Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 5

And we are now at the end of the first year of Lil’ Minecrafters. This week with the kids has certainly been quite the experience, and I’ve definitely learned a lot about teaching Minecraft to rising 1st and 2nd graders. I am ready to revamp the workshop to better suit the needs of these students, and potentially add in some new building challenges, too. I will definitely need to take some time to think on what I want to do and how to make the workshop better. I do plan to offer it again next year!

Today was a pretty easy day for students, as far as planning went. They needed to work on their final project builds. This meant finishing their farmhouse, beginning their barns, and adding in crops, paths, and other bits of landscaping if time remained. We also had plans to practice our song for our performance when the parents came.

The students worked really well, and some of my students that had had trouble all week were finally getting the hang of basic building, and able to work for longer periods on their own. I was very proud of these students. They did not realize that they were having difficulties, but I could see they were.

Most students finished the barn and farmhouse. A few were able to put in their crops. Had we had more time, I’m sure they would have been able to do this. Some of my students took on a helper role with their classmates, which I was pleased to see. I love when it just happens naturally.

At 11:30, parents started rolling in and viewing the students’ handiwork. Impressed is a definite understatement here. They were amazed by what the students had built, and could not believe it. They were surprised to see that the buildings looked like buildings, even having the variety of shapes and a triangular roof! I have never heard such high praise, and did not get this level of high praise during my other workshops. They were that amazed. They loved when the students performed “Going on a Diamond Hunt” and many took video of the performance.

The kids hated to leave at noon, and wanted to stay and build. I had to gently kick some out so I could take the rest of my kids to the pickup area. I gave high fives and shook hands as they left.

Overall, a very successful class, and a great learning experience. I plan to bring this course back next summer. I’ve hit on something and I feel that these kids would love to once again explore in Minecraft. One of my colleagues is going to begin developing another course for this age level so that there will be another offering for the young ones next year.

Want to learn how to do “Going on a Diamond Hunt” with your young ones? Check the link here.

Here are the final pictures from today’s work:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 4

We’re almost finished, and still learning a lot! Tomorrow is the last day, and it’s easy to see how much the students have grown from Day 1 to Day 4. I cannot wait to show their work to their parents, as well as perform the Going on a Diamond Hunt song that we’ve been practicing.

Our day began with morning meeting and laying out the game plan for the day. Students would be given time to work on their barn designs from yesterday. Many had not finished their roof. Students who finished early would be taken back to the village near spawn point, and asked to build something that could be added to the village. This meant they had to use stone and wooden blocks, which gave me an idea.

I had had students who loved the brightly colored wools, and loved to use it for their homes. It made for some nice houses, but I wanted them to try the stones and woods as well. Before their final project, I showed them how they could have colored inside walls and stone/wooden outside walls. This was a good compromise, and they loved it.

The final project was introduced: Project Farm. Students would need to build a farmhouse (adding 2 villagers when finished), a barn (adding 6 animals when finished), create fields with 2 kinds of crops, and then add paths, flowers, and trees if time.

First we had to plan their house design, so next door we went with graph paper and pencils. Students were instructed to design their house, making sure they had at least 2 rooms in it. These rooms should be marked and labeled on the graph paper. They were free to decorate them as they wished once the house was built.

I had spent time block off spaces for each student so that they were together in the same area, but had their own separate spaces for building. I counted the blocks out for the first 2 spaces so I would have something to eyeball, and then the other spaces were made to look about as wide and tall as the counted ones. Each student was teleported to one of the areas. They began building the house they had designed. I saw many of them using the wool/wood layering I had showed them earlier, and I was pleased. Most students were on task, and working away.

While they worked, I quickly built a sky road that moved back and over the first village, and then back to spawn point. We were further out than we had been before, and I wanted students to be able to get back to our final project area without me always having to teleport them. A few students got to test this road out, and found it worked well. It will definitely make it easier tomorrow for students to travel the land and show their parents their work.

