One of the many things I’m trying to change is to slow down and let the kids absorb a lesson. With such a huge focus on standards and curriculum, it’s easy for me to get lost in getting everything done. 

I’ve tried many things over the years to introduce Lord of the Flies to them. Giving them time alone, thought experiments, prewrites about war. It’s usually mildly successful, but meh…take it or leave it. I just haven’t taken the time to do it right. This year, I used Minecraft to introduce the novel.

If you’re not sure what Minecraft is, or how it could work in your classroom, watch this intro to MinecraftEDU.

This year, I created a map of the island in WorldPainter, a program that lets you build custom Minecraft maps. Then I let the kids explore the island for two days. 

Here’s a quick tour of the island and the actual world I made.

They had to journal about each day’s experience as if they were actually trying to survive. Quick time out to say, EVERYONE did their journals! The only instructions were to pretend like it was a real survival situation and really try to survive.

The first day, they all gathered resources and worked on building houses. They teamed up. Kids that knew Minecraft helped the others. On day two, a few of the kids started attacking each other and burning down houses, just as I had expected.

I struggled with whether to let them attack one another, but the level of violence is minimal, and it isn’t graphic. I eventually decided to allow them to play against each other. On the second day, they did just that. A few of the kids ran around attacking each other, and burning houses. That led to a great discussion about human nature and the real world parallels. 

We’ll revisit the island throughout the book to reenact scenes, or try to fine tune the map to more closely fit. I’m hoping these exercises help them read closely and visualize the island better.

I see a lot of other opportunities for my tenth graders.

  • Create the ranch in Of Mice and Men paying a lot of attention to each location. Curly and his wife’s room, the bunk house, the barn, the dream ranch.
  • Macbeth’s castle – There are a TON of castle maps.
  • Download a map of the Globe theater and have the kids screencast (Jing – Free) scenes from the play.

Finally, a quick note about working with your IT department. It’s easy to feel like the central office doesn’t care about trying new things. Sometimes that’s true. Bureaucracies are inherently change averse. Usually though, that’s only because either they don’t know why the thing you want is beneficial or because they are overloaded like we are.  

My advice, get a name. After going around and around, I reached out to one of the Techs who had his phone number in his email signature. Once I got to talk to Dennis and explained what I wanted to do and why, he worked day and night to help me get the project up and running. 


Update: Here’s a quick video of the kids actually interacting on the island. I use this to talk about how quickly they went from cooperation to competition and destruction. 

 

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