Journal Writing with Minecraft

As teachers, it is important to provide struggling students with interest-based learning activities that engage their curiosity and take advantage of their intrinsic motivation. Teachers have to find out their students’ interests and utilize the information to facilitate learning for higher achievement.

For those students who are interested (or obsessed!) with Minecraft, you can use the game to teach almost any topic. For example, if you have students who don’t enjoy journal writing, try incorporating Minecraft into a journal writing assignment.  Here are three documents I created that are part of my journal writing unit.


Google Presentation

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I created this Google presentation explaining the purpose of the unit and the culminating challenge. The purpose of the unit is to develop journal writing skills:

  • Retelling of Experience
  • Reflections/Personal Response
  • Relevance to Classroom Concept or Personal Experience
  • Making Inferences

The students’ culminating challenge would be to document their experiences with journal writing.

Your team of astronauts have crashed landed on an unknown planet. You have contacted your home planet and were told a rescue team will land on the unknown planet in 6 weeks.

After providing students with instruction and guided practice in developing these journal writing skills, students would get to play Minecraft.  During their Minecraft sessions, students would take notes about the environments they encountered, the actions they took, and the interactions they experienced with their classmates.  The students would then be required to write a journal entry about their experience using the journal writing skills they learned.


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Ultimately, students would create an eBook using Google docs. The image above is a link to the template I created where students can type out their journal entries and insert screenshots they took during their adventures in Minecraft.

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Students could also present their eBook to the class in a “book-signing” event.

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Or students can present their experiences through a screen recording that explains in detail what they did to survive and what structures they created. They could provide a tour of their region, as well as explain what worked and what didn’t work in their adventure.

Journal Writing Rubric from Texas Academy 

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Scratch 2.0: 5 New Features for Students!

1. Your old work from the original Scratch website will be transferred to the new Scratch 2.0 site.

2. You don’t have to download anything when you want to start a new project. Just click “Create.”

3. You can share your work by clicking “Share.” Your work will also be automatically saved to your My Stuff page.

4. Your Profile page can be viewed by the public. However, you are the only person who will be able to see the My Stuff page, where you can find your projects.

5. Scratch 2.0 will continually be upgraded with new features and bug fixes.

3D Interactive Pop-up Fairytale Book Apps (for Free!)

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StoryToys Entertainment Limited has released a series of 3D interactive pop-up books based on classic fairytales. As you can see in the image below, these book apps provide gorgeous design and illustrations, as well as interactive and engaging activities that  bring the stories to life.  Most importantly, students can practice their reading skills in “Read it Myself” mode.

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Here are the StoryToys book apps that are currently free (as of 4/24/13):


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Sleeping Beauty

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Snow White

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Read Riding Hood 

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Hansel & Gretel

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Little Mermaid

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Puss in Boots


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Create a Classroom or School Google+ Community

Google+ Community

A Google+ community is a forum where people with common interests come together to interact on the Web. This would be an ideal tool for schools who use Google Apps in Education. Every student or teacher in your school can set up a Google+ account (Google’s version of Facebook) and join your learning community.

Features of Your Class/School Google+ Community

  • Make your community private 
  • Invite your students and other teachers to your class/school community
  • You can start a Google Hangout with your students or colleagues


  • Edit your community information, provide a description, and include different classroom categories (ex. discussions, homework, projects, etc.)



  • Community Feed: Post discussion topics or share content with classmates


  • You can share any site that has a Google+ button onto your class’s feed



Check out my EdTech Google+ community to see an example!

2nd Grade World’s Deserts Graphs & Charts (Google Spreadsheet)


Incorporating Graphs/Charts (Math) with Biomes (Science)

My second grade class has been learning about biomes for the last month. I decided to have my students create a graph or chart that compares the number of deserts in each continent. I shared a Google document that stated two objectives: 


The Google document also had a link to the Survival World website that listed all the deserts in each continent. 


Steps in Creating Their Graphs or Charts:

  1. Open the Google document and visit the Survival World website to find out how many deserts there are in each continent
  2. Create a Google spreadsheet 
  3. Create a table that lists the continents and the number of deserts in the continent
  4. Go to ‘Insert’ then ‘Chart’
  5. Open Google Earth and search for 5 deserts
  6. Take a screenshot of one desert (command+shift+4 for the Mac) and insert it into a cell on the spreadsheet
  7. Open Google Earth and find 

Example of Student Work 

Here is what one of my students created.




Use Minecraft to Teach Economics

Mike Rugnetta’s video inspired me to think about how Minecraft can be used to teach economics. If you have played Minecraft (adventure mode) before, you would know that the 3D procedurally generated world contains limited resources for you to use to survive. This means that your tools, food and natural resources can be used up. This feature of the game can help illustrate the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

Content Standards

You might be asking, “What grade could I use Minecraft to teach economics?”.  Well here are some grade-specific CA social studies standards for your Minecraft economics lessons.

