Using Minecraft in the Classroom is a great way to teach the standards: What is Minecraft Education Addition? It is a game-based learning platform that is fun and coincidentally builds STEM and project based learning skills, by unleashing creativity and engaging students in collaboration and problem-solving skills. Minecraft inspires deep, meaningful learning across all subjects. Now, educators around the world use Minecraft to build skills. There are free educational tools that can be added to computers in the classroom (see bottom). You do not have to purchase software in order to implement Minecraft into your classroom. Minecraft is everywhere! Students love using Minecraft and the best part is that it is educational. For building block classroom decor click HERE
1. Minecraft in the Classroom: Engage Students in Collaborative Conversation
Ask them what they like about Minecraft. Answers will likely revolve around the collective themes of creativity, collaboration, critical-thinking and communication. I began asking questions out of my own simple curiosity. I had heard so much about Minecraft but didn’t understand how it worked. Students were passionate and talking over each other to be heard. I had students explain it to me and others who had never used the software. After this discussion, I had students write down questions for further inquiry. We used these questions as an organized way to learn more about Minecraft. I then found an article about the history of Minecraft, how it began, how it was sold, who it was sold to and for how much, who invented Minecraft etc. This nonfiction unit on Minecraft (Full lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers) helped to formulate the foundation of Minecraft before we got started on a project and met a nonfiction common core standard in the process. I have also used this lesson as a standalone for a nonfiction lesson built around the passion and interest in Minecraft.
2. Minecraft in the Classroom: Educate Yourself
After learning from student-led collaborative discussion, I watched videos on YouTube. There are over 145 million “how to” videos alone on Minecraft. Students are already familiar with using YouTube videos to have previously self-taught themselves in order to fine-tune their own skills in Minecraft. Based on your collaborative class discussion you should be able to identify who your student experts are. Strategically place a Minecraft expert in every group for group projects or assignments. Start small and be sure to walk yourself through the lesson first from a student perspective. Try the following site that is free and available for all teachers and students: Lessons | Minecraft Education Edition
3. Minecraft in the Classroom: Increase Student Choice in Assessment
Add an assessment option for Minecraft. When I taught “Lord of the Flies” one of the “tribal challenges” I assigned was to create a panorama of the island. The winning group of students created the island using Minecraft. They spent hours of their own time. Through this choice they used many skills including, planning, drafting, creating and collaboration. Those who didn’t know how to use the program took the initiative to teach themselves by watching videos on YouTube. These are all important skills that students need for not only school but also the workplace. What inspired them to take on such a project and use their own time to learn-Minecraft! Minecraft can be used for students to demonstrate knowledge in subjects such as math, English, history, computer science, technical theatre, and more. Minecraft is a tool that creates high levels of engagement in the assessment process.
Be sure to set norms and expectations as you do with any assignment or project. If you are requiring students to use Minecraft set up expectations for students to teach and support one another. Make sure they have access to the software at home or through sharing with a classmate. Student access is crucial to the success with a product such as Minecraft. How did I learn about Minecraft? My students taught me. If parents are weary send an email with an attached video about a project used for Minecraft or an educational video for how Minecraft is used for learning. You can write a letter home or even create your own video for parents explaining how it’s used in the classroom.
4. Minecraft in the Classroom: Reading Comprehension and Visualization
A great way to have students showcase their learning is to have them recreate a setting for various books they have completed throughout the year. A fun project that I have assigned at the end of the year is to have students create the setting for one of the books we have read during the year. In addition to recreating the scene they had to create a specific scene from the book that ties to a theme we learned from reading the book. Other students are to guess which scene students have recreated and what theme is represented. For example, when the boys from “Lord of the Flies” kill their first pig, it is significant to the theme for loss of innocence. This idea can be turned into a fun game where students compete, or for a more formal idea students can create a formal presentation where they discuss their theme in detail.
In addition you can have students recreate the time period in which the author wrote the book. For example, if you are reading Romeo and Juliet, have students recreate the Elizabethan time period. Students are required to do an abundance of research prior to scene creation. There needs to be accuracy in the architecture, clothing, materials, food, entertainment, body language, even music etc. Upon completion students include their research as well as a reflection about what they learned through the process. Looking at process is an important part of the Common Core standards. We no longer only look at the end result of a project but we examine the process in which the project took.
5. Minecraft in the Classroom: Digital Citizenship
Assign Minecraft to be used in groups so that it is a collaborative game. It ensures that students work together at times in competitive ways and must work collaboratively to plan and solve problems and challenges. Students learn how to problem solve with others, and resolve conflict that arises by using complex communication skills. Take the opportunity to teach students how to communicate in polite, respectful, effective manners. I provide sentence cues that we use to practice with as a class during a class discussion. A question cue could be “although I see Sam’s point, I respectfully disagree”. Or, “that is one strategy we could use to solve a problem, however, another more efficient strategy could be”….Now, students don’t typically speak to one another in this manner but you would be surprised how fast using these sentence cues can deflate a nasty disagreement. I cut up sentence cues and put strips of paper on desks where students are working. As soon as students begin to argue, hand them a sentence cue. They find them humorous and as mentioned it deflates the tension, and redirects students to use effective, respectful language with one another. It’s important to include a citizenship grade for a project and include a rubric prior to the start of the project. Teachers can also facilitate discussions and reflections to support each student in effectively communicating and collaborating.
6. Minecraft in the Classroom: Add it As a Writing Tool
Minecraft can be used to tell stories that include characters, settings, themes, motivations, conflicts and plots. Teachers can use Minecraft as a tool for students to write and create stories based on their character. One of the major standards that runs through elementary through high school is the narrative story. Students can use Minecraft as a visual to teach narrative. They can write a story on paper, and through Minecraft as their visual represent the setting, protagonist, secondary characters, conflicts, parts of the plot structure diagram: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.*Time saving tip have students work together to create a frame for their narrative. Then have students split up the writing portion of the assignment by plot structure. Once they put the story together, they can work together on their visual.
7. Address Problem Solving and Math Principles
Math standards require complex problem solving and critical thinking skills. Teachers can use Minecraft to build skills needed for math competency. An example of a problem solving skill is pushing through solving problems. Minecraft requires this, and you or the students can create different challenges for each other. Another skill we seek to develop in students is using appropriate tools in a strategic way, which is exactly what students must do when playing Minecraft. Teachers can examine their math standards for other related skills and use Minecraft to facilitate growth.
Learn more about Minecraft Education Edition, join our community, and find technical support at education.minecraft.net.
Additional resources: Microsoft has a free introductory course at Minecraft: Education Edition: Teacher Academy – Microsoft Educator Center, To learn the lingo for Minecraft try The Minecraft Glossary for Parents | Common Sense Media. If you really want to become an expert check this resource out, Official Minecraft Wiki – The Ultimate Resource for Minecraft (fandom.com)
How do you use Minecraft in your classroom? I would love to hear in the comments below!
To read my blog post on how to decorate your classroom for back to school, click HERE