The following is a guest post from James Protheroe, #MIEExpert and teacher at Microsoft Showcase School Darran Park Primary. Last week James was a keynote speaker at the UK launch event for Minecraft: Education Edition. In the post below, James talks about how his students have been taking part in a cross-curricular global project involving the works of beloved children’s author Roald Dahl, and the use of Minecraft.
The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl
by James Protheroe
Pupils from all over the world have been celebrating the year of Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday through using Minecraft. The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl is a literacy based Minecraft project designed to develop reading and writing skills. It was designed to be delivered over three weeks as a literacy unit.
Pupils from 95 schools took part in the global project by reading a range of Roald Dahl’s texts and building some of his most memorable settings using Minecraft. It has been fantastic to see the weird and wonderful Dahl creations inspired by so many of his books. Schools approached the builds in a variety of ways. Some classes focused on building different settings within one book – for example the different parts of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Other classes asked pupils to create settings from a range of books within one Minecraft map. Do you recognise any of the settings in the images below?
Pupils developed their writing skills through creating their own imaginative settings in the style of Roald Dahl. Pupils were asked to plan stories with and imaginary settings before creating the setting in Minecraft. The pupils then used their Minecraft settings to write their own stories in the style of Roald Dahl. This was a really engaging part of the project and the pupils created some amazing settings for their own stories. The images below show a range of imaginative settings created by pupils. One story was centred around a boy with a secret football pitch hidden by tall trees in his back garden. Another story, inspired by James and the Giant Peach, revolved around a little girl who painted a picture which grew to an enormous size. Everything the girl painted came to life and stepped out of the painting. To make Minecraft setting more realistic she added a dispenser to her painting so items could emerge from it.
In Wales, to promote school to school collaboration, I created a network on Hwb, the all-Wales VLE, for teachers to discuss and share resources. In addition, schools in Wales used a collaborative area on Hwb+, the all Wales VLE, for pupils to share work and discuss ideas. It was an effective way to encourage schools to take part in meaningful collaboration by providing them with a safe environment to discuss ideas and share work. Pupils used the site to share their Minecraft worlds and blog their final pieces of Roald Dahl inspired writing. Thank you Jane Grubb, from Central South Consortium, for creating and managing the Hwb+ site.
During the project, the pupil Digital Leaders from Darran Park Primary School visited a number of the schools taking part to lead Roald Dahl workshops. From my experience of working with teachers on a number of different projects, one of the main barriers to using Minecraft in the classroom is teacher confidence. I discovered very early on that my building skills would never be as good as the pupils in my class… and that is absolutely fine! As a teacher it’s my job to provide purposeful learning opportunities and the context for using Minecraft. The pupil workshops, which the digital leaders have called their Minecraft Roadshow, were designed to introduce teachers to Minecraft and demonstrate how pupils can lead the learning. Our digital leaders have worked with over a hundred schools throughout Wales and are planning to visit schools in England and Scotland this year. They were awarded with the Pupil Award at the National Digital Learning Event in Llandudno in June 2016.
The project illustrates how Minecraft can be used as a stimulus for learning and to engage learners. It is also important to remember that the focus of the project was to develop reading and writing skills and quality of the Minecraft settings is reflection of the planning and time allocated by teachers to develop these skills. Feedback from most of the schools taking part reflected improved standards in writing and also higher levels of engagement – particularly with boys.
More importantly, I am over the moon with the way teachers have transformed learning through using Minecraft in their classrooms to develop effective pedagogies and engage their pupils.
If you’d like to find out more about the Wonderful World of Roald Dahl or using Minecraft in the classroom please contact me using the details below.