4th Grade Circuit Stations and Interactive Switches

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A few years ago, I saw an interactive paper circuit mural on Twitter and was enamored with the idea of a large oversized collaborative paper circuit. I had a bit of trouble tracking down the original, but finally found it (thanks to Ryan Jenkins and Aaron Vanderwerff), and this collaborative lesson design from Creativity Lab at the Lighthouse Community Charter school. (Make your own oversized paper circuit thanks to Creativity Lab!)

Aaron V. also suggested using two different types of tape to differentiate between the positive and negative routing. (A GREAT TIP for students new to paper circuits!)

I loved the idea of the collaborative circuit, but was worried with my short time in the library and not having enough facilitators, that my students would get frustrated too easily.

Plus, I wanted students to create simple circuits in a different station and at this station, I wanted them to focus on completing the circuit by creating inventive switches (and playing with what is conductive and what is an insulator.)

By building an oversized paper circuit with multiple breaks where switches would need to be created, I hoped to create a playful atmosphere. One of the happy accidents of this prototype, was that students would not only have to complete each circuit to have all LEDS light up in parallel, but they would also have to work collaboratively to make sure all the lights stayed on!

I tried it out on my own 8 YO to make sure it was “tinkerable.”

Only 4-5 students could be at the collaborative paper circuit at once, and my other stations needed a little more guidance.  After the Scratch poetry unit, many of my 4th graders were enamored with Makey Makey, so one station was to test items for conductivity with Makey Makey (and their teachers manned this station.) I basically just set up a lot of weird stuff, and set out Makey Makeys with computers directed to the Makey Makey piano. They tracked their learning on a clipboard, and the students just loved finding out that water, plants, and fruit is conductive.

With the help of my QUEST teachers, I had a station where students created simple paper circuits using the Chibitronics template/ and squishy circuits.

The last station was the inventive switch station. Since I wanted this spot to be the most self-guided and playful, I set up the Tinkering Studio video about homemade switches, and told the group their goal was to light up all the LEDS…. then I let them play!

We had fun playing and seeing what materials would work on the oversized circuit. It was cool to see students engaged with curiosity and tinkering to learn!



Adapting #Scratch + #MakeyMakey poetry for Elementary Makers


Colleengraves.org (1).pngIf you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a bit over the moon for Makey Makey Poetry. (See initial post, follow up post, and resource page.) So when 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Harvey, asked me about ideas I had for poetry in the same breath as mentioning that circuits were coming up, well… I couldn’t help but share one of my favorite activities of creating interactive poetry with Scratch and Makey Makey. My 4th grade teachers were unsure it would work, but they were willing to take a risk! Thanks, 4th grade team!

I knew I needed to hack this poetry project for our elemakers so the class would still flow in our short time frame. Plus, our wonderful and awesome QUEST teachers Mrs. Stewart and Mrs. Koller volunteered to come assist during each class. Before the classes came to the library, the 4th grade teachers read “Yesterday I had the Blues” by Jeron Frame. Using the poem as inspiration, students created their own poem by focusing on colors and mood. Students sketched drawings in class to accompany poetry, then came to the library with poems and drawings in hand.

Upon arrival, I shared a simple pencil drawing of arrows, and touched each arrow to show students it was just normal paper. Then I slowly hooked up alligator clips to my drawings  magician style so that the drawings could become interactive.

The awesome of Makey Makey wowed the students.

However, I wanted students to see that it isn’t magic, and that a simple program controlled the drawing. I hooked up the wrong clips to the wrong drawings of arrows so that I could tap the up arrow and the computer would say “down.” I did this to explain that computers aren’t that smart without people telling them what to do! This shared the importance of understanding how to write really simple programs in Scratch.

Since my students did not have previous Scratch or Makey Makey experience, I also wanted to frontload the concept of block-based programming with some hand made manipulatives. You can adjust and print your own thanks to the awesome Scratch educator community!

Luckily for me, my QUEST (GT teacher) Mrs. Stewart was equally excited and offered to help cut and laminate these blocks AND come assist with 4th grade classes in the library all week!

Once students were logged into the computers and signed into Scratch, (I made a Scratch teacher account and created links for each teacher on the library homepage), I showed students the basic layout of Scratch and how to access the “Event” palette and the “Sound” palette. I demonstrated how to drag the big blocks together and asked them to use expo marks to change the setting on the blocks and then drag them together on the table until they “clicked.”

Before going too much further, I shared how to access the “Sounds” tab for recording their own poetry.  Since they already had a simple program at that point, the library was taken over by Scratch cat meows! I let them get the meows out of their system, and then asked them all to click the “black x” on the sound. (They didn’t know it would delete the cat noise! HA!) I quickly shared how to record and edit sounds, but at that point they were eager to get started. We told students to spread out and find quiet spaces around the library to record their poetry.  (Telling them they were free to tuck into library shelves.) I did make a point of telling students not to “audio-bomb” each other and keep their voices low. Most classes agreed with this common courtesy!

Once recording was finished, students were told to meet back at the “pink” tables in the library to begin the MAKEY MAKEY MAGIC! (If you don’t have them meet back at a central location, Makey Makeys end up on the floor and alligator clips end up EVERYWHERE.)

Now, the best part about the big printed Scratch blocks….. When students came back to the tables, they quickly figured out how to make their program in Scratch and how to control it with Makey Makey! Plus, if someone was confused, I was able to remind them about the big blocks on the table. Students that got it quickly, LOVED being able to help their peers with Scratch and Makey Makey. By the end of the week, we were able to get every student in class playing their poetry with Makey Makey.

"I'd rather have a hamburger than a stinky salad." #Scratch #poetry #MakeyMakey

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As with previous iterations of this lesson, one of my FAVORITE things was hearing students use emotion and tone in their poetry readings. There is just something about creating poetry in Scratch that engages kids with emotive readings of text. (It is not often that students engage with reading poetry with strong emotions!) Plus, it was exciting to see how stoked kids became about poetry by adding this technological piece.

If you’d like to witness a live demo of teaching students how to create this interactive poetry, I’ll be sharing my Makey Makey madness as part of the SLJ Maker Workshop  on Oct. 12th!

Until then, please share your own #MakeyMakeypoetry with the hashtag on Twitter!

P.s. If you want to see and hear your students poetry, make sure they hit “share” before they leave for the day! Otherwise, their Scratch games will not be shared in the teacher account.