Classroom Management Tips from Minecraft Mentors

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Educators around the world are using Minecraft: Education Edition to teach concepts like coding, reimagining fairy tales, building habitable colonies on Mars and modeling renewable sources of energy. As educators begin to explore ways to use Minecraft to create richer and deeper learning experiences, we turned to some of Global Minecraft Mentors to garner tips on classroom management and creating a positive classroom culture when using game-based learning modalities in the classroom. Here are some of their tips. Join the conversation and let us know what works best for you.

#1 – Create a list of Classroom Community Guidelines with your students.
Inspired by the Minecraft group’s Jokaydia Community Charter Mentor, Trish Cloud, created the expectations below with her club. Providing students with the opportunity to understand and practice classroom community norms and help create those guidelines is a powerful way to set a good foundation when using digital tools. Additionally, your norms for a players in a Minecraft world should mirror your norms for students in the classroom. The disconnect may cause unnecessary confusion for students.

#2 – Take the time to prepare your world before you use it with your students.
Mentor Brett Smith, recommends preparing your worlds before students connect. For his science classes he adjusts the game settings, plans how he wants his students to work, establishes working spaces for them, and prepares his class groups offline. Think clearly about what you want your students to achieve and how the Minecraft world you will use serves this purpose. For additional settings consider using Minecraft: Education Edition’s Classroom Mode.

#3 – Support your online work with offline documentation/instructions and tasks.
Mentor Michele McColgan suggests having a paper copy of the activity instructions, math problems, questions, or prompts that students can use as an offline record to show their work. This helps in connecting the IRL classroom to the Minecraft Classroom. Another idea to reduce frustration and encourages collaboration is take a break every 30 minutes and ask students to share with the class one example of how they’re successfully completing the task and/or where they are struggling.

#4 – Build unstructured time into your lesson.
A number of mentors found that allowing students to have a portion of the class period just to play significantly reduces or eliminates negative behaviors during the lesson. These 5 to 10 minutes might also be rich with opportunities for teachable moments. An example of how to this could be a build challenge to unleash creativity in your students. Need some ideas? Check out our activities of the week.

#5 – Teach students how to play.
Just like with other learning activities, if a student does not know how to use the tools required to complete the learning task, then that student is more likely to misbehave and distract other students. Spending some time to make sure every student acquires the skills necessary to succeed will pay off, just like teaching students classroom routines. Mentor, Kristine Holloway recommends pairing novice players with experienced players to facilitate collaboration.

#6 – Create alternative assignments.
One way to reduce misbehavior is to develop assignments that accomplish the same learning goal but do not require Minecraft. This strategy is useful as a consequence for students who misbehave in the game, but it is also a useful tool for differentiation. Some students may not want to play Minecraft, so students can be offered a choice which will subsequently limit misbehavior.

#7 – Balance structured activities with choice.
Mentor, Mike Johnston notes that when working with a tool like Minecraft, it is important to let the game be a game to retain student engagement while maximizing the potential of the tool. This moves Minecraft from a gimmick to a legitimately enjoyable learning experience. However, there are times that teachers may want to assign a strict step-by-step process or place the students in a pre-built map. Balancing these activities with those in which students are offered more in-game choices and control over the learning experience will do wonders for student learning.

#8 – Use Classroom Mode.
Mentor Andrea Tolley suggests trying the companion application to M:EE. Classroom Mode offers teachers tools essential to managing a digital Minecraft class. Features include an overhead map of student locations, settings to adjust player damage, use of TNT, the cycle day and night, and changes to the game’s difficulty settings.

#9 – Try, Reflect, Reset.
These tips may or may not work for your classroom. Be open to trying different strategies for management and eventually you’ll find what works for you and your students. Just like teaching anything else, it may take some trial and error before you find the solutions that work best for you and your students.

What tips of your own would you add to this list?

Global Minecraft Mentors Simon Baddley, Alexis Beard, Trish Cloud, Kristine Holloway, Chris Rozelle, Jennifer Sigler, and Brett Smith worked together to produce the above post.