Thursday, June 8, 2017

Getting Started with Scratch and Makey Makey

Makey Makey, an invention kit that turns anything (that conducts electricity of course) into a touchpad and Scratch, a FREE visual programming language developed by MIT, are the perfect combination for bringing computer programming and hands-on project making together. At my school, we have found that by teaching the kids how Makey Makey works along with guided lessons in Scratch the kids are putting them together and getting some pretty amazing results.

So how do you set your students up for success as you incorporate computer programming AND making into your lessons? Well, this is definitely a work in progress we found and created some resources we are using to teach computer programming with Scratch and make it hands-on with Makey Makey.

What if I don't know anything about Makey Makey or Scratch???

Guess what?? That's OK! You can learn along WITH your students! That's what we am doing and WOW they sure are teaching us a lot. It's a bit uncomfortable for us teachers at first but it's worth it. If we waited to be the expert in all tech tools before we used it with our students our kids would sure be waiting a while. So check out the resources below and jump in and get creating with your kiddos!

Introducing Makey Makey

Makey Makey is a HUGE favorite at Sun Terrace. This little kit is quite popular with our elementary school kiddos who greatly enjoy playing Flappy Bird with their Play-Doh or banana controller.

To guide the students as they explore HOW Makey Makey works I taught a unit on electricity and circuits to our 3-5th graders (you can easily adapt for K-2). Using this "Getting Creative with Makey Makey" HyperDoc, originally created by Cathie Gillner, students explored electricity and how circuits work to discover which materials conduct electricity and which are insulators. The hands-on component of Makey Makey made the engagement level skyrocket and students began using their science vocabulary with one another as they created their models and built their controllers.

If you look at the HyperDoc you can see that the majority of programs the students are working with are created in Scratch. The kids LOVED playing games with their Makey Makey controller. Also, many of the awesome projects that Makey Makey has on their site either have a program already created in scratch for the students to use or they ask students to remix an existing project. While we found that some students can easily remix a project given the directions on the site most of us (including me) need some experience in coding with Scratch in order to successfully write a program that will work with Makey Makey.

Getting Started with Scratch

At Sun Terrace we code all year. Students use in their classrooms, they use Blockly to code the Dash robots, an unplugged favorite game is Robot Turtles and of course, we go big during the Hour of Code in December. But we knew we needed to do more so this spring we began taking it to the next level with a more focused approach to teaching computer science.

To teach the students computer programming with Scratch our Technology committee decided on using the Creative Computing Curriculum Guide from Harvard Graduate School of Education as a starting point. It's a BIG hit with the kids and once the kids get rolling with programming the possibilities for using Scratch across the curriculum are pretty much endless. The guide is very easy to follow and if you are ok with learning with your class and quite possibly ending up having them teach you then you can definitely get started with this guide.

We created challenge cards with additional directions and links to the handouts for each activity to gamifying the curriculum and to make as it easy to implement as possible for our teachers to use with our classes. This makes it simple for students to go back to previous lessons and review what they missed or may have forgotten.

To gamify the curriculum we used Alice Keeler's Gamify Your PD: Badges and Level Up template and created a Scratch Ninja Badge spreadsheet. Each lesson (with a few modifications) has a badge. Students earn stars as they work toward their Scratch belts. We made a copy of the badge spreadsheet for each student and assigned in Google Classroom so they could keep track of their achievements. So far they are loving it! All of the lesson cards are linked in the template too for easy access to lesson resources.

Click on the link below to get make a copy of the badge template with links to the lesson cards too! So far only units 0-2 have been badged and gamified so check back after the summer when I should have them all done 👍  The idea to make Scratch Ninja badges came from Lisa Guardino a wonderful computer science teacher mentor of mine who used the belt system with her kids when teaching Scratch, thanks Lisa!

Scratch Ninja Badges Template
Once our students were rocking and rolling with coding they could easily make the jump to using Makey Makey to control their Scratch programs. NOW comes the fun part and the possibilities for incorporating these projects into math, science, social studies, and ELA are endless. We are already starting and have lots of resources to share but that's another blog post 😉

So that's how we are got started combining computer programming with making at Sun Terrace Elementary. We are just beginning to dive into all of the ways we can get students exploring, discovering, thinking and creating with Scratch and Makey Makey but are as excited as the students are to see where this takes us. What have you tried? Have tips, ideas, resources for beginners? Please add them to the comments below!


  1. My students used the step-by-step lessons in Scratch this year to learn a bit about how it all works together. They absolutely loved it! I am trying to figure out what I will have students do next year now that my 3rds and 4ths will have experience with Scratch. I love the gamifying of it, but how much time do you set aside for this each day and total? I meet with students for 40 minutes once every 6-8 days and have trouble figuring out ways to have them do something like this without it taking most of the year. Also, what grades do you do this with and do you use the educator accounts? I discovered the accounts cannot be transferred to a different class the following year, so I am not sure how I am going to handle their accounts next year.

    1. I use scratch with 3rd-5th grade and our lessons were about once a week or so. I do have an educator account and also am bummed that they can't transfer =( I'm hoping Scratch resolves this by next year. If they do not I will have the kids create a studio next year called "past projects" where they will remix the projects from their previous account so that they don't lose them. That's the only thing I can think of =(

      I am working on a follow up post with ideas for using Scratch across the curriculum and am hoping to have that out by the end of the week. I am also planning on gamifying and creating challenge cards to use with a blockly tutorial Blockly is fantastic because it doesn't use Adobe flash and there is a language translation built in so the jump to programming with a language like Python or Java is not as big.

      I would love to collaborate on ideas! You can email me or dm me on Twitter @KarlyMoura and we can put our heads together to come up with something.

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