ELT Sandbox Reads… #Minecraft The Beginner’s Handbook

Earlier this month, I logged into Minecraft for the first time in a while to prepare for the EVO Minecraft MOOC (#evomc2017). It quickly struck me how much I had forgotten having not played for almost a year. I knew the basics I had to do – gather resources and build tools to make a shelter – but the crafting recipes escaped me. Too much random guesswork led to too much time being wasted. My son recommended various YouTube videos but this is one of those times when the generational digital divide comes into play and I opted for a more familiar option – reading.

My son is a font of all knowledge on Minecraft and had plenty of ideas and advice for me but, much like a C1/2 level learner who forgets to grade their language with an A1/2 speaker, his words of wisdom often wnt over my head. I therefore raided his bookshelf for the most suitable looking title – Minecraft: The Beginner’s Handbook.

Here another difference from over the generation gap – for my Minecraft expert son, this book has always been part of his collection of game memorabilia. He has all the titles in the series and has used them as reference books in his own play and to collaborate with his friends. However, I would be actually using this as a handbook, looking to it as a guide to get me through the early days of the game in less of a haphazard way.

There was also minecraft.gamepedia.com of course but while that is useful for quick reference, I find such online guides quite mechanical and was looking for something with more of a voice. That is what the book provides. It gives an overview of all the basic elements of the game and how they factor into surviving your first day. Beyond the guides, I have found the ‘My First Day in Minecraft’ contributions from some well-known YouTubers to be very insightful. There are mistakes there to be learned from and the reassurance to be found that even the best players ended up stuck without adequate shelter and then got blown up by creepers when they first started out.

It was a light read as well and I skimmed through the main sections of the book in an hour or so. As I read, I kept notes and compiled a list of things to do once I was back on the EVO Minecraft server. These included:

  • build a larger base (my original panicked effort was a mere 4 blocks by 5)
  • construct a beacon on top of it
  • dig deeper for iron ore
  • use it to craft weapons and armour
  • build some enclosures for farm animals
  • make a fishing rod and some shears

I felt a lot more confident going back into the game with my plan in hand and the knowledge refresher the book had provided. Apart from the farm animals, I was able to cross a lot of those things off my to-do list as well. I would definitely recommend it to the beginning player as it gives a better sense of what the game is about than the more procedural online guides.

My new improved base complete with a beacon that is over-the-top in more ways than one

The whole episode reminded me of where my interest in Minecraft as an educational tool had started about 5 years ago – seeing kids in the school I was working at in Turkey sitting together in groups and reading through it in their break times, and later seeing them with English versions of the other books in the series, their collective desire to know more about the game overcoming their elementary grasp of the language.

It was also interesting to me how I went for the paper book over the wiki guides and the YouTube ‘how to…’ videos. It just seemed easier to digest this way. Looking at the larger picture, it not only revealed to me a few things about learning the game but a few ideas about learning itself… but that’s for the next post. 😉


4 thoughts on “ELT Sandbox Reads… #Minecraft The Beginner’s Handbook

  1. Good advice here. Insightful to know that even people I consider to be “experts” have to struggle similarly to the way I do. I finally got some iron though. Now I’m thinking “shears” (so I can make a bed without stealing one from somewhere 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Shears’ – great word! It was a word that caught my interest a few years ago in a class of ten year-old A1/A2 students in Turkey. We were reading a text about farming and in typical coursebook fashion, the vocabulary had been simplified to describe the famrer ‘cutting wool from the sheep’. Two boys’ hands immediately shot up. “That’s ‘shearing’ teacher, not cutting!’ they cried. When I asked them how they knew that, the answer was, of course, Minecraft. 🙂


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