Academic Ways to Use the MaKey-MaKey in the Classroom

Academic Ways to Use the MaKey-MaKey in the Classroom

Academic Ways to Use the MaKey-MaKey in the Elementary Classroom: Fun ways to advance coding in the classroom!

Two years ago I had the honor of guest blogging over on Richard Byrne's blog, Free Technology for Teachers. My post was entitled Learning to Program with the MaKey-MaKey in the Elementary Classroom. Since then I have seen many questions pop up in ed tech Facebook groups I am in about how to utilize the MaKey-MaKey in the classroom. Therefore, I wanted to expand on my post here.

Enter for a chance to WIN a MaKey-MaKey kit at the end of this post👏

What is a MaKey-MaKey?

A MaKey-MaKey is a small invention kit that comes with a MaKey-MaKey board, wires, alligator clips and a USB cable. You can take everyday objects and turn them into a touchpad that interacts with a computer program. Objects attached to the MaKey-MaKey become "buttons" that replace a basic keyboard or mouse. 

Materials for the MaKey-MaKey

Connect any material that's even a little bit conductive. Some ideas include:

  • fruit/vegetables
  • Play-Doh
  • Cheese
  • Marshmallows
  • Foil
  • Graphite from a pencil
  • Plants
  • Water/Anything wet
  • Metal objects

Introducing the MaKey-MaKey

When it comes to using the MaKey-MaKey in the classroom, my goal is for students to understand the how and why of using a MaKey-MaKey. It is a process. There is no right way to implement this incredible invention tool but I want to share what has worked for me. I like to do five 30-60 minute lessons that look like this:

Note: If your students are already familiar with coding then you can skip lessons 3+4.

Lesson One: HOOK DAY! Teacher assembles and connects a couple of MaKey-MaKeys to computers that has a program or game pulled up on the screen. Be sure to check out these free MaKey-MaKey apps (fun games) if you need an idea of something to use. Students learn how to control the games by holding the ground clip and touching whatever materials are hooked-up to the MaKey-MaKey. 8 out of 10 students always ask, "How does it do that?" Boom👊 They will learn in the next lesson. Here is a quick example of a 1st grader interacting with a MaKey-MaKey for the first time with the help of his teacher. Notice his question at the very end😉

Lesson Two: Students learn how to assemble the MaKey-MaKey. Teacher puts students into small groups and gives each group a laptop. Students are asked to find a school appropriate game online that operates by pressing the four different arrows on the keyboard (4 arrows= 4 alligator clips that will be attached to the arrow section on the MaKey-MaKey). It will blow your mind how quickly they will be able to pull up a game😉 In case you need back-up, here are a few games I have used in the past:
Teacher verbally walks students through assembling and hooking up the MaKey-MaKey. Here is a quick video tutorial of how you would set it up for this lesson:

 Alternative: Have students follow THESE visual directions. Supply a variety of materials for students to choose from in which they will attach the MaKey-MaKey alligator clips. It is fun to supply a variety of materials for students to test out--those that conduct and those that do not.

Students play their game only using the MaKey-MaKey.

Lesson Three: INTRO to CODING DAY! Students learn the basics of coding. I like to use code.org's Hour of Code for students to complete at their own pace. This teaches them the foundations of block coding. There are many different programs available for beginning coders but this is the one I always seem to use. The MaKey-MaKey is not used.

Lesson Four: SCRATCH DAY! Students transfer the skills they learned in lesson three to the Scratch program. I print out THESE FREE Scratch cards  for students to use to learn the ins and outs of programming in Scratch. If time allows, students can start creating their own interactive story, game or animation that relates to a topic they are learning about in school. The MaKey-MaKey is not used.

Lesson Five: PROJECT DAY! Students use Scratch to design an interactive story, game or animation that is controlled by the four arrows on the computer keyboard. They will finish by assembling and hooking-up a MaKey-MaKey to control their program. 

These culminating lessons only focus on the MaKey-MaKey taking control over the four arrow keys. The next step would be to introduce all of the other functions (spacebar, click, letters).

Academic Ideas Using a MaKey-MaKey 

It wasn't until I saw some ideas on how to incorporate the MaKey-MaKey in the curriculum that I started to come up with a few projects to try out with students. Here are a few I have done in the past: 

ANY MaKey-MaKey activity is great for teaching open and closed circuits. Students can hold hands and as long as they are touching the person who is holding the MaKey-MaKey's ground alligator clip, they can operate the computer by touching whatever objects are hooked up. As soon as they let go, the circuit is broken and nothing will happen.

You might be interested in checking out this video I posted on Facebook:

I highly recommend purchasing a couple of MaKey-MaKey sets for your classrooms. Students will have a blast inventing all sorts of creations.

*Thank you so much Mariel Weibender for sending me the MaKey-MaKey images to use in this post*

You can purchase a MaKey-MaKey or multiple sets by visiting my affiliate link:

For a HUGE savings, you could purchase the STEM kit that includes 12 MaKey-MaKeys:

WIN a MaKey-MaKey for your classroom by entering the Rafflecopter below:

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