minecraft

5 Ways Literacy is Used in Minecraft

Minecraft isn’t just a game where kids explore locations, kill mobs, and build random objects – It’s so much more than that! The game can spark much creativity and release imaginations. It has made its way into classrooms across the country, and there are lesson plans and worlds being designed for teachers all of the time. Literacy is just one topic that is embedded into Minecraft. It is a key skill for children, especially when they are very young. Here are 5 ways that literacy is used in Minecraft:

Logical Inferencing: Players have to figure out the mechanics of the game, and how things work. They must learn how to create new objects from collected items and how those objects go together. For example, they must take gathered wood, turn it into sticks, and then combine it with more wood, stone, iron, or diamond to create picks, hoes, swords, and axes. They must learn the vocabulary of the game, and how to navigate the world. Players must figure this out on their own, as no tutorial or directions come with the game.

Storytelling (Oral and Written): There is no set story for Minecraft so players create their own. Stories come about whether students are exploring or simply building. Younger children share their stories about their world orally with family and friends, while older children may both write and speak of their work. Creating a new Minecraft world starts children with a blank slate, so stories can build up over time.

Research (Tutorials & How-to Guides): Minecraft does not come with game instructions. Instead, players start the game right in the thick of things. The only directions they are given is how to move and how to jump. Players must learn to play on their own. This usually leads to searching for YouTube videos, wiki guides online, and how-to books in stores. Many written materials are written for levels beyond elementary, but players are motivated to push forward and learn. Players will also seek out friends who can help with new ideas, tips, and tricks for the game.

Analyzing: Players must analyze situations and react appropriately, whether it’s a plan of attack, how to make a machine work, or how to add detail to a build. Some players learn to code or modify the game to suit their needs and ideas. A lack of instructions often forces players to seek solutions and rework their methods until things work correctly. Again, players will seek answers from a variety of sources. They will also create new objects or contraptions to share with others.

Creation of New Media: Players jump on the bandwagon with their own creations: they showcase their work via videos, write discussion posts online and create user guides, or they simply create audio podcasts. Many want to emulate their favorite media stars. For example, a 12 year old wrote a Minecraft Recipes for Dummies book! Players also create their own fictional pieces based on ideas from the game. Players who create and share are adding to the multitude of resources available about the game.

So the next time your child logs into Minecraft to play, sit down with them and talk to them about what’s going on in their game. Teach a younger child how to play the game, or, better yet, learn how to play the game yourself! You’ll be surprised at what you can do with Minecraft!

Advertisements

Minecraft: Cityscapers is a Go!

Yesterday, I held the second meeting of Minecraft: Cityscapers. I have changed things around this year with running a club in general. I took a max of 20 kids, due to space and licensing issues, but also because it makes management and grouping a lot easier. I had students fill out interest forms, and then drew names from a bucket, taking 20 students. I knew there would be many unhappy students, but with my distance from the school, once a week is all I can really do for meetings.

This year, I have also developed more of a curriculum and lesson. I knew I would need general lessons before we started on the main goal of the club, which is to build a gigantic city. I prepared a Google Classroom for this task. I wrote up a basic lesson format for club meetings. It’s not strict or lengthy, but it is flexible and follows a set pattern:

  • Take attendance
  • Review previous week
  • Lesson
  • Google Classroom instructions
  • Minecraft
  • Google Classroom reflection question

I planned out my basic introduction for the first meeting, which was similar to that of my workshops – build a realistic home. I wanted to see building skills. We wouldn’t really start anything new that meeting because it would be hectic enough getting everything started and going.

Well, I was certainly right. Things did not go as planned, and they were rough. Because I didn’t assign the students seats right off, I couldn’t log them into their computers. Instead, I waited until they arrived to log in. That wasn’t a problem, but the issue came signing into Minecraft. For whatever reason, the school computers have issues signing into an account. It seems to get worse after school lets out. We avoided this issue last year with a shared account, since so many students were in the club and were coming every other week.