Since the students had been doing well with the things I’d already shown them, this time I showed them how to hide lighting in their homes. It’s only one method, but it can make a big difference. I showed them how to hide glowstone blocks in the floor, and then place carpet over top of each one. They can use the carpeting as a rug, and light is emitted through the carpet at night. No messy torches, no easily seen lights, but a pretty cool effect. I had quite a few ask me to show them again. One of my boys was making his entire floor out of glowstone, so getting him to use carpet over everything but where the furniture was placed was my way of compromising.

Hopefully tomorrow morning they can finish their entire project before their families come to see their work. I’m sure some definitely won’t, but I’m hoping that the majority will. I hope they can see the progress in learning like I can!

Shots from today’s work:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 3

We are now finished Day 3, and only 2 days remain. The majority of the remaining time will focus on their final projects. I am loving the progress I have seen so far from these students. Compared to the work from the first day, these students are learning in leaps and bounds. They are more confident with the game, and their building has improved.

During the morning meeting, I showcased some designs I had made before in Minecraft. These were drawn in a graphing composition book. Usually I made the design layout, built it in Minecraft, and then colored in the design with colored pens once I had made it in Minecraft. They thought it was really neat. Plus, I had already told them that if they continued on next year with Matics that they would be using graph paper once again to plan a design.

We began today with discussing layering and depth. I had already built a plain wall in Minecraft with some andesite. I also had laid out different stone blocks, slabs, and stairs, as well as the quartz. I showed students what I could do with some columns and stairs in between. They were amazed. I then did a different design on the back. We talked about what made the wall better with the changes.

For this challenge, I only let the students use stone blocks, as they were apt to choose colored wool, mined ore blocks, and the like. I wanted them to be able to use stairs. They were asked to build a wall that was 5 blocks tall and 10 blocks long. To my surprise, they could do this pretty easily. I only had a couple of students that needed assistance. They chose their basic block for the wall, and then they used the other blocks to layer the wall. Some did really cool designs and others just experimented to see what they could come up with. In the end, there were no plain walls.

Our next challenge was to design and build a barn. We first looked at examples of barns, both in Minecraft and in the real world. We talked about colors and purpose. The students were to be tasked to build a barn that would house 3 animals. They had to use the skills they’d already acquired this week in their work. With this in mind, we headed next door to draw our layout.

Today I took their design process one step further. After we designed the outer wall, we then looked at the inside. I demonstrated marking off an area for my horse and my chickens, as well as a place to store their items. I asked the students to do the same with their barn, making sure they could show me the space for the animals they were going to put there. They wrote in the names of the animals or marked down a fenced in area.

Once back in the computer lab, they began designing their barn. I forced them to use only certain colors in their outer design, as I have many who just love to pick random blocks. They could use red, white, brown (wood), or black blocks. They worked on their own, and once they had completed the building I helped them spawn in their 3 animals. They were not allowed to have the animals until this was done, and I had to watch them do the spawning.

We did not get this completely finished, but we are almost done. It was a good stopping point for today, and tomorrow I will give them time to finish up before moving on.

We are going to begin their final project build at some point tomorrow morning. They will need to design a home, a barn, space for 3 kinds of animals, include some crops, and pathways to connect everything. We will design each piece step by step on graph paper, as I don’t want it to be super overwhelming. The house will be first, then the barn, then the animals, then the crops and pathways. They will finish up the remaining work on Friday before the parent presentation at 11:30.

Here are some progress shots from today:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 2

Ahh day 2! Is it really over already? Time flies when you’re working with the littles! Today 12 of my 14 students showed up and were ready to work. Minus a few early morning bumps

As I mentioned yesterday, I really wanted to work with the graph paper and getting students to design their layout on it first. In order to accomplish this, I utilized the room next to our lab. It had been set up for a CSI Workshop last week, so we only had to roll the tables to the front of the room and then use the projector. The tables were the perfect height for my littles to stand behind, so I did not put out the chairs. I downloaded blank graph paper onto the projector so that I could draw on the board at the same time.

