Therapy ideas- Minecraft

I'm not sure about you, but I've got loads of kids on my caseload who like Minecraft.  So today, I want to share some examples of how I've used Minecraft in my speech and language therapy sessions.

Please note, since Minecraft is a copyrighted brand, the worksheets and examples I have pictured are not available to purchase/download from the blog or our TPT store. I used images from a Google Image search and copied these into a document, for personal use in my therapy sessions only.  All images/names remain the property of Mojang.
This blog post has been written by myself as part of the 'Therapy Ideas' posts and the creators/owners of Minecraft/Mojang have had no influence in this post.

Here's the story...
When I first started with my caseload, it quickly became apparent that a few of them quite liked Minecraft (quite being a huge understatement!).  But, all I knew about it was that it was a world made up of cubes. To me, the graphics looked crude, just like computer games when I was a kid. I thought "it's just a craze.. it will pass", because I thought, just like many other toys and games before, they'd get bored of the graphics, the game-play etc., so I didn't put much thought into how it could be used for therapy. (I mean.. I didn't want to plan some games/activities for ages, to find out the following week it was a new craze they liked!) ...But slowly, more and more of them started playing the game, talking about it, watching YouTube videos and literally wearing the t-shirts! It didn't matter what fun activity I'd planned, they would always crowbar in a reference to Minecraft into our therapy sessions.  Then, one day, I saw two of my students who have really poor social communication skills running around outside and playing. They were shouting "don't go that way.. the creeper will get you!" "come over here, we can find some ore!"... and that's when I realised. Minecraft is amazing.

I decided there and then, somehow I was going to incorporate this game into our sessions...after all, if teachers can use it in lessons, why couldn't I use it in therapy sessions?!
Over the last year or so, I've incorporated it more and more into my sessions.  Here's some examples of what I've done:

  •  Describing: First, I use my 'Tell Me About It' pack to help the kids learn how to describe different objects. (I wrote about this activity here). I then use a set of cards I made especially for them, which look like this: (Note: I don't have the actual images- the games/activities are at work, and I'm on Spring Break! I'll take proper photos when I start back at work in two weeks!)

I then get the kids to pick a card and describe what it is- with help from the cards/worksheets in the 'Tell Me About It' pack .  This works really well, it's a fun way to incorporate their descriptive language targets in a highly motivating way!  When they've worked on this for a while, we then start using their iPad/tablets in sessions (always their favourite part!). The one rule- they must complete the activity, or it won't be used again (so far, they've all obliged!). So, they get to go on the game, walk around/play/build, and I randomly choose things in the world for them to describe. They have to formulate grammatical sentences and use appropriate describing words, giving clear descriptions to describe what they can see. This works a treat! It's also a great activity to suggest to parents as "homework" - 'have your child play on Minecraft and get them to describe what they're doing/what they can see'. 

  • Comparing/Contrasting: With this, I use the same cards I've made, and then create a simple Venn diagram (see above). The kids pick 2 cards from the pile, and then have to say what things are the same or different about each object. This is great because as well as addressing the obvious similarities and differences, they like to think about what the character/animal etc. does in the game, and whether they're similar that way too! This not only helps us to reinforce their knowledge of categories and comparing/contrasting, but also answering wh- questions and using language to explain- especially since I'm uneducated about the game!  

  • Sorting: This is another activity where I use my fabulous stack of cards! (Truth be told, they're a little dog-eared and scruffy now with how much they've been used!)  With this activity, we have the whole pile of cards and the kids have to group them based on a specific category, such as animals, people, things you can eat, things you can build with etc. 

  • Following Directions: This is definitely one they all enjoy! In these activities, I let them bring their iPads/tablets in, and they get to play on the game... but, with one condition... they have to follow my directions perfectly!  At the start of the session, I have an idea in my mind of something I want them to build/do (it generally is something I've seen in a Google search that I think they could make). I then tell them to "build a tower of wooden blocks, 3 blocks high", "dig a hole next to the tower", "put four red blocks in a line on the floor" etc.  This activity is great because it helps with their vocabulary & mine (because they will make it clear if I've not used the right word/name!)  After they've finished the building, I let them have a few minutes of free play. Quite a lot of the time, they're excited to show me what to do and let me have a turn, so I get them to give me clear directions of where to go and what to do on the game.  This helps expand their expressive language, with again supporting comprehension of wh- questions (since I haven't got a clue what I'm doing!).

  • Reading Comprehension: I bought the 'Beginners Handbook' (pictured at the top of the page) back in February time. Since then, I've used the book so many times in my session that I think I know it word for word!  I usually use the bio parts, and get the kids to read through the page, then answer my questions about what it read, such as "what time of day will you see the Creeper?", "how do you find iron ore?" "why does the Endeman become hostile?" etc.

  • Vocabulary development: This game is amazing for loads of different reasons, but there's one thing that's a bit tricky for my younger kiddos and that's the complicated vocabulary- words such as "hostile", "mob", "server", "aggressive" etc.  So, we use all the usual word learning techniques, and write them in our new word books to help us learn them all!

  • Emotions: This is an idea I saw on Miss Melissa's Speech blog. It's so awesome and she explains it so brilliantly, that you should just check it out here.

So anyway, those are just a few of the different ways I've used Minecraft in my speech and language therapy sessions. It's proved really successful and fun- and I know I've learnt a lot over this last year!!  I must say, I'm officially converted... I think the graphics are fabulous, the game is really interesting and the scope of what you can do is brilliant!
If you aren't using Minecraft yet, I hope you've been given some ideas of how you can use it too!  If you are using Minecraft in therapy, I would love to hear what sorts of things you've been doing... drop me a comment below!

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