That issue probably created more chaos than I would have liked. We did what we could, but only 10 of the students were able to be on at a time because the rest of the accounts wouldn’t log in. It was not a happy time, but we made it through. I had written down where each student had sat, so I knew I’d be able to log them in before the club meeting the next time and hopefully avoid this issue, just as I had last year.

In addition, I had a couple of students who wanted to test my expectations. I wasn’t happy, but knew I’d need to stick to my guns on this one. After the meeting, I developed a Code of Honor for the club. It’s basically just a fancy title for the club expectations, and the students sign at the bottom. It lists the consequences of not following, and repeatedly not following means being kicked out of the club. I don’t want to have to ever do it, but I want the students to know that they have consequences for their actions.

I did my usual planning for the next lesson, and began laying out the activities for the topic of the meeting: color theory. The day of the meeting, I decided to change the room we had been using. I had been using a lab, the same from last year’s club. While the layout of the computers was nice, it lacked a projector and a board to write on. I switched to a different lab instead so that I could project my work, and have the white board just in case.

With all of those things in place, I started the second meeting. Things went much more smoothly this time around. We took the attendance, I went over the Code of Honor, and then we settled in to work. I was amazing that the students stayed on task so well, and they worked very hard. We were able to pretty much finish everything we had started that day. Some of the students asked if they could free build sometime, so I have decided to work that into our meetings as well.

Check out some of our work from yesterday:

When we don’t have club days, I leave the server open to the students. Only about 4 students have personal accounts, and they like to get on and build. This is fine with me. I logged in last night to check on the day’s work and to take images for documentation. One of the students happened to be on, and he wanted to show me his work. He told me his plans and ideas. Everything came from his imagination, and he thought it was easy for anyone to do. He soon had to log off, and so I took screenshots of the things that had been built on free time. Our chat gave me a glimpse into the student’s head, and if anything were to ever arise, there are always chat logs kept on the server.

I am now thinking ahead to the next meeting. I am thinking about starting shapes, but I also think I want to explore color some more, and so may also work with color palette selection to add to what they’ve already done. I will think some more on it before deciding for certain.

In the meantime, check out some of the free build work:

Minecraft with a 5 Year Old: Round 2

A lot of folks really enjoyed the last time that I posted about playing Minecraft with a 5 Year Old, so I thought I’d continue with another update on what Reed and I have been up to since the last time.

Reed and I have not often been in the world together much since the last time, as we have different schedules, and he had trouble going down for his afternoon nap/rest the last time he played at my mom’s with me in the world. We took a break, but Reed got to try again today and did much better.

Prior to this, he had not often built much on his own when it was just him in world. He would make a building here and there, or add some interior touches, but it wasn’t much. With him earning the chance to try again with me in the world at the same time, I knew I wanted to get a lot accomplished.

Someone asked me last time how we decide what to build in our world. Mostly, I lay out the foundation for the buildings and begin building up. Sometimes I leave the interior unfurnished and let Reed have fun with that. Other times, I finish the entire build on my own. Below are some examples of Reed’s interior decorating:

Today it was more of a tag team effort. I would lay the foundation and begin the walls. I wanted to see how well Reed could follow a design and continue patterns, a skill I knew he’d need for kindergarten. I would start the layers and he would find the block and continue building what I had started. He was able to figure out how tall the pattern needed to be as well. Mind you, he and I have no way to talk at this point in time, so he was watching what I had done and then continuing the work on his own.

IMG_0053

Here’s an example of Reed completing patterns I would start. I would start the layer and he would finish, doubling the layer if needed.

Reed still liked doing the interiors, and sometimes he’d pop inside to add his own creations. We didn’t work on those much for the most part, as I wanted to build as many new buildings as we could make in the time we had, which was about an hour together. I know he’ll work on them on his own time later, and I leave those to him. I have noticed him using some of the skills that he’s picked up from me. There are times when I put in floor and destroy one layer of blocks to add in the colored floor blocks. He’s been doing that. Another time, the door was one block too high, and on his own he found the stair blocks and placed one so that it was easy to climb to the door.

IMG_0052

Reed’s solution to the door problem.

