Lee Hewes

is totes becoming a teacher…

Project-based learning and #Minecraft mayhem: 6 epic videos made by my K/1 class.

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So the year is coming to a close and I find myself madly trying to get everything done before I say goodbye to my wonderful K/1 class. This term we’ve been working on a couple of really cool projects; one on collecting data on the amount of waste around the school each week, and another about how kids can demonstrate their learning in the sandbox game, Minecraft. I think they’ve both gone really well, but I’ll tell you about the Minecraft project now.

The driving question for this project is, “How can K/1L show their learning in Minecraft?” and the project outline is below.

The idea is that students think about what they’ve been learning in class, either recently, or at any other time throughout the year, and build a representation of what they have learned. If you think about that, it might seem to some 5-6 year old kids like a tricky thing to do. In order to be successful, students have to know enough about a particular topic in order to write about it, build something in an abstract, 3D environment in order to represent it, and to plan, script and narrate a video walkthrough of their build in order to demonstrate what they have learned and made.

For this reason, it doesn’t seem that surprising to me now that when I first introduced the project many of the kids in my class looked at me like, “WTF – I don’t get it.”

This situation was easily rectified, however, by watching a whole bunch of YouTube videos together as a class, showing how other students had done similar things in Minecraft at school. With a bit of discussion, think, pair, sharing, it wasn’t long until all of my class had decided on something that they felt confident in building. Below I’m going to post the videos that my class have made with a brief description of what you will see in each clip.

Just briefly, could I please say that, in my understanding, an important component of project-based learning is supposed to be getting students to create a product of ‘real world value’, for a public audience outside of the school classroom. Now you might ask what sort of  ‘real world value’ a video about Minecraft could possibly have. I urge you to scrape even just a little under the surface where you will find a whole world of massively popular YouTubers (such as YOGSCAST, Captain Sparkles and  Tobuscus) who have made a name for themselves doing exactly that.

Anyway, here are their awesome videos.

Minecraft Maths Game

Now, I put that video up first because there is actually quite a lot to discuss. My students describe how the game works in the video, so I’ll let you watch that to find out, but here’s some stuff that we had to figure out together.

  • How do we make the game challenging? The questions get harder as you get through.
  • How do we put in aspects of chance and consequence? If you get a right answer, you get a new question. If you get a wrong answer, you go into a room with a horrible monster.
  • Why would you want to complete the game? You get a chest filled with goodies at the end.
  • How do we stop evil mobs from destroying the house? Set to /MobGriefing False
  • How do we stop players from escaping the house by breaking it? Switch to /gamemode 2

And many more. Problem solving central! Equal Groups

For this video students really had to know their number of groups VS number in each group distinction. I think we got there. I love the excitement in their voices when they finish the video and the collaboration and support for each other you can hear in the group narration – beautiful.

3D Shapes Houses

This group had a pretty cool team leader who really supported the rest of her team get through. Originally they had decided to build 2D shapes but we realised that they had actually built 3D shapes with their houses and discussed what shapes they had built, revising space and geometry from earlier lessons throughout the year.


Another important aspect of project-based learning is student ‘voice and choice’. Now during the class discussions I mentioned earlier, one of the groups said, “We can teach people about dragons!” We hadn’t actually been learning about dragons in class but I didn’t want to crush their freedom of choice. We went on to learn about dragons, particularly the difference between traditional Eastern Vs Western depictions in mythical literature. They tell you in the clip.

Also, this team worked fantastically well together and were first to finish at every stage of the project. I attribute this to a number of things, such as joint interest in the project, task complexity and limited parameters around what they had to build – but also to extensive discussion around what makes a good team member, referring to the class poster below!


Silkworm Life Cycle

Early in the term I brought a bunch of silkworms into the classroom and we did the standard lessons around life cycles and tried to keep them alive. They died, but I like to think that they live on forever in this video and it’s great to see that my students have totally nailed the concept whilst being creative at the same time.

Anyway, that’s some of what my class has been doing this term with their project-based learning. We do have one more video to upload, I’ll update the post as soon as we can get it done.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE: The final group took a little longer than the others to finish their video due to absences and overseas travel. I’ve posted it below and, just like the rest of them, it’s awesome!

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