Minecraft and Middle School

Middle school can be a challenging time, both for students and for their teachers. Even with the ups and downs, I love them. It’s a requirement of the job! I wanted to share some helpful advice I’ve learned from working with middle schoolers, as well as some recent success stories from my classroom.

One of the biggest challenges for this demographic is maintaining students’ attention. When it comes to student engagement, the use of technology in the classroom is essential. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of edtech terms used in schools. Gamification, flipped classrooms, blended learning, etc., teachers hear these on a daily basis. The interests of middle school students’ can be fickle. Students will love you one minute and then the next…not so much!

Thankfully though, I’ve found that their love for Minecraft seems to be unwavering! My students absolutely love it. Of course, it doesn’t take the place of a teacher, but it aides the teacher in hooking the students and improving their understanding and retention of the curriculum being taught because it is hands-on learning. The technology helps the students become active participants in the learning process. Students are engaged in the content without even noticing that they are learning. As a teacher, this type of engagement and collaboration is priceless.

Middle schoolers can sometimes be reluctant to draw attention to themselves or stand out from the crowd. I have found that even reluctant learners gain confidence in contributing and working with fellow classmates. Many times, they will shine. Minecraft gives them the ability to share the learning and responsibilities in a unique way. Students can connect and go to a variety of different worlds or build a world based on their imagination.

Interested in nurturing more collaboration in your classroom? Try one of these new lessons to get your students working together: Renewable Energy introduces students to alternative energy sources by having them work in teams to build homes that make use of renewable energy in different Minecraft biomes. Area and Volume by fellow mentor Pantelis Charalambous has students work together creating a themed world in which they need to document the area and perimeter of the locations they have built.

What has been my students’ favorite Minecraft lesson? Researching their favorite landmark and recreating it within Minecraft. Student projects in my classroom ranged from building parts of Disneyland and Graceland to building the White House. Why not try for yourself? Check out the supporting world file for last month’s Community Landmark Activity of the Week which features an easy build space for a similar project. Have you own idea for a collaborative classroom project? Share back with the M:EE community in the forums or create your own lesson online!

Andrea teaches Microsoft Imagine Academy to middle school students at Greeneville Middle School in Greeneville, Tennessee. She is passionate about her students and teaching them technology skills. She is an ambassador for FlipGrid, ClassDojo, as well as GoNoodle. She led her school to be named a Microsoft Showcase School and she is a Microsoft Innovative Expert and Global Minecraft Mentor. If you would like to discuss Minecraft or work together on a lesson, feel free to email her at tolleya@gcschools.net or you can reach her on Twitter @tolleya and she will be happy to work with you.