Mentor of the Week – Ben Spieldenner
Minecraft and Writing Transformation
In the words of the Time Traveler from The Time Machine, “I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted.” Writing is so often taught in a sort of vacuum with prompts that have little relevance to life and few topics that allow for true exploration. This happens so often that high school students begin groaning before the prompt even leaves a teacher’s mouth. I can’t say I blame them…I have had my fair share of writing assignments that felt a lot like hoop jumping. Well, all that is over.
Minecraft: Education Edition gives teachers a way to craft experiences that students can transform into powerful writing. For example, a classic like The Time Machine can easily become an adventure in which students use their knowledge of their time to more accurately describe and portray the future…even if it is 800,000 years away. Students might like to explore Ship-Trap Island, the setting of the classic Richard Connell short story The Most Dangerous Game, before reading and infer what the plot of the story might be based on their exploration. They could also visit Verona after the events of Romeo and Juliet and get to the bottom of the new fighting taking place through an argumentative essay.
I have recreated these worlds (Verona Adventure was a collaboration with Simon Baddeley) and many more in Minecraft: Education Edition. Selfishly, I wanted to explore these for myself. What I discovered is that an immersive environment is ripe with writing possibilities. I encourage you try out some of my lessons for yourself. Give your students a writing assignment that will transform the way they view writing and you may even see an improvement in the quality of student papers. Enjoy the literary worlds and have fun writing about your adventures.
Ben Spieldenner is an English teacher and Minecraft Global Mentor from Ohio who uses Minecraft to increase the effectiveness of researched based reading strategies and writing.