Adapting #Scratch + #MakeyMakey poetry for Elementary Makers (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.


Risk Taking – a new school year, a new school!

Hey readers! My family moved and I’ve started librarian-ing at a new school at an IB campus. I’m taking a risk and moving down to elementary to see how I can incorporate making and literacy ties at the start of a student’s education (Bonus: I get to be at school with my own 8 YO.)

I’ve taught secondary for 15 years and I’m only three weeks into teaching at the elementary level. I’ve taken a lot of risks and I’ve already learned a lot! Instead of making over the library before school starts, I’m making slow changes, and hoping to have a 2nd and 5th class use design thinking principles to help me update our library. (Thank you, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Diamond!) Below is what the library mostly looked like when I came in (although I think I may have moved some things around already in this picture.)

Book-tasting Orientation

For the first time Mason students met me, I wanted to introduce myself, but still focus on building a love of books. So I had students sample books from different genres per this idea from Andy Plemmons (He posted a few weeks ago about having book tastings for library orientation.)  Initially, I tried having 4th and 5th students taste books and then make Flipgrid videos about why they read. After two classes, I realized I was asking WAY too much and decided to save the Flipgrid videos for another time. (I also realized that students had no idea how to make a Flipgrid video! I had to make a how-to sheet!)


For the book tasting, I pulled books from each genre to put in tubs sitting at each table. I also created a little “genre sampling” document. For 5th grade, the genre sampling document helped them write about what they liked about each genre. However, for the other grades, I quickly realized just talking about what we liked would be more effective than trying to have a third grader write about why they liked a book.

One of the most challenging genre pulls for this book tasting was pulling books for readers in 2nd grade since their levels are so varied. I enjoyed pulling picture books and early chapter books like: Bailey School Kids, Junie B Jones, Encyclopedia Brown, and Geronimo Stilton.  It was also difficult to pull for so many different grade levels. If I did it over again, I’d probably only do this for 3rd -5th grade.

What went wrong: Kinder

One class of kinder totally rocked the book tasting. They enjoyed looking at different types of books and did a great job handling books, and picking a book to take on picture walks. However, most of the kinder classes really couldn’t handle a book tasting! Imagine that! 🙂 Instead I took cues from teachers and began to focus on library systems and learning how a library works. One teacher suggested we spread students out per shelf at the Everyone books. This is how amazing that looks:

What went right:

The book tasting was great for 4th and 5th grade students! Since my library is genrified, it gave me a chance to talk about reading different genres and looking at books outside of your comfort zone. As students sampled books, I told them I would hold on to books they wanted to check out. This created these beautiful #TBR stacks and gaggles of students reading all over the library as seen below.

Flipgrid “I Read Because”

Since I had to move my Flipgrid videos to another lesson. I attempted it again with a few random classes. I made a how-to document, and tried it out again with 3rd grade.

Where I failed:

My first two classes of Flipgrid videos WERE TERRIBLE. I didn’t talk enough about good citizenship or even how to make a video.

What went right:

By the third class, things were going better. I made a how-to document, told the kids they couldn’t watch other videos until they were done with their own, and had them spread across the library. I also had to mandate a “NO PHOTOBOMBING” rule. Some of these videos are super adorable, but some are still just too random. They’ll get better as they continue to make Flipgrid videos. 🙂

Dot Day Connections

Scheduling Dot Day is a massive undertaking! However, from my days at Lamar Middle School, I knew it would be worth attempting. My goal was to have every 1st and 5th grade class make Skype connections. After reading The Dot by Peter Reynolds, my first grade teachers had students make art inspired by dots. We shared these dot day -ish art works with Maryland, Kansas, and Michigan. My fifth grade students made dot art about how they would make their mark on the world  and shared their art with students in Maryland, Michigan, and Korea.  (Thank you April Wa, Michael Medvinsky, Amanda McCoy, Matthew Winner, and Andrew Carle!)

One of my favorite moments was Skyping with Matthew Winner’s new students and having my 5th grade students give his 1st grade students advice and vice versa.  Matthew blogged about it later and one of his students said, “I heard them say “don’t get stressed out” and it made me know that it’s good to work because it makes your brain stronger. Lois (age 6) -” (See Matthew’s full post here.)

Our first graders in Mrs. Cotton’s class did such a great job we are hoping to continue our collaboration with Michael Medvinsky and his University Liggett students.

What failed:

Every Skype wasn’t awesome. We had connection issues, we had students being wiggly. I tried Skyping from classrooms which caused issues, and even had issues Skyping in the library because other classes came in while we were trying to chat. I will have to set some norms for students so they know how to act if they see a Skype happening when they come to check out books!  I also learned so much about Skyping with littles from Matthew Winner. It is important to teach kids how to respond on a Skype call, otherwise it just doesn’t even feel like you are calling someone. It’s also pertinent to teach some hand signals for how a whole class can respond during a Skype to let another class know they are listening and appreciative.

Looking Forward

This week I’m starting some brown bag design challenges with 2nd grade, thanks to a tweet from Angie O’Malley.  Our 2nd graders will build robots from the items assembled in these brown bags tomorrow and all week! (Thanks again, Kelly for helping build these bags.)

Plus, my fourth grade students will bring in poems they’ve written this week to program in Scratch. I thought it would be good to make some manipulatives to help them with programming before logging on to the computer. If time allows, they are bringing drawings for us to hook up to Makey Makey. I’ll let you know how it goes!