Monthly Archives: November 2015

Making It Real in Minecraft

For those that know me Minecraft is a big part of my classroom.  It is an engaging tool I use with my students to not only to reinforce concepts, but also showcase their learning in classes like math, language arts, science and more.

Funny enough, I was recently in a webinar where I listened someone talking about using Minecraft in the classroom.  Going into this webinar, I was quite proud of what my students were doing with this program in class.  As the speaker went on though, I started feeling kind of bad about the kinds of things I had my students doing.  According to what the speaker shared, the kinds of projects I was doing only tap-danced on the surface of what this program was able to do.  These kinds of projects were only superficial and I wasn’t using the program to its fullest potential.  I honestly walked out of the webinar going okay, I need to reflect and looking at using it better.

I guess for me the thing is that I work with primary – I work with the littles.  I honestly think what my kids are doing with Minecraft rocks.  Last year’s class created a new zoo for Ivan and Ruby from the “The One and Only Ivan”, they recreated the White House, the Golden Gate bridge, they made Array cities to showcase their understanding of multiplication.  Then this year’s class has only been working with the program for a little over a month and they have made fraction towers in math and houses to suit characters from their independent reading novels.  They are learning – how to mine and use this program, how to build and create so that the vision they have in their head comes to life.  They are learning to collaborate and compromise so that everyones’ ideas play a part.  They are learning to problem solve – when they want to build a piece and it just won’t work, how are they going to figure that out.  The funny thing is Minecraft is helping hone these important skills.  Perseverance is a word we use quite often in my classroom and funny enough, this is not an issue when it comes to building in Minecraft. And every thing my students create they are so excited and proud of themselves for the work they have done.  So you know, I am not going to negate that because one person said this is not enough.

The amazing thing as well is that they are using this program, in my opinion, to a great potential. Recently I gave them the following real world problem. There is a new school being built soon in our school district.  I asked them to be part of a design team and design how they think this new school should look. They needed to decide what would the focus be on this new school and create it.  The next step was a Dragon’s Den style presentation where the teams would present their design ideas to judges.  The thing is the judges are going to be the actual principal of this new school, a school  design planner from our district, and a Minecraft expert from our IT department.  The teams will get a chance to “sell” their designs to these judges.  Now how more real can that get?

So to those people who are just starting out on their own Minecraft journey, I am going to give the following advice – its okay to start where you are comfortable. We are all at different spots in our journey in Minecraft and trust me, there are some amazing people doing some amazing things.  It’s easy to get intimidated and convince yourself you aren’t ready to use this because you aren’t as good as this person or that person and what they are doing.  I was there myself not too long ago.  But what you need to remember is that we all started somewhere and if your start is one small, simple project then trust me, your kids will be excited and overjoyed. Minecraft has so much potential in the classroom, its up to you to take that chance and let your students prove to you what they can do once you give them that opportunity.

As for me, like I shared, I can’t wait to see what happens with my littles and their school design project.  I am also excited to see what comes in the new year in my own Minecraft journey.

Dear Global Readaloud

Dear Global Readaloud, 

You may not know it but for the past 3 years we have had this quiet relationship that has been very enduring and important to me. I remember the day I first hear about you, it was about 2 1/2 years ago.  I had just tripped into this world of Twitter and while lurking in a Nerdy Book Club chat someone mentioned the amazing book choices for GRA that year. I was quite fascinated by this idea of using a book to connect my students to the world. So I immediately went and checked you out and signed up that year to read “Out of my Mind.” That year really taught me the power of a book – my students and I were so taken with Melody’s story – we cheered for her, were mad on her behalf and cried with her.  Not only did my class connect outside their classroom walls, inside we did too. The conversations we had really bonded us all. Even my parents commented on the power of that book that year. The connections my class made that year continued until long past the book ended. The teacher I connected with and I still talk two years later and it was because of you. 

A year later in a new school and a new grade my journey with you continued. This time it would be a tiny China rabbit named Edward that would be the character that would start my journey. The funny thing was I really questioned you that year. How would my students, a class of rough and tumble soccer loving boys, connect to a rabbit who wore a velvet suit jacket. Again you proved me wrong, they loved Edward and the characters he met on his journey. Funny enough they made their own version of the Ziggy Azelea song about Edward “He’s so fancy….and he doesn’t know, all the place he will go…” You proved to me that even my littles as I liked to call them, could see the power of a book. The blog posts my kids wrote that year showed me that. By the end of it all, I loved Edward as much as they did. As well during our connections my students found out so much from those they talked to. It was another year of moments to look back, smile and remember. 

This year, my third year in, was probably my most challenging. I was out of the classroom quite a bit during GRA. We had government exams and holidays that got in the way. Plus I made the mistake many make of making it not about the book, but about trying to do all these connections. I said yes to too many people, tried to juggle too many time zones and tried to take on too much.  Please know it wasn’t your fault – I got caught up in things that I shouldn’t of. And yes, I could blame you because my skype didn’t work, because my students didn’t get connect to padlets because of tech issues but really was that your fault? No…not at all. 

At the end of the day, Global  Readaloud is what I make of it. You do not decide how my experience wil go, only I can do that. And more importantly I think I should remember that it is about the connection I make with my students to that book and that character  that is really important.  I think maybe I lost that along the way because hey I was connecting to classes around the globe and wasn’t that amazing of me. Not one of my best moments I know, but that was on me, not you. 

So I hope you know that I understand that next year our relationship might change and I am okay with that. Change, while sometimes painful, is not a bad thing. While some may complain, I will only say that I look back on the memories I have from our time together and I smile. I look back at the things I’ve learned about my students, myself and I can only say thank you. Thank you for giving me all that you did and not asking anything in return other than to love the books as much as you do. I look forward to our future, whatever it may bring.