Makey Makey GIF Stations aka Personal Photo Booth

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“You’re on Candid Camera!”

One of the first lessons I brainstormed for Makey Makey was the ELA Candid Camera Lesson. In the beginning, I only had a loose idea of creating a candid camera that students would activate via a switch. I thought it would be fun to take candid pictures and then tell a story later on based on the “found” images from the classroom. Don’t take this the wrong way and set up a secret camera in your classroom. Students will need to construct it and KNOW that it is there! I love the idea of letting students create GIFs with whiteboard scraps and reviewing books this way. Or even creating stop motion animation!

Reenactment Strategies

I wanted to take the lesson further though, so I thought back to my time in the ELA classroom and some great “Deepening Comprehension Strategies” from educator Jeffrey Wilhelm.  My Language Arts students THRIVED when they acted out stories, sat in the hot seat, or acted like experts. I loved how silly and fun they would get when reenacting with the “tableaux” strategy.

In this Makey Makey lesson, tableux meets technology and students create personal photo booths to make GIFs of acted out plots, vocabulary, or other narrative elements.

Incorporating the Lesson – Maker Style

Fast forward to this school year, I was stoked to hear that some of my new ELA teachers were using tableux to understand and re-emphasize the plot structure in “And Then There Were None.” So I shared my GIF station lesson idea, and Mrs. B and Mrs. F were ready to bring their classes to the library.

While I would love to have time to teach all of the students how to strip telephone wire for Makey Makey, I realized that we wouldn’t have enough time to do this AND create our GIF stations for tableux. (After all, what was important in the lesson? Stripping wire? Or solidifying narrative concepts?)  Instead, I enlisted my student aides to strip old telephone wires and Ethernet cables and gather supplies for our classes. My aides prepared supplies for each group:

  • Two long strips of telephone wire- with ends stripped
  • Two pieces of aluminum foil
  • One long piece of construction paper
  • One half sheet of construction paper
  • One Makey Makey Kit
  • Low adhesive tape MakeyGif prep.jpg

Hands On Learning

While you could explain how to create a switch with Makey Makey and tell students what to do….. it’s a little more fun and a little more engaging to let them figure it out and problem solve a bit. So, I had groups grab a Chromebook and navigate to my Youtube video below. I also kept a finished “GIF station” example available for them to look at if they got stuck.  As with most maker activities, some groups got it quick and others required a little more assistance.  I stayed nearby to help groups that got stuck and I prompted students to debug what was wrong as needed.


If you try this yourself, your students will probably run into these problems:

  • Making constant connections in the DIY switch
    • Too big of a hole in the middle paper
    • Foil taped too loosely
    • Foil pieces touching on the inside of the fold
  • Camera not activating
    • It only works like a “click” so make sure to hover over the camera click!
  • Connectivity issues
    • Some students don’t realize that the copper wiring is what needs to be taped to the foil!
    • Always have students double check which pins they clipped alligator clips to!
    • Make sure one wire is connected to earth! Stay grounded!
    • Be sure they’ve plugged in the USB! (You’d be surprised how many times I’ve personally forgotten to do that!)

Tableux and GIF

Once their GIF stations were made, students spread out around the library and reenacted their scenes and took pictures. The GIF stations made it so that all of the students could be a part of the reenactment. Some groups enlisted even more help by working together and the students thought their pictures were so funny, they took snapchats of their Chromebook scenes. Creating the GIF from the pictures on the Chromebook proved to be taxing since GIFPAL is blocked at our school, but the Makey Makey personal photo booth was a success! makey (1).jpg

This was a pretty good GIF taken with a #makeymakey and a Chromebook for Mrs. B's class!

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

#MakeyMakey GIF station hiding in a #library stack at #rhs !

A photo posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Go Further

What else can you do with a personal photobooth? Mrs. Richmond decided to make a “Checkout Selfies Station” so students could show off what they checked out!

Chibitronics Strawberry Stuffie

After many iterations……

Strawberry @chibitronics stuffie requestor is happy! #love #makered #makeraddict #circuits #momlife #plushie

A photo posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a Chibitronics fan. So when I saw an adorable strawberry stuffie project on their site, I knew I wanted to make my own version. These adorable chibi stickers are great for paper circuits, but I wasn’t sure how they would hold up in a sewing project. I ended up failing a lot and making about four different versions before I was able to get the really cute strawberry pictured above.

Effect Sticker

I decided I wanted to use the new tropical stickers and attempt to use an effect sticker to have some control over my pulsing LED stickers. So I busted out my Effects pack  , mapped out my circuitry and used a Lilypad battery holder to power my project. Sewing the effect stickers worked brilliantly! It worked great and withheld being punctured by my sewing needle.

Just dreaming up a plushie strawberry for my 7 YO w @chibitronics ! #makersgonnamake

A photo posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

However, in my first stuffie iteration I used too many chibi LEDS. Initially, I really wanted to try switching the polarity to see how the different colored LEDS would pulse in opposite rotation. (See Jie’s tutorial here.)  You can see this effect in the Instagram below. I thought it looked super cute, but when it was time to sew my stuffie together, my circuits started shorting.  I thought I’d maybe overloaded the battery attempting to use so many LEDs.

Circuitry working! @chibitronics effect stickers! #makered #makeraddict

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Plus, the material I used for the body of the strawberry was too stretchy and the topside of the fabric was too fluffy. Either my threads were shorting in the stretchy fabric, or the LEDs were losing connectivity because of the surface of the fabric, or I had too many LEDs for my battery. I wasn’t sure. Chibitronics are made for paper, so I suspected the fabric was the real problem. Rather than ditching the fabric my daughter chose for her strawberry, I started thinking about ways I could ensure connectivity. How could I debug and get all the elements I wanted?

Short Circuits

First off, I had to realize that blushing cheeks would be more adorable without all the other blinkiness going on above, so I cut back on my amount of LEDs. My second debugging idea was to sew conductive fabric tape on my stuffie for the copper pads of my Chibi stickers to stick to. This worked at first, but then when I attempted flipping my stuffie inside out to sew together, one of my LEDs went out again. At this point, I had one LED working well, but the other just kept shorting. For my third debugging trick, I fused interfacing to the inside of the strawberry fabric so I could see my lines of circuitry more clearly. This helped ensure that my sewn circuits didn’t cross, but it also helped sturdy up my fabric.

I sewed my circuits a third time, but still had one Chibi sticker that wouldn’t stay lit. So I added a Lily LED to the inside of my fabric to check my sewn circuits, it lit up!  I’d sewn everything correctly. The culprit in my short circuit was not my circuitry, but actually the way I was attempting to sew the stickers to the strawberry. I was busting the chibi LED the way I’d sewn it making it work only intermittently. I looked at my functioning chibi LED to determine what I’d done right. I’d sewn up from the edge of the sticker AND down into the pre-existing holes on the Chibitronics stickers. I’d looped multiple times and used a very skinny sewing needle.

Success! chibi strawberry.jpg

Fourth time is a charm! I re-sewed my last chibi sticker with my debugged ideas and finally…. got this little plushie just right!

My 7 YO 's requested blushing @chibitronics strawberry stuffie is complete after many iterations!!! #makeraddict #debugged

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Next Chibi Project?

I’m so stoked to play around with Jie’s new board for Chibitronics that can clip right to a paper circuit! Right out of the box, I modified one of our projects from the book Aaron and I wrote together. I quickly uploaded a blink sketch FROM MY PHONE! The video below is my first sketch that I’ve already changed a few times. Now, I’m excited to play around and mash some Lilypad components with paper circuits.  More tinkering to come!