When video games make you want to write!

For the past two years, Guillaume Prairie and Louis-Philippe Duchesne, 6th grade teachers at École de l'Envol (CSS des Navigateurs), have been integrating Minecraft Education Edition into their teaching of mathematics and the social universe in order to make learning more fun. Here is their testimony.

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By Louis-Philippe Duchesne, Grade 6 teacher, École de l'Envol (CSS des Navigateurs) and co-creator of the site Minecraft project

Close your eyes for a moment and think of your favorite video game. The characters, the soundtrack, the scenery... If you've ever played a game in your life, these images will be clear in your head. What if we used the virtual world, which is part of our students' interests, to give them a taste for writing? Mission impossible? Not as impossible as freeing the princess or killing the dragon at the end of the game! 

For the past two years, my colleague Guillaume Prairie and I have been integrating Minecraft Education Edition into our teaching of mathematics and the social universe in order to make learning more fun. We have built several worlds in this cubic universe to allow our students to experience mathematical tasks. Motivation is increased tenfold when we tell them that they will have a mission to solve on the Minecraft project

However, beyond the math and social world, we also wanted to take on a challenge much more difficult than surviving a zombie attack in the game: using this interest to increase motivation for writing! This is a great project for you to use in your classroom.

Before you start, choose the right strategy 

At the beginning of the year, I surveyed my students about their use of video games outside of school. Surprisingly (or not?), 100 % of my students had already used Minecraft. The skill levels ranged from novice players to professionals. We had to adjust our difficulty level to allow everyone to have a feasible project. To do this, my colleagues Guillaume Prairie, Maxym Landry-Morneau and I planned the stages of the project's realization and prepared the writing plan. We then took care to test the instructions of the work ourselves.

After our descriptive text instruction, we read students the first chapter of a novel set in the Minecraft universe. Since more and more works of literature for young people are inspired by video games, we used this avenue as a starting point. You could feel the excitement building as the character tried to disentangle himself from the tentacles of an octopus. 

Press "START"!

Here we go! At go, all students opened a world on Minecraft. Since the point of appearance of a world is random, students found themselves in environments as varied as deserts, beaches, snowy mountains, swamps, etc. The students' reactions were as varied as the biomes offered by the game. 

The first challenge was to stop and take the time to observe everything around the avatar. 

  • What are the objects I observe around me? 
  • Will the terrain be helpful or rather hostile? 
  • How do I feel as a player who will have to evolve in this world? 

Using the camera tool in Minecraft, students were able to photograph elements of the landscape that they would use throughout their descriptive text. Seasoned players quickly called upon their strategies to prepare for writing, just as they prepare when playing in "survival" mode. 

Once the writing started, we were able to watch the students get involved in their project. Video game enthusiasts were already looking for ways to extend the fun: "Mr. Louis, we could write our text directly into a book on Minecraft and then export it to you." "Maybe I could start a story now that I have my landscape." "We could take our appearance point and use it to start our own game." "Sir, this is one of the new biomes in the game, could I introduce it to the other students in the class?"

When I passed my level...

The excitement was so great that we had to provide opportunities for reinvestment inspired by the students' proposals. Some decided to take the Minecraft world they started in class and use their point of appearance to set up a base, others produced a book from their text on the software's writing tool (here is an example). There are many exciting possibilities for students to make the connection between literature and video games. 

With this activity, we have succeeded in reaching our goal of making our writing project more fun and inspiring students to write in a way that appeals to their interests. Now that we have reached the end of this level, what does the next challenge hold for us? If, like us, you are interested in embarking on a similar project, here is our website to inspire you: Takeoff Minecraft Project. We have included descriptions of the worlds in different subjects and the mathematical concepts we use. These worlds are available for free download. I invite you to share with us your ideas, your good works.

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