During morning meeting, we discussed the day’s plan- learn to do a layout together on graph paper, build that house together in Minecraft, and then students would design their own layout and begin building that house in Minecraft. Students were taught how to carry their pencil to the next room, and then we headed next door.

Once students were given their graph paper, I demonstrated on the board how to outline a starting square. Since yesterday had led to a variety of ways students had highlighted their own squares, I made a loop around to correct any mistakes, and there were quite a few. Once that was corrected, we started building one side of the wall. I would add a few squares and then wait for the students to do the same. For the space where a door would be built, students made a \ on the square. It was a very basic square house.

With our goal accomplished (and correctly!), back to the computer lab we went. The majority of the students were able to replicate their design within Minecraft, or with very few mistakes. I was pleased. I know how hard it can be to replicate a design from a graph paper drawing, so I definitely don’t fault these kiddos for having trouble with it. I had a few kids who had trouble sticking to task, so they got a little one on one attention and we worked through it together.

Every so often, I would make sure they did the next step. Do the floor, do the walls, do the roof, decorate the inside… I built my own dummy house as we did each step. I showed a simple roof design with stairs. For the record, here is the dummy house:


Very flat, no depth, but it got the point across to the students and it was simple enough for them to look at and design theirs. Some of the students did their own thing, and made it their own. You’ll notice in the images that I post at the end of this post that the houses do not have any kind of color coordination at all. Some are very, very brightly decorated. Some use the most random blocks, but they all show one thing: the kids have been learning! I’m so proud of them!

When most had finished their design based on mine, we went back to the other room and they designed their own layout for their homes. They were excited to try their hand at their own creations. This was harder for some of them to replicate, but for others, not so much. For all students though, I saw a big improvement from when they started yesterday. We are making progress!

Tomorrow we will be working on designing animal homes/pens, as well as attempting some basic layering of a wall. I’m not sure how the second part will go, but we will try it and see. I would at least like to introduce them to a few different blocks for it. I will definitely be using the graph paper again for animal homes, as well as utilizing the second room again. It worked out way better than I thought it would.

Here are some shots from today’s building:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 1

Today was the first day of my newest workshop: Lil’ Minecrafters! I chose to develop this workshop for rising 1st and 2nd graders. I knew I was taking on a big challenge with this age group, but if you know me, you know I went for it anyway! This was a different version of my Minecraft Makershop for the older students. Lil’ Minecrafters was developed with the assistance of a 7th grade student a few months ago. I still felt that it was above the level of the students I would have, but I needed to start somewhere and test my work.

This morning I dressed in my Steve gear. This week I had a diamond sword, and I brought my crocheted creeper named Jax. He was a gift from my Secret Santa on Reddit a couple of years ago.

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I grabbed my littles and gave them their instructions. Off we went to our classroom. I had been having issues with getting Minecraft loaded that morning, so I was hoping that enough time would pass that it would work. In the meantime we had a morning meeting and I explained things to the students. I was able to get them logged in, though I’m hoping to avoid that tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Our first lesson was on the PC controls. If any of my kids had played Minecraft before, it was on a tablet or the console versions. I was correct to assume that none of them had played on the PC. We reviewed controls and I demonstrated. Then I let them try their hand at the controls. Some students did pretty well picking them up quickly, but others were easily stuck in holes or behind objects. I definitely heard a lot of “I’m stuck in a hole!”, but we worked through it. I knew it was practice that they needed.

While they learned the controls, I let them build whatever they wanted with the blocks to assist in their learning. Some of them concocted odd structures, while others accidentally broke their classmates’ blocks.

After some time had passed, we began a discussion on houses and why people need houses. We also talked about what goes in a house. I gave these students the same requirements as the older kids: walls on all sides, 1 window, roof, and a door. I let them begin trying to build, and that was probably not the best of ideas. Unlike the older students, these students started stacking blocks and left them as they sat. There was no rhyme or reason to the shape at all. Still, I let them have some time doing this, as it helped them learn the controls better.

