By Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP
We have previously discussed (06-18-2018) the potential of the incredibly popular game Minecraft for developing narrative language skills through the use of Story Grammar Marker®. At that time, I had described the game as potentially too complicated to use as an actual tool in activities, but I have since rethought that. The iPad version ($5.99) will allow you to create a simple “world” (use the Creative mode) and the building interface is easy to learn, operating much like LEGOs. As a result, spaces can be used to scaffold language for describing settings.
Minecraft Education, on the other hand, offers a specialized, structured collection of Worlds you can use for both narrative and expository language. The software is available to anyone with a Microsoft 365 account and usable on a laptop, desktop, or again on the iPad. Within the Education menus you can use built-in activities providing exploration of biomes, which can be used to generate language in conjunction with a SGM Setting Descriptive Map.
More structured learning experiences are available through the Worlds menus and Subject Kits, and are also described on the Minecraft Education website, complete with supporting lesson plans. We may gravitate towards ELA contexts, but also note that many of the science and social studies lessons contain narrative and expository opportunities!
An example in the ELA kits is Characters All Around, where students explore and “meet” several characters in order to practice character description. This would be a natural opportunity for using the SGM Character Descriptive Map.
On the social studies side, you can consider an activity like Landmarks in our Community. I am currently using this activity with a student in conjunction with building world knowledge through reading landmarks-related books in the always useful EPIC! Books for Kids (free with an educator account). The “World” is simply an open space in which you can build a landmark–we started with the simple creation of a park with paths and green blocks.
Don’t miss that there is also a Social-Emotional category that contains well-designed experiences including The Mindful Knight, which you can use to explore feelings vocabulary and self-regulation.
I hope you enjoy exploring and building!