Makey Makey Hacked Poetry Month Part I

Last week, Aaron Graves and I signed a 3rd book contract and announced that we will be writing a Makey Makey for the Evil Genius project book for the McGraw Hill imprint TAB Electronics!


It was great timing as I was also pushing my high school students to learn how to use the Makey Makey in combination with Scratch. (See my post about the  Makey Makey Michael Jackson I made to inspire them.)

I also visited Aaron Graves’ library makerspace for a little makered in the curriculum workshop. His instructional tech teacher had some awesome Makey Makey Map and OPTIC madness, and Aaron had his students create an interactive poem based on “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

#MakeyMakey & Scratch for #poetrymonth ? Great idea from @dentonhslib ! #makered #libraries #literacy

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

I was stoked when I saw this, and knew I had to go back to the library and hack some poems for poetry month. It also jogged my memory that last year during poetry month my awesome aide Sarah Mulvaney made a poetry display with student aides. This idea is actually included as an extension in the Interactive Room Challenge over at the Makey Makey site.

When I got back to school after Aaron and Crystal’s workshop, I decided to concoct a little Makey Makey magic of my own!  I went about the activity sort of backwards. I knew I wanted to use water, so I looked through our poetry books for a poem about plants. This poem by Kathi Appelt, called Tropism, was perfect!

#MakeyMakey hacked #poetrymonth @ryan_library ! Great idea from @gravesdotaaron @dentonhslib ! #library #makerspace #librariesofinstagram

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Since plants are conductive, I hooked a leaf to earth for “players” to hold and dip in the water to activate student voices. Leslie (My Instructional Technology Cohort) and I enlisted kids who were in the library to read and record a line of the poem. We ended the poem by plugging the last alligator clip to one of the library’s house plants.

Once I had an example, I was ready to get students to create their own examples. The activity morphed over the next few days, but it began with some poetry books, some Makey Makeys, and some conductive items in our tinkering area of the library.

Your turn to #MakeyMakey a poem interactive @ryan_library ! What will you create? #poetrymonth #libraries #makered

A photo posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

That first day, I had a couple of student creations. This particular student like my water trick, and he picked one of my favorite poems to hack with Makey Makey, “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks. I’m hoping to get one of our music mixing students to add his own beats to this one. Instead of a leaf, I showed this student how to wrap conductive tape around a paintbrush and use an extra long hook up wire to connect to earth.

"We real cool" by Brooks read and created in Scratch by Kevin @ryan_library ! #poetrymonth #libraries #makerspace #librariesofinstagram

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Then my student aide decided to draw images with our Makey Makey pencil from the Inventor Booster Pack and this activity was instantly transformed into a great lesson idea! She chose to use the fabric square from the booster pack as the earth connection.

Student #makeymakey drawing & Scratch reads for #poetrymonth ! Poem is "Nagualito" by Bruchac @makeymakey #libraries

A video posted by (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Since I had Mrs. Feranda’s class lined up to come in this week and get introduced to the concept of Invention Literacy, I decided this would make the perfect activity in our Makey Makey station to get students acquainted to using the Makey Makey with Scratch Programming. Plus, they could get creative by coming up with their own pencil drawings.

For this station, I hauled a book truck loaded with poetry books over to our tinkering tables, told the students to find a poem, and then visualize that poem with multiple pencil drawings. After creating Scratch accounts, I taught them about creating small programs to control computer keys and how to record and edit their voices in Scratch. Some students spent more time on extensive drawings and other spent more time on creating a game that actually functions with their drawings. As with all maker activities, I love how the students were engaged because they could focus on an aspect they enjoyed and create something new out of everyday objects like pencil and paper!

Leslie helped our students learn more about invention through littleBits challenges, and April had the best station – having the students define invention, prototyping, and technology by doing a write around text activity. I can’t go into too many details on our project as it will be outlined in detail in the book I’m coauthoring with Diana Rendina and Aaron Graves.

I can however, share some awesome student Makey Makey Poem hacks!

Here are some of my favorite examples so far (and I’ll post more this weekend after the classes get through on Friday!)



3 thoughts on “Makey Makey Hacked Poetry Month Part I

  1. Pingback: Invention Literacy Research – Part One | Create, Collaborate, Innovate

  2. Pingback: STEAM Camp –

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