Saturday, March 22, 2014

Learning Happens Through Engagement

This time of year, student engagement can be a little...urm..well. tough.  The weather is getting nicer, the approaching standardized testing has demands being raised, and students are entering in to their "I'm so done" mode.  

Yet, for some reason, I don't seem to be having that problem in my classroom.

Being that our Minecraft project is so new, student engagement and participation are at an all time high.  The students are itching to get in to that lab to try out new things, and apply their learning from the classroom in to the virtual world.  

A part of me is kicking myself that we didn't start this project earlier in the year, so that we'd have so much more time.  And another part of me is thinking that starting it in the spring was the perfect time, because it's going to keep my kids engaged and learning up until the very last bell of the year.

The students are completely captivated by learning through Minecraft.  They are seeking out new challenges, celebrating the connections they are making from our class work, and doing everything I ask of them because they don't want to run the risk of losing out on Minecraft time.

Being that this project is in the beginning phases, and really my first run at designing a whole curriculum unit that will be put in to place at the beginning of the next school year, I opted to use this project as an incentive.  

I explained to all of my students that in order to play, they had to continue meeting the expectations of the classroom.  And, what I'm finding is that I don't have the normal "spring fever" developing that I would normally see this time of year.  Work is getting completed, behavior and engagement is still wonderful, and the kids are still eager to learn rather than forcing it for the sake of pleasing me.

The benefits to using Minecraft in the classroom will undoubtedly prove to be so beneficial to the students, but it will also be a blessing for teachers who choose to try it.

Yesterday, my kids were focused on building their first structure. Using dimensions, area, collaboration, and knowledge of the materials, they were able to build small structures.  They had to build a structure big enough to comfortably accommodate themselves.  I gave them all a bed, and they had to make sure there was enough room to place the bed, and have enough space to move around.

All of the students completed the task, and made the connection to using area.  There was no trial and error, students actually calculated the number of blocks needed a head of time before ever setting out to mine for their materials.  They went out with a plan, and followed it.  Some changing had to be made on the design shape or placement of objects, but they problem solved together to make it happen.

Together, as a class, we came up with a GREAT idea to connect our classroom learning to our computer learning... and I can't wait to get that underway.  But, you'll have to wait until next week to hear about it, because I want pictures and visuals to show what we're doing.

Stay Tuned!!

Ms. Hill

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