March 24, 2021 | language arts, Literacy, Max Brooks, Minecraft: Education Edition, Reading, Writing
Washed up on the shore of an unfamiliar land, cold, hungry, and alone, what adventures can you imagine? Where would you go? What would your first task be? You see a stranger in the distance. Are they a friend or foe? Minecraft: The Mountain, the new novel by bestselling author Max Brooks, challenges readers and Minecraft players to imagine the danger and excitement of exactly that scenario. To celebrate, we’re releasing a new world and five lessons for Minecraft: Education Edition that are focused on exploration, problem-solving, and writing skills.
In Brooks’ follow-up to the New York Times bestselling novel Minecraft: The Island, the explorer has left the safety of the island and finds themself wandering a vast, icy tundra. Is there anything out here? Did they do the right thing by leaving the island? Should they give up and go back? So many questions and no time to ponder—not when dark is falling and dangerous mobs are on the horizon.
Gurgling zombies and snarling wolves lurk in the night, and they’re closing in. With nowhere to hide, the lone traveler flees up a mountain, trapped and out of options… until a mysterious figure arrives, singlehandedly fighting off the horde. The unexpected savior is Summer, a fellow castaway and master of survival in these frozen wastes.
Excited to find another person in this strange, blocky world, the explorer teams up with Summer, whose impressive mountain fortress is a safe haven… for now! But teamwork is a new skill for two people used to working alone. If they want to make it home, they’ll have to learn to work together—or risk losing everything.
If that sounds exciting to your students, imagine how thrilled they’ll be to enter the world of The Mountain in Minecraft! The new, custom-built Minecraft map by Blockception features locations and adventures from the novel. It’s also the setting for five standards-aligned lessons created by Phygital Labs that offer unique writing opportunities to use in conjunction with reading The Mountain. Students will begin their journey in a hostile landscape, prepare to spend the night in the wild, explore a secret base, make their way to the Nether, and ultimately learn valuable lessons about friendship and community.
As an introduction to the novel and this epic new world, students are invited to attend a virtual Q&A on March 25 with Max Brooks himself! He’ll speak about the inspiration behind The Mountain and answer questions from your learners. Then the Minecraft: Education Edition team will take the group through the world and show off some of the amazing locations students can explore. Register now for these free sessions at 9:00 AM PT and 4:00 PM PT.
You’ll find all five activities for Minecraft: The Mountain along with detailed lesson plans in the Language Arts Subject Kit. Let’s take a look at the lessons!
Students spawn on the beach. They’re surrounded by fallen arrows and darkness, a little woozy after arriving in this world. A non-player character (NPC) greets them and explains that they must journey to the mountain to find safety. But first, they need to get ready for a perilous journey. Students gather materials from the beach and place them in their inventory to prepare for travel, selecting from various elements they find on the beach. Learners reflect on the materials they selected, why they’re important, and how versatile they might be, then take a screenshot of their inventory and use explanatory writing to describe their decisions.
Students travel from the beach, following a trail toward the mountain. They’re stopped by another NPC who says they have too far to travel today, so they should build a shelter for the night to escape the creatures that emerge. There are supplies nearby to help build a safe haven for the night. Learners will attempt to travel to the next NPC, but before they can reach it, the snow collapses, and they fall through a chasm to a cave below. There they’ll find a hidden cave and begin rebuilding its hideaway using the supplies and materials they find. Once their work is complete, they design a real estate advertisement for their hiding place, including photos, descriptions of defensive elements, and an outline of how the shelter could help someone survive. Students practice persuasive writing for their advertising campaigns and design their final product.
Following the trail, students finally arrive at the entrance to the mountain and enter Summer’s base. They’re greeted by an NPC who helps them find the doors. Once inside, another NPC greets them with additional supplies, including the book and quill and camera and portfolio. Students will explore the home and look for examples of Redstone engineering or Netherite in use. They’ll write an explanation of how they created an item and why it works in the game. Learners then use design thinking and reverse engineering to improve Summer’s designs, explaining what they’ve changed and how they’ve improved things through expository writing.
It’s time for the final showdown! Students will enter the Nether, where they’re greeted by an NPC who tells them that hoglins and piglins have captured a variety of animals and stashed them around the biome. Their mission is to save these unfortunate creatures! Learners solve challenges to save the animals and lead them back to the portal. After completing the challenges, students use the book and quill to write a personal reflection about how they used each element to complete their tasks. They’ll engage in personal narrative writing to explain how they employed planning, preparation, priorities, practice, patience, and perseverance to finish the challenges and ultimately conquer tough situations.
In this lesson, students explore the rest of the world and find additional hidden features. They use the camera and portfolio to make a digital memory book of five or more of the friendship lessons—the “fressons” they’ve learned throughout the book—by reenacting the scenes with a classmate. Learners can use signs, examples they build, or the environment to showcase each fresson. They’ll capture each scene using the camera and add a caption with the fresson below. Students can then save their portfolios and submit them as their assignments. If multiplayer isn’t available for your learners, they can use an NPC to stand in as a friend or find a separate way to represent the fresson without a partner.
The Minecraft: The Mountain map offers students the chance to explore the exciting world behind the novel and flex their own creative writing muscles. Through developing their writing skills, there’s no telling what landscapes your learners might conjure up, what characters they’ll create, and what adventures they’ll imagine through the power of the pen. Enter the world of Minecraft: The Mountain to help them take their first steps!
All of these lessons are available in the Language Arts Subject Kit for Minecraft: Education Edition. This kit is packed with opportunities for literary learning and creative writing, as well as resources and training for teachers. If you’re new to Minecraft: Education Edition, begin your own journey at education.minecraft.net/get-started.
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