A few months ago I read Brian Aspinall’s Block Breaker, and I knew I wanted to try a project using Minecraft with my Grade 2 class. Had I ever played Minecraft before? Nope. Did that ultimately matter? Not even a little. Though I had next to no experience with Minecraft, I knew that at least some of my students did, and I trusted that we would be able to muddle through it together.
What I did do was make sure my project purpose and expectations were very clear.
#1 – They will build one of the three Canadian communities we’ve been studying in Social Studies. It must illustrate their knowledge of the landscape, natural resources, goods and services within their Minecraft build.
#2 – I have NO idea how to use Minecraft. If they need help, they will need to help each other.
And then they were off.
Because this was a culminating project, students were able to review and acquire all of the information they needed to begin immediately and independently. I spent most of my time observing the students. I It was fascinating. It instantly became obvious that my class began the project possessing three levels of Minecraft experience:
- “Ms.J, what’s Minecraft?”
Out of sheer habit, the “2”s and “3”s kept on asking me for help. Poor little things; it was like they were banging their heads against a brick wall with me. It literally took them the first full class of working on our project before they fully realized that I actually was useless to them for their Minecraft questions.
And so began the rise of the “1”s.
The capacity that they created in such an incredibly short amount of time was truly amazing. Our class became incredibly efficient within about two days. Questions were being answered by a steadily increasing number of students. Ideas were flowing freely. Our projects were really coming to life.
Compared to it’s typical “pencil and paper” counterpart, the quantity and quality of soft skills that I saw being used and developed during this Minecraft project was inspiring. They were hugely motivated to show what they know about the communities they were building using this program. I constantly saw self-directed communication, collaboration and teamwork between students. When they were chatting and working away, they’d share their creativity and ideas which would motivate others. My students who normally struggle with resiliency overcame frustration to continue persevering. Everyone had to test their critical thinking to problem solve at least several times throughout the project. The passion they showed for this task was truly amazing. And by interacting with Minecraft, the purpose of the project (building a Canadian community complete with several of its geographical features, natural resources, goods and services) was deeply understood by students even more than I could have hoped.
Here is some feedback from some of my Grade 2 students after we had finished our Minecraft project:
Lexi: “I liked how it really made me think about how to make Meteghan look like how it’s supposed to look.”
Kendall: “I liked to see what you could do with all the blocks and you could create cool things. It helped me learn more about Iqaluit because I could see what it looked like and I could feel like I was actually there.”
Jensen: “I like that I got to play Minecraft. It didn’t really feel like I was working. It helped me learn more about Meteghan bc I had to go on Google for a virtual field trip which gave us details about Meteghan so I could try to build it in Minecraft.”
Rowan: “I thought the Minecraft project was awesome because there were a whole bunch of cool stuff to do like to build the hospital. It helped me remember more about Saskatoon because I kept building things and it kept reminding me of things I needed to do there.”
I look very forward to trying Minecraft again in my classroom. Watching my students so engaged with it made me excited to think about other possible projects to enhance their learning. My recommendation for those who are debating using Minecraft in their classroom? Find purpose, and then just do it!
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