I then used the board in the room that is laid out like graph paper. I demonstrated how to use it to draw a layout, and the kids then did the same. They then turned to Minecraft, and were only asked to do the layout first. From there we talked about the floor. This worked better, as more of them understood what to do. There were still issues, but this was to be expected. I watched the students try to draw on the graph paper, and some got it, most did not.

Therefore, tomorrow we are going to start with the graph paper on doing simple shape layouts, and then putting those into Minecraft. From there we’ll work on the floor, and the walls once again, and hopefully by the end of tomorrow we’ll end up with a house. This is going to revamp much of my workshop plans, which is totally fine. They will still be able to do the final project and demonstrate their knowledge.

I do want them to learn how to plan on graph paper though, as it’s a skill that carries on into their academics and into the higher KidsCollege courses with Minecraft. If I can find my notebook, I’m going to take it in tomorrow, as it’s where I made my first layout designs in Minecraft. I think I am going to take the students to the room next door to the computer lab, as I can sit the students in groups and they can draw easier on the graph paper. It also makes it easier for me to work with them, without the pain of navigating the horrible computer lab set up or the students being distracted by the computers.

Once the graph paper part is computer, then we’ll translate the drawing to Minecraft, add the floor, walls, roof, windows, and a door. I’m not sure if I’ll get to decorating the interior or not, but we’ll see. We just need to have Thursday and Friday to work on their final project. I know that will take awhile.

Unlike the dance parties we had with the older class, I have done something a little different with this crew. I took the children’s song “Going on a Bear Hunt” and revamped it to fit the Minecraft world. I use the tune of Dr. Jean’s version. Today we went through the song and the motions little by little. I think they’ve got it, and I’m pleased. They will perform it for their families on Friday during the final showcase. I’ll share a copy of it once I’m sure I’ve got everything fixed just the way I want it.

Check out some of these shots from our server. We are learning and having fun!

Ready for Day 2!

Minecraft Makershop: Year 2, Day 5

Yesterday was the final session of Minecraft Makershop for Week 1 of KidsCollege. I was certainly sad to see it end, though I do believe that this year’s workshop was a definite improvement over last year’s. I have ideas already for changes for a new version of the workshop. My students also had to do do a feedback survey for KidsCollege. There was a rating scale at the top, and every kid gave me a “Strongly Agrees” for each area (there was one Agrees). Parent feedback was very similar. I was definitely pleased. I didn’t think to get this kind of feedback from last year’s students, so this was certainly nice.

Students either want to take Makershop again next year or they want something new that still focuses on building. One student mentioned learning to build cities so we’re gonna roll with that. I’m going to work through the process of coming up with ideas for this type of workshop and then see if I can combine them all into something grand.

Returning to the last day though… teams continued working on their final builds. They knew it was the last day and were full of energy as it was. They worked on building their team builds and got distracted a few times. They were full of meme references this time. I indulged a few of them since it was the last day of class. So we watched Sail Cat and the I Like Trains music video as well. There was also the Shrek Do the Roar video.

By the time the final 45 minutes rolled around before parents, they were doing their own free building. Both teams had met their minimum requirements, so this was fine. Right before the parents game, many of them were playing hide and seek in the team builds. We did review the procedure for when parents arrived, and they agreed.

Our parent showcase involved each child sharing their build projects. They showed their first builds, their second, and their third, as well as their team builds. I had already explained to parents the things that they had learned throughout the course of the workshop, and how they had demonstrated their knowledge. Then I called each child up and handed them their certificate, along with an autographed bookmark from Mark Cheverton. I still had some left over from the previous year.

At 4:15, we said our goodbyes. Parents took their children, and I took the remainder to catch the bus. As always, I wore my Steve head and carried my pick ax to see them off. I said my goodbyes to the other kids who were there.

Overall, Makershop was a success this year. I definitely need some time to process the things I’d change and the things I’d keep for a Year 3 version. I’m not sure if I’d continue the hyperdoc route, but only because I received kids who did not have school accounts, which means they had no access to Google Classroom. I will need to develop an alternate route in that case. There are other things as well, but right now I want to process everything and just think. We’ll see what ideas come to me with time.

