Bridge has a history of being difficult to learn. The ACBL Education Program was introduced with the aim of teaching bridge in a way that gave students confidence. In order to make the game easier to learn, a “hands-on” approach was introduced. Instead of using the blackboard, for example, as a way to display a hand, the table is used and the students, directed by the teacher, create the hands they are going to discuss. There is an emphasis on a balance between bidding and play of the hand. Lesson plans are structured so that at least half of the lesson is play of the hand. The further the student goes, the more opportunities the student has to play and practice.
Although these materials may be used independently by a bridge student, the more important focus is to provide material and training for those who want to teach the game. It is only through its network of teachers that the ACBL can reach the students and bring them into the world of bridge.
The Bridge Series
The ACBL Bridge Series consists of a progression of five courses, each focusing on a different aspect of the game and bringing the students from absolute beginners through to the point where they can confidently play in any bridge game. The series is undergoing an update to reflect modern bridge bidding and to complement the Learn to Play Bridge software. People already familiar with the game can, of course, start at any point in the series, but most will benefit from the complete set of lessons. The five textbooks are:
Bidding in the 21st Century (The Club Series)
This course focuses on introducing the student to the basic concepts of the game. There is an emphasis on modern bidding (opening bids, responses, rebids, overcalls, takeout doubles and stayman) but sufficient elements of play and defense are introduced to allow the students to start playing hands right away.
Play of the Hand in the 21st Century (The Diamond Series)
This series concentrates on the play of the hand (making a plan, promoting winners, finessing, trumping losers, etc.). The initial bidding concepts are reviewed and a few new concepts are introduced (Jacoby transfers and slam bidding).
Defense (The Heart Series)
Now the attention turns to the defenders. This series contains more detailed discussions of opening leads against suit and notrump contracts, second and third hand play, and defensive signals. The bidding and play concepts from the earlier series are reviewed and a few new ideas are added.
Commonly Used Conventions (The Spade Series)
Here the focus is on beginning (basic) conventions. The student learns about the Conventions most likely to be encountered in a duplicate game for newcomers. The student is introduced to duplicate strategy and the relationship of bids and plays. The course covers Stayman, Jacoby transfers, Jacoby 2NT, weak two-bids, and strong two ♣ openings.
More Commonly Used Conventions (The Notrump Series)
This series continues to introduce students to some of the conventions they will encounter As they start to play in clubs and tournaments. The course covers negative doubles, the Unusual notrump, Michaels cue bids, slam bidding, leads and signals, and 2/1.
Each course is designed for eight two-hour lessons. Depending on circumstances, the teacher can choose to shorten or lengthen both the number of lessons and the time per session (although it is never recommended to go beyond two hours in a single session). Each lesson is designed to be approximately 50% discussion and 50% play. In the later series, the emphasis swings even more toward play.
For each series, there is a student text that covers all of the concepts discussed in the lesson and provides additional examples. It also covers all of the activities (exercises and sample hands) discussed during the class so that the students can review them later.
For the teacher, there is a Teacher’s Manual for each series showing in detail how to present all of the material and what points should be emphasised during each activity. There is also a set of E-Z Deal cards for each series, which make it easy for the teacher, or the students, to deal out each of the lesson hands.
The Play Courses
Since the basic approach to the learning process is to provide students with an opportunity to play and practice whenever possible, a series of supervised play sessions is included in the program. This also provides a break between lesson series since it is unlikely that a student will want to start right in on the next series having just completed an eight-week course. Also, most teachers will only want to schedule three or four lesson series per year, starting at the classic times: in the fall, after the kids go back to school; in January, after the holiday season; in the spring, just in time for summer; during the summer holidays. In the interim, supervised play sessions keep the level of interest up.
Supervised play sessions have been designed to run following each of the first three lesson series:
- The Bidding Play course
- The Play of the Hand Play course
- The Defense Play course
Each “Play” course has been fashioned as a four-week series with eight hands per session. There is nothing to prevent the teacher from running a longer or shorter series or even a continuous series in parallel with the lessons series. Each “Play” course comes with a deck of E-Z Deal cards and a booklet that analyses the hands and provides an opportunity for the students to score their results duplicate-style.
Two additional “Play” courses (“Play Course for the Advancing Student I and II”) allow the teacher to offer more practice to the students when it seems needed. These courses also can be used by the students at home to practice or to enjoy with friends.
In 2005, ACBL began writing “Play” courses to help teachers successfully teach conventions. The first “Play” course in
this series is Modern Notrump Bidding. There is a deck of E-Z Deal cards to facillitate the distribution of the cards for the 32 lesson deals (4 groups of 8). To download teacher manual (written by Master Teacher Pat Harrington) for this course, click here.
The ACBL has produced the second and third conventions “Play” courses called Major Suit Raises – I and II. The teacher manuals can be downloaded free.