There was one particular building where I laid a foundation and Reed immediately had an idea and began the second layer. I followed him with the next layer in the pattern, and we continued building up and up until he seemed satisfied and I added the roof on top.

I always love laying out the pathways, lighting, and benches between the buildings, so I have plenty to work on now and add to so that our little city is easier to navigate. Since it’s Friday, Reed will get a chance to play with me this evening again, so we’ll see what he does. I’m going to keep making random foundations, and this time I believe that I will keep making them and see if he takes over building up and designing.

Here are the updated images of our city, currently dubbed “RayReedville”. It has grown quite a bit since you last saw it!

Do you have something you’d like to challenge Reed and I to add to our city? Comment below!

Minecraft With a 5 Year Old

As many of you know, Minecraft is a passion of mine, and one way I connect with students. I lead workshops on building and design, and am always improving. I also love playing to relax because I can control my world and be creative.

19441798_805232992975519_4683765240574056998_o

Reed and I, June 2017

Meet Reed. Reed turned 5 in February of this year. I had been wanting to teach him Minecraft, and 5 became the magic number. I came home to visit family the very next month, and spent some time with Reed. We booted up Minecraft PE on my iPad, and Reed was off. He did what all kids are apt to do when they first begin to play: blow stuff up with TNT and set fire to the world. Yes, he just wanted to watch the world burn.

He loved the game so much that he wanted to buy it for his tablet. His mom told him he would have to save up the money to buy it. He had a joint birthday party with his brother that weekend, and he was adamant that he would get enough to buy the game. Sure enough, he stuck by my side at the party, and any time he got money, he would ask if it was enough to buy Minecraft. He easily earned his money, and was happy to buy the game.

Reed learned to play Minecraft on his own from that point. He had help from his mom, and he sometimes watched YouTube videos as well. He apparently loves Stampy Cat, and I made sure to tell his mom that pretty much any Minecraft video is safe for young eyes. He loves to try to build things he sees. He would build houses, and one time he played with the railway tracks.

He also had a lot of help from an older daycare boy named Caden. Caden is heading into the 6th grade now, but he came to daycare once a week. He and Reed would play on a LAN world, and Caden would help Reed learn to create or find the tools he needed to build. Caden gave Reed someone to look up to, and someone to ask about Minecraft things when he couldn’t talk to me or his mom didn’t know.

Reed also knew that I was coming home to visit in June, and that I would play Minecraft with him. He was excited to play with his “Ray Ray”, and I was ready to introduce him to Realms. I wanted to be able to build with Reed, and now that I knew he was hooked on playing and building, it seemed perfect. It would be our way to keep in touch while I was so far away. We’re separated by about 3 hours of car travel (give or take), so we don’t often get to see each other.

For those unfamiliar, Realms is a simple server setup where players can get together to build. I purchased the 2 player model because it was only for Reed and I. During my visit, I introduced him to the world and the ground rules- no destroying other people’s hard work and no TNT. We began building while I was there for a brief period, and Reed loved that he could play with Ray Ray and make cool stuff.

After I went home, Reed was eager for me to build in the world. When I finally started, he loved finding the stuff I made. He flap his hands in joy, would look around, and then build new things to add to our little world. I am pretty sure his mom is learning little by little as well, since I know Reed isn’t the one spelling on the signs!

The first time I built something, I was unable to finish it. I left it for later. Imagine my surprise when I logged back in that evening, only to find that Reed had finished it for me! At first I was caught off guard, but then I thought about it from his point of view. He got to finish something that Ray Ray started, and he got to decorate it and put up signs.

With that thought in mind, I began another building, again leaving it unfinished. I am curious to see how Reed will finish it. I left a sign telling him to do what he wanted to finish it. I plan to build some other things today that I will finish. I may also start leaving signs giving Reed build challenges to see what he can come up with. I want his creativity sparked and I want to see how he approaches building. So many kids lose their creativity as the years go by, and I don’t want that to happen to him.