Here are the final shots of the team builds:

Group 1

Team 2

And our final dance party jam for the week:

Minecraft Makershop: Year 2, Day 4

The workshop is soon to draw to a close. Just one more session left and then my kiddos will be on their way to the rest of their summer vacation. I don’t know if any are signed up for sessions next week, so it’s very likely I won’t see any of them again. I will miss their shouts of “Steve!” when I pick them up for class each day though.

Today we tackled the start of the final project. It was a challenge for one of my teams last year, and I wish I had all of the photos from that build. Unfortunately, not all  of the images transferred over when I switched from Tumblr to WordPress last year. Students first watched a time lapse video of Arabius City being built to get them focused. From there, we talked project requirements and revealed the team names.

This year I really took a look at the skill levels of each of my students. I did not have the issues with getting along/arguing during the workshop like I did last year so that of course made it easier. I had students fall into one of three categories: beginner, intermediate, or pretty skilled. I had an even number of students so we had teams of 4 and 4 to build.

This year, I had them select their build theme with their teams first. From there, they decided on the buildings they needed in their creation. They were required to have 6 types of buildings and a road system to connect them. Landscaping is a bonus. After meeting the minimum requirements, they are certainly free to build more if they have time. All buildings need to incorporate the skills they’ve learned in the workshop. Once the basic plan was created, they selected a site for their build.

This year, both teams have selected a desert location for their build. For most of them, it’s a definite challenge, and not all of the things they have built fit the desert theme, but I did expect this when I first saw them select the spot. It’s given me the idea to perhaps develop a workshop on designing city/town builds in a theme. The kids seemed interested in this as well.

The buildings have been displaying the things we learned about in class. Some of the builds are a better example than others, but I think the students are feeling part of the time crunch as well to build many things in a short period of time. They are definitely now taking the time to work on the interiors of the builds, which they didn’t do as much of before when they made their first build.

The desert builds are at least challenging them to use materials they don’t normally use. Very few have ever used the sand blocks, along with the various clay blocks. It is definitely a challenge for my student who loves building with nether. I know that his group would have built something using those materials, but I made them tie it to a realistic theme instead. I knew he could build well with the nether materials, so I wanted him challenged to use other materials instead.

Once again, I have noticed that the longer the session runs, the more off track they can get if left unchecked. They love working, and I am starting to think it’s part of the 3 1/4 hour workshop. This happened last year as well with a 4 hour workshop. I’ve learned to accept it, and roll with the punches. They stay on track, but they end up making all kinds of meme and joke remarks in chat:

“Cringe nukes”

“OMG Becky”

“Morderer!” (came about because of a spelling error and now everyone uses it)

There are others, but these are ones used often. For the most part, both groups got a decent amount of building completed, and hopefully will be encouraged to really dive into the work tomorrow. During the last half hour, parents are invited to come see what students have created so any parents visiting our crew will see the students’ individual builds and then their group builds. Students will also receive their certificates showing they completed the session material. I’ve also got some leftover autographed bookmarks from Mark Cheverton from last year, so I’m going to give one to each student with their certificate.

And now, each team’s progress so far:

Group 1

My thoughts: This group chose to build in the desert, but their buildings do not lend themselves to a desert theme. That’s okay though, as we really didn’t go over this in our workshop. They are utilizing the different skills though- different shapes, layering, roofing, etc. They are having a harder time completing their builds in a timely fashion, but I am hoping that the thought of their parents seeing their final build will kick them into high gear and allow them to add more to their tiny city.

Group 2

My thoughts: This group is really trying to tie their build to a desert theme. They have really taken up the skills presented in this workshop, and have come up with some amazing designs. I am especially loving the path they have created through their town. Even though some of the colors may look out of place, there was a firm attempt to use what they had been taught. I am curious to see what they create in the remaining 2 hours and 45 minutes tomorrow.

And finally, our dance party jam today: