Mining For Deeper Understanding – Our OTF – TLC Journey with Minecraft

This blog post is long overdue.  Last year I had applied for a TLC Grant through OTF to explore the use of Minecraft further with second language classrooms.  This year I am finding myself in a new role, as the Languages Consultant for our board, which has been a HUGE learning curve for me, to say the least.  It is a good challenge and has pushed me out of my comfort zone for sure, and I know I will be learning a lot through this new adventure.  With undertaking this new role, I had to restructure the project a bit before we got started.  This is what we decided to do.

During this project we are going to explore the use of Minecraft to support French as a Second Language programs (both Core and Immersion).  
fullsizerender

 

Minecraft is a game where students can create, explore and discover.  

 

It is a tool that can provide context around which students will communicate, it provides a platform where they can demonstrate their learning and collaborate with their peers.  Minecraft, by default, requires strong spatial reasoning skills, thus yielding Math as the fundamental tool that supports language.  It also draws immediately off of student interest as it is a game that many students are passionate about. 7-enduring-ideas

 

We can use Minecraft in our language classrooms and set-up tasks for our students that clearly support the 7 enduring ideas.  Minecraft becomes a tool that we use in our classrooms to set up authentic situations in which our students need to communicate.  We can also use it as a new way for students to practice or demonstrate their understanding of a learned concept. See my previous blog post where students created mazes to practice directions en français. When students use the language while building to share their experiences with their peers, they are naturally speaking and listening in a context that is familiar to them.  When they are building they are adding signs for a purpose in the target language and when they ‘play’ one another’s mazes they are reading the signs to find their way through.  In these ways the strands are interconnected but distinct.

 

 

  

Since that post, we have also explored the cultural connections.  Why not allow our students to watch Minecraft Vlogs created by children from Francophone countries to support listening.   Talk about authentic!  This is the world that many of our students live in.  This is what is authentic to them, at their age, and at their interest.  They are watching ‘youtubers’ sharing videos about Minecraft in their first language.  They are playing these virtual games.  So why don’t we find ways to integrate them into class to peak student interest.   Why don’t we explore the similarities and differences between the types of dwellings we live in here in Canada and those from different countries such as France, Rwanda, Haiti, etc.  What if our students were responsible for finding the information and sharing what they learned by recreating the dwelling in Minecraft and presenting/discussing it with their peers?  Because it is open world game where students are encouraged to be creative, we can structure our tasks in ways that promote critical thinking and problem solving to support the second language learning.  

 

That is our job as teachers as we prepare and plan our lessons to use this tool (and what we will explore in collaboration together).  We need to be asking ourselves questions such as:

 

  • What are the curriculum connections I am starting with?
  • What am I asking students to do for this task?
  • Is there more than one solution to the task?  
  • How am I using this tool to get students communicating?  
  • Is there a natural link to culture that I could capitalize on?
  • Is the technology taking too much time? How do I find the balance?

For our project, we are fortunate to have a great group of 6 of teachers.  Everyone comes to the table with varied levels of experience with Minecraft.  We have 3 who teach core French, 2 who teach French Immersion and myself.  

Our project goals are to:

  • Collaborate and co-create tasks that we will use in class with our students
  • Complete activities/tasks with students
  • Reflect on activities once completed
  • Determine benefits, challenges and next steps

 

We will be sharing our journey (challenges, solutions and successes) through this project as it develops over the course of the year.  We hope that we can inspire even 1 more person to take a crazy risk with us and try something different in our second language classrooms.  

 

Hopefully you will find our reflections useful.  🙂

4 Responses

  1. Hey, fellow teacher here who got sick of not much ESL stuff available for Minecraft. I started developing a multi-world system dedicated to teaching everything from reading English letters to basic English sentences to Advanced and even Jobs related English. I started not long before you posted this, found it randomly while searching for ideas. I could use more teachers, ideas, game-inside-minecraft ideas, developers, everything. Definitely need more people who can see the usefulness of this and can help out with making the worlds interesting and exciting and stuff. I’ve got an 1.11 spigot server and a Discord group for it with other teachers, some Java coders, and a new, very basic website I just set up a few days ago!

    • that is awesome to hear! I wish we had access to Minecraft Edu as I think the possibilities are even greater with it, however it is just not a reality for us. Would love to connect to share more ideas. I know we have some teachers with great ideas and you are right, sharing and creating a network to learn from one another is the best resource. Would love to hear more about your website and your group. 🙂 shoot me an email: Myria.mallette@lkdsb.com

  2. Rachelle Reynolds

    I love this idea! After some discussion and planning with Intermediate FSL students, I decided to try something related to this. Minecraft is not an approved app in SCDSB so the students who wish to use it for our unit will use personal devices. Others decided to do 3D models. But it is a good start for me I think. So the students will choose a francophone country and then teach classmates about it by recreating parts of it (landmarks) in minecraft or with models. I am developing a set of functional language to focus on in our speaking activities. Any suggestions? Do you think this is a good start?

    • Hi Rachelle! I think this is a great idea! I think students will be engaged and will be interested in learning about the different landmarks. I would suggest establishing with your students what it means to use Minecraft or to build during French class as to establish good routines and practice. I recommend reading our post on the Challenges and Successes we have seen. this post also addresses some possible solutions to challenges we have met. We also found it very helpful to work with the students on building vocabulary that they could use to talk while building and posting an anchor chart with these words or expressions for students to access while building. For example, ‘Regardez…, C’est le…., J’ai construit…, Qu’est-ce que tu as fait? etc’. Check out some of our other posts as well for ideas and strategies that have and haven’t worked. My biggest recommendation with it all is take it slow, so that students can work towards acquiring the language that you want them to acquire throughout the process and with practice in a variety of situations. The more the students get to practice, the better the language acquisition. With regards to the landmarks, if presenting and learning in French, I highly recommend modeling it significantly and giving students ‘earned’ building time. When they have completed certain tasks or met certain milestones, they then earn some time towards the build, all the while working on the language every day because the thing the students need to remember its about learning the language, not ‘playing’ with Minecraft. Minecraft is just another way for them to demonstrate their learning, in a way that is fun and engaging to many of them. I hope that helps. Feel free to email me or message me on twitter with any other questions. I would also love to hear about how it goes for you along the way and to hear about your reflections on it all when its done. 🙂 M

Leave a Reply