I am learning to just let my imagination fly wild. I am not the best builder, and on the fly building is new for me. I’m used to planning or attempting to build things I see. But Reed doesn’t care about any of that. He only cares that his Ray Ray is adding to the world and making things, just like he is. He doesn’t care that a building isn’t perfect, or that the roof is flat. He doesn’t care what materials he uses. He just wants to have fun and build.

This is our world so far:

We have built houses for each of us, and then Reed turned the one building into both a church and office. I added in the pathways and lighting to go from building to building. Some of the buildings are for animals I believe. I’m not sure. Knowing Reed, there’s a story behind each thing he’s built. I may have to see about capturing some of his ideas later on.

We should all be more creative, and just let our imaginations run free. We should build what we like and share the ideas and stories behind them. We should all be more like Reed!

 

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 5

And we are now at the end of the first year of Lil’ Minecrafters. This week with the kids has certainly been quite the experience, and I’ve definitely learned a lot about teaching Minecraft to rising 1st and 2nd graders. I am ready to revamp the workshop to better suit the needs of these students, and potentially add in some new building challenges, too. I will definitely need to take some time to think on what I want to do and how to make the workshop better. I do plan to offer it again next year!

Today was a pretty easy day for students, as far as planning went. They needed to work on their final project builds. This meant finishing their farmhouse, beginning their barns, and adding in crops, paths, and other bits of landscaping if time remained. We also had plans to practice our song for our performance when the parents came.

The students worked really well, and some of my students that had had trouble all week were finally getting the hang of basic building, and able to work for longer periods on their own. I was very proud of these students. They did not realize that they were having difficulties, but I could see they were.

Most students finished the barn and farmhouse. A few were able to put in their crops. Had we had more time, I’m sure they would have been able to do this. Some of my students took on a helper role with their classmates, which I was pleased to see. I love when it just happens naturally.

At 11:30, parents started rolling in and viewing the students’ handiwork. Impressed is a definite understatement here. They were amazed by what the students had built, and could not believe it. They were surprised to see that the buildings looked like buildings, even having the variety of shapes and a triangular roof! I have never heard such high praise, and did not get this level of high praise during my other workshops. They were that amazed. They loved when the students performed “Going on a Diamond Hunt” and many took video of the performance.

The kids hated to leave at noon, and wanted to stay and build. I had to gently kick some out so I could take the rest of my kids to the pickup area. I gave high fives and shook hands as they left.

Overall, a very successful class, and a great learning experience. I plan to bring this course back next summer. I’ve hit on something and I feel that these kids would love to once again explore in Minecraft. One of my colleagues is going to begin developing another course for this age level so that there will be another offering for the young ones next year.

Want to learn how to do “Going on a Diamond Hunt” with your young ones? Check the link here.

Here are the final pictures from today’s work:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 4

We’re almost finished, and still learning a lot! Tomorrow is the last day, and it’s easy to see how much the students have grown from Day 1 to Day 4. I cannot wait to show their work to their parents, as well as perform the Going on a Diamond Hunt song that we’ve been practicing.

Our day began with morning meeting and laying out the game plan for the day. Students would be given time to work on their barn designs from yesterday. Many had not finished their roof. Students who finished early would be taken back to the village near spawn point, and asked to build something that could be added to the village. This meant they had to use stone and wooden blocks, which gave me an idea.

I had had students who loved the brightly colored wools, and loved to use it for their homes. It made for some nice houses, but I wanted them to try the stones and woods as well. Before their final project, I showed them how they could have colored inside walls and stone/wooden outside walls. This was a good compromise, and they loved it.

The final project was introduced: Project Farm. Students would need to build a farmhouse (adding 2 villagers when finished), a barn (adding 6 animals when finished), create fields with 2 kinds of crops, and then add paths, flowers, and trees if time.

First we had to plan their house design, so next door we went with graph paper and pencils. Students were instructed to design their house, making sure they had at least 2 rooms in it. These rooms should be marked and labeled on the graph paper. They were free to decorate them as they wished once the house was built.

