Thursday, 21 June 2012


I wanted to introduce the topic of classification to my year 7 Science students today. Normally I sit in the room with them and tell them 'stories' about 'things' in my home, gradually adding more information until they get the name of the thing correct. An example is my dog, and the story goes something along the lines of:

"This thing is about 'yea' big"
"It is black"
"It has 4 things sticking out the bottom"
"2 things stick out the top"

and so on, until they guess that it is a dog, then we do another one where instead of using non-specific words like thing I use the classification words, like legs, or ears. We then discuss why we as people classify things, why we group them, what are the advantages. I really enjoy this approach as the students normally get a real good discussion and I think a very good understanding of grouping and why we do it.

However today I thought I would try something in Minecraft, I know that in the next release (1.3) of Minecraft they have 'sorted' the creative inventory to make it easier to find things, so as a class we went into a new superflat world, had a brief discussion about where they had heard classify before, and what they thought it meant, and then proceeded to classify them into groups, the first was boy and girl, the second was the hair colour of their avatar in the game.

Then I gave them the task of grouping all the items in the game, or to classify them into groups, place them in chests and give that group a name. I was yet again amazed at how quiet and focused the students were on the task they were completing. There were some amazing groups, the first to materialise was 'natural' followed by 'wool' and 'food', 'tools, weapons', 'diamond' and the list goes on. Each student was to come up with their own groups, then one student popped up with the questions I was waiting for.

"Mr. Elford, if I have something, can it be in 2 chests? Sandstone, it is sand, and stone, so should it be in the sand chest, or the stone chest, or can I put it in both?"

This was the moment I had been hoping would arise, I stopped all the students, and posed to question to all of them, they started arguing straight away, but not antagonistically. They were having a discussion about which it should be in. After the discussion died down, back to their own classifying they went. I must say I cannot wait to get back in there to let them finish of their classifying, and then get them to explain their reasoning.

That was the first MinecraftEdu lesson of the day. The second was with my year 7 Humanities class, where we were going to start discussing biomes, what better place to get a discussion happening about biomes than in Minecraft? So in we went, brand new world, no student building or flying, their task, to explore the land around them, writing down the biome name from the F3 display and also writing down what they saw in each different area.

This was a great lesson until they decided that they were bored of walking and wanted to fly, and I stupidly said fair enough, and changed them all to creative mode. The server survived no more than 5 minutes of that pressure before the lag got too much and I made the students log out so that it could try and catch up, and also so we could start a discussion about biomes.

I don't think the task itself was a successful as I would have liked, the main issue being that they were probably too excited to write enough detail down about each area. So I will giving them greater direction tomorrow when we enter a new world about what they are describing in each different biome.

If anyone out there knows a good 1.2.5 seed with a mushroom biome within easy reach please leave it in the comments below (I need it for tomorrow morning). As always thanks for reading and feel free to comment below.

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