As I walked into my classroom this afternoon at the end of lunch, I saw three boys on the carpet at the front of the room dancing and giving each other high fives. There was also an excited chatter throughout the classroom. As I went over to ask the boys what all of the excitement was all about, I heard the word, MINECRAFT. The students had read the learning goal and success criteria for our Science project that I was going to tell them about the following period. (I was excited that they were reading my anchor charts while they were eating their lunch, who knew?)
What is it about this game that has young and old, girls and boys so obsessed over? I have students playing it outside during recess, I have kids in my class that will do ANYTHING just for the chance to play it for 10 minutes on our iPads. (Do you have reluctant writers? Give them 10 minutes on Minecraft and have them write about their adventure. I guarantee the writers' block will disappear.) Heck, my 7 year old son sleeps with a stuffed creeper that he has named Creepy and creates things with cardboard cutouts that look like Minecraft pieces.
This past year I have dabbled with Minecraft on our iPads at school. It took a matter of seconds for my class to notice that Minecraft had been downloaded on our 20 iPads.
Like every other app on our iPads, I wanted their to be a purpose for downloading it. Besides it being entertaining, fun and to be thought of as the "coolest teacher" for downloading it and letting them play Minecraft at school. Minecraft had to have educational value. I had to be able to tie it into the curriculum. I did some searching on the Internet, went to a few sessions at conferences about Minecraft, bombarded my son and husband with question and learned about the game.
So far this year, we have incorporated Minecraft into the following:
1. In science, students had to design and build a strong and stable structure over a lava river in Minecraft.
2. To conclude our Early Settlers Inquiry in Social Studies, students were asked to create a replica of a home or town that resembles what they had learned during the unit.
3. For a literacy component, students were asked to create a replica of our school with a group of 4 other students. The tricky part was that the students were only allowed to communicate by using the messaging option in Minecraft. My room is usually pretty noisy and you could hear a pin drop during this activity!
4. Our current Science Inquiry about Soil that students have to identify and describe the different types of soil. (I had a couple of students ask if they could do it at home for homework. I bet I wouldn't have had that question if I asked them to create a diagram on paper.)
If you have not used Minecraft in your classroom before, I encourage you to try it. It is like Christmas morning every time I tell my students that we are going to use Minecraft. There is dancing, smiling, cheering and lots and lots of learning! If you are using Minecraft in your classroom, I would love to hear how you are using it.