5 Ways to Build a Reader with Minecraft

Do you receive book recommendations from Amazon.com? I am on their mailing list, and I enjoy reading which books they are selling to their teacher club members. Over the weekend, I read an email about books they recommend for children ages 9-12. I wasn’t surprised to see Minecraft books listed half a dozen times. Amazon is pushing these books because they are the books that many children want to read. Minecraft is HUGE for many of our students right now and we need books that relate to their interests.

Why Minecraft? Why do our students like reading these books? Over the summer, I wrote a post for the Nerdy Book Club about Minecraft books in the classroom and their potential to engage readers in the reading workshop. If you’ve ever played Minecraft, then you get it. It’s a sandbox game that has endless possibilities. It is a game that can go on forever. Plus, it incorporates building, problem-solving, and magic. What could be better?!

Minecraft can be used in the classroom in many ways. Andrew Miller wrote an article for Edutopia called “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom.” In addition, this link will take you to a great YouTube video about Minecraft in the classroom.

Here are 5 Ways that You Can Build a Reader with Minecraft:

  1. 516P5jSg5HL._AA160_Grab Reluctant Readers’ By Creating an Appealing Display – Fully embrace Minecraft! Your students’ faces will light up when they see a Minecraft display in your classroom. Whenever I put out Minecraft books, they are all gone by the end of the day! These displays are a huge draw for many of my reluctant readers who are fans of Minecraft.
  2. Get Some Minecraft Manuals for Minecraft Hacks– This is the first type of Minecraft book that my students ask for. They want to read the tips and tricks for how to play Minecraft. Students quickly move from these tip books to Minecraft novels.
  3. How’s it Going? Confer with Students about their Minecraft Reading– Many students who love Minecraft enjoy talking about the characters, the worlds that they are building, and the choices they are making. You can leverage students’ affinities with Minecraft and discuss the main character’s motivations, feelings, and development/change. You can also discuss setting descriptions and how the setting shapes the character’s decisions.
  4. Write about Minecraft in Reading Notebooks – Students will love writing in their reading notebooks about their Minecraft reading! All that great reading will lead to some good writing!
  5. Get some Minecraft Novels– My students love to read Minecraft books during reading workshop. I recommend getting some Minecraft books for your reading workshop. I’ve found that I have many reluctant readers who gravitate toward these books. You can find these books in the children’s section of bookstores. Be prepared. These books will fly off your shelves! Here are some books that I have on my shelves:

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 7.08.35 PM



Getting ready to do some good reading and writing over the holiday break, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about not chewing on the Christmas tree, and playing the app, Cookie Jam. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 


Book Clubs Need Clubhouses


Build Student Engagement in Book Clubs with Clubhouses

I find that my students are more engaged and excited to participate in book club meetings when they sit in clubhouses. These cardboard clubhouses are ideal settings for club meetings because they allow each club to feel special in their own space, away from the noise of other club meetings. The house itself can also serve as a book club management tool and large graphic organizer. Since students relish opportunities to be in their clubhouses, they must follow the rules for book club or else this privilege may be revoked.

The clubhouse can serve as a management tool: “Today’s Topics,” “Topics for Next Time,” “Next Club Meeting Time,” “Calendar,” “Pages We’re Reading,” “Book Club Rules,” and “Club Talk Rules.”

It can also serve as an engagement tool: “Mailbox,” “Growing Ideas About Our Books (with flower garden),” “Quote Wall,” and “Book Advertisements.”

For accountable talk: “Ways to Stretch Conversations,” “Conversation Starters,” “Club Discussion Leader of the Day,” and “Elements of Fiction and/or Nonfiction,” can be added to the interior of the house.

5 Steps to Make a Clubhouse Using 3 Boxes

In order to make cozy spaces for book club meetings, your students can make a cardboard clubhouse out of 3 large boxes. These clubhouses are quick and simple to build, and the best part about them is that they are collapsible and can be stored in a closet when you are not teaching with book clubs.

Step 1) Get 3 large cardboard boxes- all the same size. (If you want to buy the boxes, I recommend Walmart, Target, or Uhaul. They’re approx. $2 or $3 each).

Step 2) Cut 2 of the boxes on one side only. See picture below. Lay flat. These will be the walls of the clubhouse.


Step 3) Cut 3rd box in half, creating two equal parts. See picture below. Lay flat. These will be the two roof pieces.


Step 4) Set up box pieces as shown and secure roof pieces to the sides by cutting slits.


Step 5) Decorate! I like to cover the boxes in butcher block or colored paper so they are sturdy and colorful.


Best Part: Clubhouses are collapsible and can be stored easily! When you’re not using the clubhouses, fold them up and store. Simple!