps. Play in no trumps if no fit. Declarer will try to take as many tricks as possible on this first hand, without a specific contract being named.

(f) Check the opening lead, give them 8 – 10 minutes to play the hand, and then ask them to place the four hands face up and discuss.

(h) Go through the hand, first looking at winners between declarer and dummy, and then the play, calling each card as it would be played, then turning each trick over. Make sure the class is in time with each trick. This will make it easier to follow.

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Lesson 2. The Objectives and the Opening Bid

(Video 2. Bidding).

Explain the way the bidding works, and then refer to the bidding ladder. This will help them to see that the auction moves upwards.

Opener’s Bid

5 card majors are emphasised, not minors yet, and the longest suit is the one to open.

Keep it very simple.

The Purpose of Responder’s Bid

Responding requirements are related to bidding to game or not, and there is a need to respond with 6+ points, either by bidding own suit or opener’s.

Play Point: Promotion.

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Lesson 3. Responding to 1NT Openings

(Video 3. No Trumps)

1NT gives a good description of opener’s hand, both points and shape. Responder defines their hand as minimum, medium, or maximum. Balanced or unbalanced responses are covered, with or without a fit, and whether enough points for game.

Play Point. Length

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Lesson 4. Responding to Opening Bids of 1 of a Suit

(Video 4. Responding to 1 of a Suit).

The main focus is responding to major suit openings, raising partner’s suit.

Shortage points are introduced once a fit has been found. Responding in a new suit is a large area of bidding theory.

The way to explain the response of 1NT is to treat it as a last option, with a checklist of bids that would take preference. If you can’t raise partner’s suit, and if you can’t bid your own suit at the two-level, but have enough points to respond, then the bid is 1NT.

Play Point. The Finesse

The finesse is by far the hardest play technique to teach, and the third of the no trump and suit techniques.

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Lesson 5. Opener Continues the Bidding

(Video 5. Openers’ Rebid)
This second bid of opener’s will tell about the strength, minimum (13 – 15), medium (16 – 18) and maximum (19 – 20), and hand shapes. Whether a response is forcing or not is good necessary to explain. Major suit raises are easier to understand than some other bids.

Play Point: Trumping Losers. Counting winners is much easier than counting losers, but introduce the idea of losers now, and highlight the value of shortages.

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Lesson 6. Responder’s Second Bid

(Video 6. Responder’s Rebid)
Responder’s rebid is almost the final decision time for the partnership.

Whether responder is minimum, medium, or maximum, the same idea applies here – How High (game or partscore), and Where (suit or no trumps). After opener’s second bid, responder usually knows enough to decide on the contract.

Play point: Discarding Losers

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Summary of material to cover in beginners lessons

Assuming 4 to 6 lessons

The Mechanics

Introductory terms, fundamental rules. learning to win tricks, finding a fit, playing with and without a trump suit, making an opening lead (top of a sequence).

The Objectives and the Opening Bid

Requirements for opening and responding. 5-card major openings. Balanced vs unbalanced hands. The role of responder, and intro to concept of game. Scoring.

Play point – Promotion.

Responding to 1NT

Balanced and unbalanced hands as responder. Introduce weak, invitational, and game forcing responses. Play point – Length.

Responding to Opening Bids of 1 of a suit

Adding shortage points when raising partner’s suit. Bidding without a fit, and the 1NT response. Play Point – Finesse.

Opener Continues the Bidding

Single-suited, two –suited, balanced opening hands, rebidding according to shape and point ranges. Play point – Cross trumping and setting up side suits via trumps.

Responder’s Second Bid

Minimum, medium and maximum ranges for responder’s second bid. Game or part score. Play point – discarding losers on winners.

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