Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Minecraft Challenge... A True Labor of Love!

Well, we finished it! The Minecraft Challenge was a success!

Was it worth it? Yes!

Was it a pain? Yes!

Would I do it again? Yes!

Would I change the some things? Oh yes! I'll elaborate later. ;)

Let me give you some background...

My kiddos this year are obsessed with Minecraft-to the point where everyday at least one of them is wearing a Minecraft shirt. They LOVE it.

So, I knew I somehow wanted to incorporate the game into our classroom, but I literally knew nothing about it. I decided last Friday that I wanted to come up with something fun to review for our math CBA. The idea to do a Minecraft Challenge was born, but I really didn't know how to make it work.

The first step was to learn about the game. I watched videos, asked the kids, and tried to develop a basic understanding. It is much more complicated than I ever imagined! I even downloaded the game on my computer and tried to play, but I couldn't even figure out how to move myself around! It was pathetic! I died several times in a row before I gave up! (Don't tell my students!)

If you don't know anything about Minecraft, here's the basics: You create your own world by "mining" for resources that are all around you, and then "crafting" those resources into things like tools, weapons, building supplies, food, etc. You can play the game in a creative mode where you have no risk of dying and you have unlimited resources, or you can play the game in survival mode, where you are at risk of dying from hunger or monsters.

Because I had a short time to figure out how I wanted the challenge to work (I wanted to do it on Monday, two days after I had the idea, lol), I went of the very limited knowledge I had.

I typed up a text giving some basic information about Minecraft and we read that during reading time. I created comprehension questions to go with it that reinforced the concepts we were focusing on in language arts.

Then, during math, the real challenge began. I decided to have the kids answer questions and if they answered correctly, they could earn "resources"- similar to the mining process in the game. They would then use the resources they earned to "craft" tools. Their goal was to craft all four of the tools I listed in their crafting guide.

I divided the class into four teams. Each team was given a file folder with their team name, their "health bar," instructions, crafting guide, and crafting grid.

I downloaded a free Minecraft font from and used screenshots from a blog I found to make the folders.

The directions were explained in the first part of the folder under the 'Objective' heading. I also got a little ambitious and decided to hang the challenge questions around the school in the hallway, so I also added a map the kids had to use to find where the questions were. Yeah.... it ended up taking us WAAYY too long to move from question to question, and we weren't able to finish in one day. So, I moved the question cards back to the classroom to finish up the second day. :)

The kids had to find a question card and work together to answer the question with their team. If they answered correctly, they earned the resources listed near the question. If they answered incorrectly, they lost one of the hearts on their health bar and did not earn the resources for that question.

As they answered the questions, they earned the resources. They had a small Ziploc bag included in their folder to store their items. 

In the middle of their "mining," Herobrine snuck up and surprised the kids with a special challenge! Everyone had to get together to solve the problem and escape him! 

In the picture above, all of those little pieces of paper coming out of the bag are the "resources" they earned from answering their questions. They could earn wood and cobblestone. And yes, I had to run from team to team as they answered each question to check their answers and either take a heart or award them their resources. It was a great way for me to do some last-minute reteach. Thank goodness I only had four teams! Below are all the baggies that held the resources they could earn as well as the tools they were responsible for creating. It was a lot to juggle! 

Once the kids answered all of the questions, the "crafting" process began. The first objective was to create a crafting table from the wood they collected. Then, they had to craft the four tools listed in their guide. They used the guide included in their folder and the crafting grid on the back of their folder to show the correct recipe, and then they traded the resources they used for the tool they created. I loved this part just as much as the academic part because they quickly realized they didn't have all of the materials they needed to make their tools. They first had to use the wood to make sticks! They really had to rely on their guide and discuss with their teammates to make sure they had the correct materials and put them in the correct order to craft their tools. 

As the kids were crafting, they called me out on a mistake I made! Apparently, the wood shown in the recipe for the crafting table and sticks is called a "wood plank." I used the picture for another type of wood that needs to be crafted into a wood plank first before it can be used to make anything else. OOPS! That's what I get for not doing enough research! LOL! Of course, I told the kids to just pretend it was the right thing! Notice in the picture below how the wood pictures are NOT the same! 

As they used the resources in their crafting recipes, they earned the tools! Once they created all four tools, their mission was accomplished! The picture below shows the crafting table and the four tools they were required to craft. 

