polygons

Final Teacher Thoughts: Polygons & Minecraft

Today I met with Mrs. Kerr and Mrs. Hogue about the Polygons lesson we’d completed in Minecraft with 4th grade students. I feel strongly about reflecting on new lessons and tools after they’ve been completed/used, and this is no different. This is the first day that all 3 of us have had available to sit down and discuss our thoughts.

We began with the pros of the lesson. Both teachers really loved the creativity and engagement seen in students. This comes from observation during the initial play and learn lesson, as well as the polygons lesson. They were amazed to see the different ways that students responded to the tasks provided. They also felt that Minecraft provided chances for a lot of discussion and teaching. Students talked to classmates and partners as they designed. We also had students who knew a lot about Minecraft that assisted classmates as the need arose. Kerr and Hogue were easily able to see how students could assist in the teaching process, as well as allow students to take on more of a leadership role.

Another positive that both teachers enjoyed was how we had structured the lessons. We had set up the first assigned task to be more rigid and strict. There were certain things that needed to be done in a time frame, in this case 3 designed polygons with a sign. The second task was more open ended, and allowed students to be more creative and daring. The second task for this lesson had them designing a home using polygons. Assessing this piece was done in class, as students explained the polygons in the designs to their teachers.

A final pro was that kids without access to internet or computer games at home got to try something new. Minecraft isn’t something default on every computer, nor is it free to get. Students were able to try it in school as part of their learning, and gain experience with a program they may never have seen before.

Not everything can be a pro, of course, so we delved into the cons of the lesson. These will lead to improvement with future lessons. One of our cons was figuring out who wasn’t doing what they should be. Some students enjoyed getting off task and ended up being destructive with classmates. We have since corrected part of this with a good seating chart that lists which account is signed into which computer. Kerr and Hogue are also learning how to recognize characters in game.

Our second con was the invisibility potion. Students find a way around being detected by using the invisibility potion to wreck havoc. I have to say that this isn’t something that I considered when putting together the lesson, though I’m not entirely surprised. I have club kiddos who love utilizing this trick. Since we can’t get rid of the potion itself, we’re going to take some time to work on classroom management techniques in Minecraft. I also informed both teachers that drinking milk makes the potion wear off, and that /ban and /kick commands existed as an option.

The final part of our quick meeting was to focus on needs to cover this summer. The three of us are going to do some in depth work with Minecraft, including me teaching them how to run and manage the server. They want to learn to be independent, so that I don’t have to visit the school to get them set up. We’ll do a lot of practical run throughs to give them practice. Ideally, I should only have to design and upload templates from afar.

We would also like to create a cheatsheet of basic commands, and create at least 1 lesson per subject area for teachers to utilize. Both Kerr and Hogue would love to get more teachers on board with Minecraft in the classroom. In order to do this, we’d like to have a lesson that could be easily implemented into each teacher’s curriculum. As for the basic commands cheatsheet, this is to be used as a refresher/guide for teachers as they work with students. Students are still expected to learn the game through play and problem solving. We’re going to look at potentially meeting in the beginning of July for all of this training.

So far so good with Minecraft use! Our next topic is to tackle science. We will be taking a lesson where students are designing a plant and using Minecraft as the program to model in. It will also give students some more experience using graph paper. Can’t have enough of that!

Minecraft, Polygons, & 4th Grade

January 25 was a crazy day, and I have dubbed it Minecraft Thursday. I spent most of the day teaching Minecraft related lessons or activities. There was the Ideal School introduction before lunch, and then Minecraft: Cityscapers after school. I started my day off with 4th grade, and this time we were tackling our first geometry lesson in Minecraft.

Previously, the students had been introduced to the template I had designed, and we had completed a play and learn session. This had given us a chance to set the class boundaries and give students who hadn’t had a chance to play Minecraft time to get used to the game.

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The class first began with introductions to the lesson, and a review of the classroom expectations. Students were asked to build 3 polygons in Minecraft. Only one of the polygons could be a quadrilateral, and the students were not allowed to build triangles. If they finished early, they could move to a different location and build a house using polygons in their design.

During this first session, once students were in their homeroom zone, they were allowed to pick a space along the wall to build. This turned out to be a mistake, but I didn’t realize that until later. Once a spot was selected, students placed a sign with their name, and began to build. Overall, the session went as expected, and the students stayed on task.

There were a couple of issues with this first session, and I changed them for the 2nd lesson, which was completed today. First, having students pick a space along the wall was a bad idea. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have created a fenced in space of some kind. Trying to take screenshots was a nightmare without this, and students didn’t do so well at creating their own boundaries.

Examples of what happens without a fence. I cannot believe I let this happen, but I have learned from this mistake!

Secondly, students sometimes had trouble designing their shape in Minecraft. It would have been easier if I had made sure to have graph paper available to the class as they worked. Then any student struggling could take a piece of graph paper and design their idea first.

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Students in the Tuesday group using graph paper to design polygons

Fast forward to today, Tuesday. I had another crew of students to work with. The lesson was still the same. However, this time I had made sure to create 20 x 20 spaces of white wool for students. Each student/student pair was to select a space. They placed the sign with their name/s on the front of the wool fence, and were then constricted to that space for building. This worked out so much better! In the future, I will edit my original template and create a version with 20 x 20 areas for building.

Graph paper was also made available for students, and this helped quite a few when it came to designing their polygons. Students were allowed to get the graph paper at any time. If anything, some had trouble creating a design to transfer to Minecraft, but this is something I have seen with all ages. They have to be taught this skill. However, since our designs were simple polygons, it didn’t matter too much.

With our two issues fixed from last week, you wouldn’t think we had many issues. However, one thing that the teacher noticed was that students sometimes determined the sides of their polygons differently than what the teacher interpreted. This led to a discussion on how we could fix this issue. We knew students knew how many sides represented each polygon, but they sometimes interpreted the blocks differently.

Thus, in the future, students will need to create their polygon design on graph paper, with appropriate labels. This way the teacher can see their original design before it is transferred into Minecraft. The teacher will also be able to explore the designs with students, and have them complete explanations in class, or as a written part to this project.

Examples of student work from Tuesday’s group. Notice how easy it is to see where each student completed their work.

Overall I feel that the lesson went well for a first go. I am impressed with the things I saw from the students, and I look forward to doing it again in the future, with the rest of our changes implemented. I am so lucky to work with two teachers who are very flexible and expect things to be imperfect on the first go round. They realize that things don’t always work out as well as planned. It makes reflection and redesign a lot easier to accomplish.