Grade 1: 1.6 Students understand basic economic concepts and the role of individual choice in a free-market economy.

1. Understand the concept of exchange and the use of money to purchase goods and services.

2. Identify the specialized work that people do to manufacture, transport, and market goods and services and the contributions of those who work in the home.

2nd Grade: 2.4 Students understand basic economic concepts and their individual roles in the economy and demonstrate basic economic reasoning skills.

1. Describe food production and consumption long ago and today, including the roles of farmers, processors, distributors, weather, and land and water resources.

2. Understand the role and interdependence of buyers (consumers) and sellers (produc­ers) of goods and services.

3. Understand how limits on resources affect production and consumption (what to produce and what to consume).

3rd Grade 3.5 Students demonstrate basic economic reasoning skills and an understanding of the economy of the local region.

1. Describe the ways in which local producers have used and are using natural resources, human resources, and capital resources to produce goods and services in the past and the present.

2. Understand that some goods are made locally, some elsewhere in the United States, and some abroad.

3. Understand that individual economic choices involve trade-offs and the evaluation of benefits and costs.

4. Discuss the relationship of students’ “work” in school and their personal human capital.

4th Grade: 4.4 Students explain how California became an agricultural and industrial power, tracing the transformation of the California economy and its political and cultural development since the 1850s.

2. Explain how the Gold Rush transformed the economy of California, including the
types of products produced and consumed, changes in towns (e.g., Sacramento, San
Francisco), and economic conflicts between diverse groups of people.

5th Grade: 5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.

5. Understand how the British colonial period created the basis for the development of
political self-government and a free-market economic system and the differences
between the British, Spanish, and French colonial systems.

Post-Scarcity Economy

You can also use Minecraft to teach about the post-scarcity economy, as Mike Rugnetta points out in the video. In Minecraft’s creative mode, students can experience this theoretical economy because of the unlimited supply of natural resources and goods.

1st Grade Geography Lesson with Google Earth


Lesson Objective

Students will be able to compare the size of different geographical locations (ex. continent, country, state/province, city, etc.) with a 3D mapping tool (Google Earth).

Content Standards of Lesson (California)

1.2 Students compare and contrast the absolute and relative locations of places and people and describe the physical and/or human characteristics of places.

  1. Compare the information that can be derived from a three-dimensional model to the information that can be derived from a picture of the same location.

Learning Activities

1. As a class, we started a K-W-L chart (what they know, what they want to know).

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2. I presented my Geographical Location Presentation while students filled out their graphic organizer. The presentation helped explain the different location categories, and presented the challenge: Find where Mr. Lee lives!

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3. Students opened Google Earth and searched for specific locations in order to find my home (continent, country, state, city, and street). Google Earth’s zooming feature demonstrated the scale of these locations compared to one another.


4. Students also found their school and home.

5. We completed the K-W-L chart (what they learned) and reviewed the learning objective.

Reinventing a Public High School with PBL (Edutopia)

Sammamish High School was given a federal grant to redesign their curriculum and school with project-based learning (PBL). The school plans to transition the whole school to a PBL curriculum by 2015. Edutopia created this video to document the school’s first year of PBL implementation. Here are some of the things Edutopia found out:

-All disciplines and grade levels are shifting from teacher-centered instruction to student-centered learning.

-There is a great focus in engaging students with authentic challenges. Students are learning academic content through the process of finding the solutions to authentic problems. The hands-on experiences also help students to retain information better.

-Students were motivated to created quality work when clients were involved.

-Teachers are required to attend a five-day professional development on PBL in the beginning of the year.

-ELLs can benefit from projects that require them to work in groups. These students have a hard time understanding concepts through teacher lectures.

‘Google Keep’: The Soon-To-Be Evernote Killer?

Android Police’s Ron Amadeo reported a new Evernote-like service called Google Keep on March 17th. Sadly, he reported later in the day that the website was gone ( It seems that Google is not ready to push out this service to the public, but it is great to know that Google is working on a project that will allow you to clip web pages and take notes. I have been hesitant in using Evernote or any other note-taking service because want to stay in Google’s ecosystem for my work. When Keep comes out I will never have to!

Google Keep screenshots via Android Police

Through Android Police’s screenshot, you can see the service looks very similar to Google Notebook, which was shut down in July 2012.

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The screenshot shows that your notes can be color-coded, archived, or deleted. You can also add an image to your notes, and view your notes in a list or as thumbnails. At the top, you can see Google’s famous search bar that will help you find specific notes.