How We Can Differentiate Using Minecraft in the Classroom?

How Can We Use Minecraft to Differentiate Instruction?

There are many things that a teacher can do with Minecraft to differentiate instruction. Students can work together on an assignment or work alone. Students can build something they are learning about. They can count blocks, have an adventure, and talk to others, and the teacher can create a quest for them to follow.

According to an article in Education World, in the classroom, Minecraft can benefit students by

  • giving learners the freedom to invent, pushing their imaginations to the limit and allowing them to be creative in ways not possible in the real world;
  • building problem-solving skills, the game can inspire students’ higher-level and critical thinking;
  • providing opportunities for social engagement where students can rely on other players for help in the sometimes-unforgiving Minecraft world. When students work together, it builds positive classroom climate, teaches the benefits of collaboration and facilitates teamwork in a way that’s more organic than, say, being assigned to work together on a project. Students who might not get along in the real world can become allies in the Minecraft world.

I think if I were to try Minecraft in my classroom I would see how I could relate it to my content area. In my social studies class, I could relate Minecraft to history by having kids build famous buildings. Let’s say we are reading and studying about Egypt. Students could create pyramids in Minecraft. I could also ask students what they can do with Minecraft. I feel that they would know more about this than I do. Students, like adults, are more likely to commit effort when they’re included in the decision-making process. (McCarthy, 2014.) Providing them opportunities to make choices is one approach. Students like when they are included in the decisions. I think you would get buy in when the students are involved.

Deeper differentiation occurs when a student’s voice is nurtured.  When we know our students, then it’s more likely we can really differentiate instruction with them. Opening ourselves to what students bring to the classroom informs us how we might best meet their needs and expands our instructional toolbox to help other students. That source of support may come directly from the teacher, the student, or other stakeholders and experts (McCarthy, 2014). The more we know about the learners and the more we include them in the instructional dialog, the better equipped they will be to succeed (McCarthy, 2014). This is what we want for all of our students—to increase participation by providing instruction a particular student can relate to, by giving the student the power to make decisions, by doing things that involve social interactions—all in order to nurture the student and increase her or his knowledge. Some teachers don’t believe in games; they just believe in teaching to the core. I think if teachers really knew how Minecraft activities relate to the Common Core standards, they would be surprised.

The website lists the core standards that Minecraft supports: speaking, listening, writing, math, and science are some that relate to Minecraft. (See MinecraftEdu). I think this is good to know because many times you might have a parent or another teacher ask you how Minecraft is helping their student.

Students are growing up with technology and gaming. Many spend much of their time in electronic realities that provide them with instant feedback. When students come to school they are not always getting that. Games provide immediate feedback. Not just any feedback, but usually feedback that helps students fix or improve on their previous performance (Hertz, 2015).

Oftentimes we teachers are hesitant to try new and unfamiliar methods to differentiate our instruction, but it’s important that we push past our own fears to use tools like Minecraft that teach young people effectively by using devices they are already comfortable with.


Hertz, M. (2015). Using the Video Game Model in the Classroom. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from

McCarthy, J. (2014). Students Matter: 3 Steps for Effective Differentiated

Instruction. Retrieved January 19, 2015, from

Teaching with MinecraftEdu. (2015). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from

Thinking About Using Minecraft in Your Classroom? (2015). Retrieved

January 23, 2015, from

5 thoughts on “How We Can Differentiate Using Minecraft in the Classroom?

  1. I love thinking games for my students. I think they enjoy them and can learn so much while not even realizing what they are doing is actually learning. I teach math and I made my 7th graders sign up for a site,, they all complained. Then they started playing and I couldn’t get them to stop and they really had no idea they were actually doing math and I just sat there chuckling to myself. Minecraft, though, whole different story, because I don’t understand it. I can to this point, kill a sheep (maybe) and move pretty well and that was because my students showed me how to do that much, then I think they got sick of me not getting it. Since that happened, I’m a little fearful of using Minecraft in the classroom even though all the reading I have done lately completely supports using Minecraft in the classroom because it is can reach all students differently and allow for creativity in a school system that is so set on common core and testing. So like you said I’m one of those teachers fearful of trying something new that I don’t understand…I guess it may be time to get over that.


  2. I think you really hit on something, “Many spend much of their time in electronic realities that provide them with instant feedback. When students come to school they are not always getting that.” It got me thinking of the classroom environment and what students are doing while waiting for that delayed feedback and also how their interest in the material wanes during that waiting period.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Deeper differentiation occurs when a student’s voice is nurtured.”
    I think that is so true. Students buy into the classroom when they know they have a voice. Listening to the needs of your students is the very first place to start when differentiating any instruction regardless of the tool being used.
    Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really liked what you said, “…to increase participation by providing instruction a particular student can relate to, by giving the student the power to make decisions, by doing things that involve social interactions…” I completely agree. Students don’t tend to get the opportunity to make their own decisions in regards to their education very much. Offering the opportunity in multiple facets that incorporate that social interaction and familiarity makes for self-motivated students.


  5. Hi, Theresa…
    Truth be told, I have never felt worried about pushing past my own lack of experience with a tool if I knew it was good for students. Minecraft is proving to be a first for me, as I am really hesitant to even think about how I might use it with students (or teachers, in my situation). I have absolutely no experience with it (other than for this class), and as a result, I feel completely overwhelmed by figuring out how it works. So…if I don’t know what to do with it, how I can I use it to differentiate for others? Thanks for providing some really compelling resources and thoughts on why it’s worth “powering through” the challenges to find a way to make it work!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s