30 Goals: Learn to Play

This goal (part of the 30 Goals Movement) caught my eye as I have begun to finally play Minecraft. And while I am skeptical of a game teaching students English, I like the way David Dodgson at ELT Sandbox  (not ELTs and box as it looks like from the URL) frames this idea for an activity:

Learn to play – let your students teach you how to play a
game

  • Start by choosing a game – it could be a game for your phone/tablet, for your laptop, from a website, or any other device you have available to you, but make sure it is a popular game the students will know about (check the app store charts for example)
  • Tell your students you have started playing this game. You like it but you are finding it difficult.
  • If they know the game, invite them to explain the rules, give you some
    instructions and offer you some advice about how to play it.
  • Once they have taught the teacher, ask them to prepare a short guide to the game
    (this could take the form a short written set of instructions or
    a recording).

It seems like this could be a whole unit or a simple bonding exercise as a pre- or post-class discussion. Maybe run into a kid in the hall, “Hey is that that Angry Birds thing I’ve heard about? Tell me how it works…”

This seems like a really nice way to let the students shine by making them the expert, sharing (and validating) an interest of theirs, and also getting them to want to use language in order to discuss something they are passionate about.

And then depending on the game, you might be able to do a whole lot more. I mentioned Minecraft and a handful of ideas jumped out at me for using it in the classroom , such as:

  • Construction manuals Their complexity would depend on the level of the student. A manual could range from how to build a simple house to how to recreate the Taj Mahal. Or how to create a certain effect such as a gabled roof.
  • Crafting manuals Students can write out instructions on how to craft different things.
  • Map or picture/sculpture recreation Students can recreate a terrain to match a description. Students can even draw pictures or recreate sculptures from written directions.
  • Explain the missing steps Engineers in particular might enjoy explaining the over-simplifications in the crafting process. TNT is surely more than just sand and gunpowder. How do you really craft a pick axe from stone?
  • Treasure hunts: If students can share worlds, they can hide treasures in locations and write directions how to get there.
  • Books You can write books in Minecraft. Students could create sculptures, buildings, whole worlds and then write a history of it or diary entries from the creator. Then other students go on a tour.

I’m hardly the first to suggest Minecraft for Education. In fact, there will be an EVO on using Minecraft in the classroom next year, so feel free to check that out. I suppose keep an eye on the EVO homepage for when enrollment begins.

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