All in all, it was a huge success.  The kids absolutely LOVED it and were all smiles the entire time. It was all worth it! 

It was hard to manage moving between teams to check answers, give resources, trade them for their tools, etc. It was much easier to do in the classroom instead of running up and down the hallway to the different teams. Here's what I would do differently if I could have a redo:

1. Keep the challenge in the classroom. It was super fun to get out of the room and use the hallways, but it wasn't the best idea to do it the first time we attempted this. It was too hard for me to move between teams and it wasted valuable time. 
2. Have the crafting grid separate from the folder. The kids had to flip the folders back and forth to see the recipes and then place the pieces correctly. It would have been much easier to have the recipe and the grid side by side.
3. Be sure I have the correct pictures! I should have done a little bit more research to make the game a bit more accurate! 

The great thing about this format is that now that the kids understand how it works, I can simply change out the question cards and we can play it to practice whatever content I want! Next week we may do this again to review for our grammar test! I can also change out the tools they are creating and the resources they earn to add some variety. The kids were begging to do it again, so I just might have to give in! 

Want to try this crazy thing out for yourself?? Click the links below to get a copy of the text we read and the file to create your own challenge! Let me warn you, the wood pictures don't match! Maybe this weekend when I have some energy I will fix it! ;) 

Now to survive the rest of the week! 

Do you have ideas of how to incorporate Minecraft-inspired activities in the classroom?? I would love to hear them!!! 

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Halloween and Fall Resources- Freebies!!

Happy Halloween Week!

I know it's a little last minute, but here are some Halloween-themed resources I have to share with you! Just click on the link below each picture. I hope you can find something you can use!!

Roll It: Use a dice and a deck of cards.  Roll the die and then follow the directions. This is a random assortment of place value skills. This was from two years ago before the TEKS were changed, so it doesn't include any of the new TEKS. It's supposed to rain ALL weekend, so this *might* be something I update or add to this weekend. ;)

(You'll need digit cards and dice)

Multiplication Word Problems: Just a few word problems with a Halloween theme. We haven't covered multiplication yet this year, but I used these two years ago when I taught math and the kids enjoyed them.

Spooky Multiplication Word Problems

Addition and Subtraction Brew- addition and subtraction with regrouping (computation only).
This activity does NOT include any word problems, it is strictly computation.

Language Arts: 

Pumpkin Prefixes Match-Up: Super simple and quick match-up game to review the prefixes re-, un-, pre-, dis-, and non-. 

Pumpkin Prefixes

Do They Agree? Subject/Verb Agreement: 12 short sentences to quickly review subject verb agreement.

Again, I hope you were able to find something you could use! 

Enjoy celebrating this week with your kiddos! 

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Simple Station Solution

Happy Thursday!

I'm dropping in to show you a solution I found for my station activities that is working wonderfully.

Before I share, let me share a little bit of the struggle I have had this year with stations.

My kiddos are very easily distracted. Our desks are in groups, and we mostly work at the desks during stations. So, this presented a problem. When my kids sit at a table group of 4, one partner pair is working on one activity and the other partner pair is working on a different activity. Therefore, it created some distraction. The partner pair working on one side of the group of desks was constantly hearing the partner pair on the other side of the group and would become easily off-task.

One day I had an idea. I love my "offices" from Really Good Stuff and I have several extra. So, I decided to use them to help with station management.

Here's what I camp up with:

I just stapled two sheet protectors on the right and left sides and one of my extra magnetic paper pockets from Lakeshore in the middle section. I only had one of the fancy pockets, so on my other station "offices" I just used 12x12 cardstock and stapled a sheet of construction paper on top to create a pocket. Simple!

I have the title of the station on the left side, the directions for the kids on the right side, and the materials they need in the pocket in the middle. They have everything they need plus the separation from the other group to stay distraction-free!

Now, when my partner pairs are ready to work in their stations, they just unfold the "office" and they have everything they need! When we are ready to clean up, the stations just fold right up!

The sheet protectors allow for me to easily change out the title and directions.

I am loving the simplicity and the flexibility this creates. The kids love that they are in their little "zones" and don't have to constantly tune out the partner pair across from them.

Of course these station offices could easily be moved to the floor. My students just tend to work more effectively when sitting at a desk. You could also easily make this using poster board or a tri-fold board.

Do you have any creative ways that you manage station materials?? I would love to hear!

Have a great Friday!

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