Speech Therapy and Minecraft

Starting this blog has been kind of terrifying for me. I love to read blogs and every blogger I read seems to have the most interesting life and I, well quite frankly, my life is pretty boring. I'm an average girl, not super adventurous and somewhat of an introvert with a very introverted husband. Take this last weekend for instance. We could have gone to parades or the fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July, but instead we hung out, made a nice dinner, and didn't leave the apartment for at least 24 hours. Oh, and we played video games.

While I am not a video game expert, I like to think that I am at least slightly nerdy in the fact that I have played (and beaten) a few video games. Our most recent adventure is a game called Terraria. At one point, I was really into Minecraft. Are there any school based SLPs who have no idea what Minecraft is? Do you hear your kids talking about it non-stop? I love the audible gasps that I get from students who have just figured out that I've played Minecraft and that I know what a creeper is.

While part of me feels that playing video games in my spare time is not adult-like, I enjoy how it helps me build connections with students, especially those students who tend to persist on a particular subject, such as Minecraft. When I can't seem to get a good language sample out of a kiddo, this topic usually yields very good results. Now don't get me wrong, bringing up the fact that I am a dabbling gamer can be dangerous. Sometimes my students won't stop talking about the game or they will try to convince me that we should play the game during our sessions. The cool part is that I know what they're talking about! I can't begin to count the number of times that I've been able to take a conversation with a student who is fully engrossed in their latest achievement in a certain video game and relate it to their goals. For example, in Minecraft, sometimes things don't go the way you want - you run out of materials to build a house, you drop your brand new diamonds into lava, or a creepy monster (called "mobs") starts to attack you. This allows me the perfect chance to bring up flexible thinking. 

Minecraft is also a great discussion for cause and effect. Because you feed a wild wolf a bone, it loves you and becomes your companion. Now, don't get me wrong. I definitely DO NOT encourage my students to actually try this in real life, but you get my point. I can't tell you how many things I've read on being a great teacher that say you need to hook your students in by their interests. Overall, Minecraft is a pretty good game. While there are swords, you are fighting monsters, which is way better than fighting people in my opinion.

I hope to use Minecraft more in the future. Before writing this post, I discovered Pixel Papercraft, a website that has hundreds (if not thousands) of printable and fold-able Minecraft characters, mobs, and blocks. I'm planning to create some of these and use them in play or for role playing activities with students. Never played Minecraft? No worries - there is a free demo version available for tablets. Just give it a shot! Still not convinced? Here are a few things to know so you can understand "Minecraft-ese."

Minecraft is a game of surprise! mining and crafting. As you mine, you find bigger and better things, which allow you to craft, or make bigger and better things. There are many "recepies" online of how to build complex traps (hmm... that gave me an idea for following/giving directions). Minecraft is like a giant lego sandbox. Unlike games like Skyrim, Minecraft is a very block based game; everything has corners and a square shape.
Mobs - mobs are the monsters and include zombies, spiders, skeletons, creepers, and endermen. Creepers are green and explode if you get too close to them. Endermen are actually pretty creeper. If you look them in the eye, they teleport to you. Animals, such as pigs, sheep, horses, and cats are also considered mobs since they are randomly generated. Below is a picture of the most common hostile mobs. From left to right: skeleton, enderman, creeper, zombie.

NPC - an acronym for "non-player character" used in a variety of video games. These are characters that appear within games that are not contolled by humans, but simply programmed to be within the games.
Mods - not to be confused with mobs. "Mods" are short for modifications, or extra content you can download to change the look of the world or what can happen in a world.
Server - a server is basically a computer, or a special way to set up a computer. It's basically a place where data is stored, on a person's home computer, or someone else's computer. Servers allow people to play together at the same time, like a google doc, only way more fun.

Steve - Steve is the general basic Minecraft character. When you first enter a world, you look like everyone else unless you get fancy and download a skin. (Pictured right)
Skins - not as creepy as it sounds. Skins are just downloads that allow you to change how your character looks. I ask students to describe what their "skin" looks like.
Spawn - when a character spawns, they are entering the world. A spawn point is the precise location where your character will begin the game everytime you start to play that world, or will appear ("re-spawn") after your character dies.

A few of ways to target speech and language while talking about Minecraft include:
-following/giving directions
-social thinking/role play scenarios (don't be a zombie)
-working on language through play
-facts and opinions
-cause and effect
-articulation, fluency, voice at the conversational level
-building a relationship with your students

And with that, I will leave you with this trailer created by a player and You-tuber that gives a basic preview of what Minecraft looks like and a few of the things you can do within the game.


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