Saturday, 31 October 2015

Talking Minecraft in Interface Magazine

I love sharing my knowledge and experience using Minecraft for teaching. I love the game but as you know it is more than that and it's basic structure is mathematical. I have used it mostly for oral, reading and writing with kids (usually disengaged boys) to inspire creative and informational writing. This month the INTERFACE magazine ran a special feature on Minecraft and I was lucky enough to be able to contribute to the article (below) as well as share a lesson idea.

We don’t have Minecraft at my school, but I’m an avid Minecrafter and spend lots of time discussing the intricacies and wonders of Minecraft with students all over the school. This led to some of my more reluctant readers and writers bringing in and sharing their Minecraft books, like the “Handbook” series and Blockopedia. We sometimes use a few pages for guided reading; the reference books are great for information text models. After finding key information they can create Minecraft Trading Cards. I have found Minecraft players of all ages and genders are really passionate about the game, they have taught me most of what I know about Minecraft and I try to use that passion and knowledge to teach the underlying literacy skills.

There are many opportunities for narrative writing about adventures in survival mode. In the past weeks we had been learning to use our knowledge of narratives to write our own stories, and use descriptive language to help our readers imagine the graphic details. My kids take liberties with their genre choices; some wrote narratives, others mixed in informational text, and then a whole group collaborated on building a class Minecraft knowledge base which is an ongoing project: I just give advice on that one (this is a great collaborative project in which you can be the guide on the side).

With one small group of boys I did a shared writing of what it was like to be killed by a creeper, (it sounds macabre but it’s not in a block world) still the experience is intense, I know! Then we discussed the other mobs and they decided to rewrite the ending as if it had been another mob creature that killed them. As every mob acts and attacks differently their reference books were handy here too. Of course all of this writing was preceded with lots of shared oral storytelling, that’s where teachers get to learn about MInecraft. I question and challenge my students about details all the time, the others will correct any inaccuracies very quickly; these kids usually pride themselves on their knowledge. However a great site to check facts and settle disputes is the which also includes short informational videos.

To fuel the excitement I have copies of the “Junior Interface Awards 2015” on both my classroom doors and the word is spreading; we are entering the Minecraft competition. I plan to continue to use Minecraft to engage with those kids that love it. It has so many rich reading, writing, maths, science, engineering, art and even coding opportunities. My message to teachers is: let your  students be the experts at Minecraft, use their knowledge and passion to teach the skills you want them to use.