Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Learning Phonics with Makey Makey

My youngest just started school this September, and he is at the beginning stages of learning to read. They start learning phonics with the first 6 letters S A T P I N.

We wanted to make it really fun to learn his phonics, so we dug out our Makey Makey and designed a game to learn the shape and sound of the letters. It turned out to be a fantastic activity with all the kids (ages 4 - 9) as we used making, designing, coding and logical thinking skills to make the game.

Makey Makey is a fun

Makey Makey is an invention kit that turns nearly anything into a controller for the keyboard. It works with Windows PC, Mac, Chromebook and any device that supports a USB keyboard and mouse. Very simply, you use alligator clips to connect your chosen conductive object with a key on the keyboard. Some schools have these available for kids to use in the class, but we think they are great piece of tech to have at home for easy and fun weekend tech projects.  The Makey Makey can be used as plug and play, instantly turning bananas into a piano or playdough into a game controller to play Mario.

Makey Makey works really well with Scratch, a programming tool for kids to make their own digital games and applications. You can find lots of projects already created for Makey Makey on the Scratch platform, we liked some of the projects in this studio.

How to make the Phonics Teacher Game

You'll need:
  • foil
  • sticky tape 
  • Makey Makey Classic 
  • Chromebook / any computer with USB connector

First we made the 6 letters using the foil. This was our choice of conductive material, but you could use playdough too. I worked with my son to form the letters S A T P I N using the foil, and used sticky tape to secure some parts. Careful not to use too much sticky tape as you want to keep the conductive foil exposed to touch.

Next, Tracy and her oldest, created the game using Scratch. We recorded our own voices for the letter sounds. The game would sound the letter and then you need to touch the corresponding foil letter. We created some fun sounds to indicate if the correct letter was selected. The game also shows a picture of bananas (because my youngest is a bit obsessed) if he touched the right letter and a big black "X" if he got it wrong. You can find and make your own version of the Phonics Teacher game on Scratch.

The trickest part is to connect the right alligator clip to the right letter. If you go into the game on Scratch you will find a key to match the different arrow, spacebar and click keys to the correct letters.

scratch phonics teacher game makey makey
Phonics Teacher game on Scratch

Tech Age Kids Summary

The older kids enjoyed to help make the game and joined in teaching my youngest the letters shapes and sounds. We spent a long time shaping the letters with the foil,  which meant we talked a lot about their sound and how they looked. We had to figure out the best way to craft the letters, and I love that design thinking then became part of the process. The best part is recording your own voice, to hear the letter sounds in your accent. This customisation means this game can be used anywhere and your child will learn the right pronunciation of the letters based on the local accent.

This game is a great example of thinking out of the box and using tech to make learning fun. The kids learned about design, coding and game strategy without even realising it.

Comment below if you try this game at home or make any improvements. Share your innovative ideas for learning phonics and letters for first-time schoolers.

Scratch Game: Makey Makey Phonics Teacher

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