I had spent time block off spaces for each student so that they were together in the same area, but had their own separate spaces for building. I counted the blocks out for the first 2 spaces so I would have something to eyeball, and then the other spaces were made to look about as wide and tall as the counted ones. Each student was teleported to one of the areas. They began building the house they had designed. I saw many of them using the wool/wood layering I had showed them earlier, and I was pleased. Most students were on task, and working away.

While they worked, I quickly built a sky road that moved back and over the first village, and then back to spawn point. We were further out than we had been before, and I wanted students to be able to get back to our final project area without me always having to teleport them. A few students got to test this road out, and found it worked well. It will definitely make it easier tomorrow for students to travel the land and show their parents their work.

Since the students had been doing well with the things I’d already shown them, this time I showed them how to hide lighting in their homes. It’s only one method, but it can make a big difference. I showed them how to hide glowstone blocks in the floor, and then place carpet over top of each one. They can use the carpeting as a rug, and light is emitted through the carpet at night. No messy torches, no easily seen lights, but a pretty cool effect. I had quite a few ask me to show them again. One of my boys was making his entire floor out of glowstone, so getting him to use carpet over everything but where the furniture was placed was my way of compromising.

Hopefully tomorrow morning they can finish their entire project before their families come to see their work. I’m sure some definitely won’t, but I’m hoping that the majority will. I hope they can see the progress in learning like I can!

Shots from today’s work:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 3

We are now finished Day 3, and only 2 days remain. The majority of the remaining time will focus on their final projects. I am loving the progress I have seen so far from these students. Compared to the work from the first day, these students are learning in leaps and bounds. They are more confident with the game, and their building has improved.

During the morning meeting, I showcased some designs I had made before in Minecraft. These were drawn in a graphing composition book. Usually I made the design layout, built it in Minecraft, and then colored in the design with colored pens once I had made it in Minecraft. They thought it was really neat. Plus, I had already told them that if they continued on next year with Matics that they would be using graph paper once again to plan a design.

We began today with discussing layering and depth. I had already built a plain wall in Minecraft with some andesite. I also had laid out different stone blocks, slabs, and stairs, as well as the quartz. I showed students what I could do with some columns and stairs in between. They were amazed. I then did a different design on the back. We talked about what made the wall better with the changes.

For this challenge, I only let the students use stone blocks, as they were apt to choose colored wool, mined ore blocks, and the like. I wanted them to be able to use stairs. They were asked to build a wall that was 5 blocks tall and 10 blocks long. To my surprise, they could do this pretty easily. I only had a couple of students that needed assistance. They chose their basic block for the wall, and then they used the other blocks to layer the wall. Some did really cool designs and others just experimented to see what they could come up with. In the end, there were no plain walls.

Our next challenge was to design and build a barn. We first looked at examples of barns, both in Minecraft and in the real world. We talked about colors and purpose. The students were to be tasked to build a barn that would house 3 animals. They had to use the skills they’d already acquired this week in their work. With this in mind, we headed next door to draw our layout.

Today I took their design process one step further. After we designed the outer wall, we then looked at the inside. I demonstrated marking off an area for my horse and my chickens, as well as a place to store their items. I asked the students to do the same with their barn, making sure they could show me the space for the animals they were going to put there. They wrote in the names of the animals or marked down a fenced in area.

Once back in the computer lab, they began designing their barn. I forced them to use only certain colors in their outer design, as I have many who just love to pick random blocks. They could use red, white, brown (wood), or black blocks. They worked on their own, and once they had completed the building I helped them spawn in their 3 animals. They were not allowed to have the animals until this was done, and I had to watch them do the spawning.

We did not get this completely finished, but we are almost done. It was a good stopping point for today, and tomorrow I will give them time to finish up before moving on.

We are going to begin their final project build at some point tomorrow morning. They will need to design a home, a barn, space for 3 kinds of animals, include some crops, and pathways to connect everything. We will design each piece step by step on graph paper, as I don’t want it to be super overwhelming. The house will be first, then the barn, then the animals, then the crops and pathways. They will finish up the remaining work on Friday before the parent presentation at 11:30.

Here are some progress shots from today: