Zap – Wham – Moo: Exploring Onomatopoeia with MaKey MaKey in 5th grade


After reading about learning theories, experimenting with innovative maker technology, and discussing learning with peers for CEP 811, I was ready to create a Maker Lesson Plan.  I believe that an elementary school library is the perfect place to incorporate making into curriculum.  As a school teacher librarian, I am continually collaborating with all teachers on ways for their students to become literate across a variety of media, and providing opportunities for students and staff to learn and apply knowledge in authentic ways.


I chose to create a lesson in collaboration with my 5th grade team’s curriculum unit on figurative language.  This fits with ELA Common Core Standard L.5.5 – Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.  Additionally, the incorporation of technology into this lesson also fits with the ISTE Student NETS standards 1 (Creativity and innovation) and 6 (Technology operations and concepts).The goal for the lesson is to have heterogeneous groups of 5th grade students record sound effects for onomatopoeia examples that they have found either in poems or picture books from the library.  The students would map the sounds to a computer program called Soundplant, and design physical keys, that when touched would produce the desired sound effect via the group’s MaKey MaKey.  These poems and stories would be shared with the class’s 2nd grade buddies, and the 5th graders would have the opportunity to communicate literary and technical learning to the younger students.

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  • Picture books and poetry books from the LLC with examples of onomatopoeia
  • MaKey MaKey sets for collaborative groups of students (boards, alligator clips, grounding pad)
  • Laptops with USB microphones for collaborative groups
  • Soundplant installed on laptops
  • Objects/play-doh for keys.  (Students can also bring in items from home, or draw keys using paper and pencil.)
MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey


  • After this lesson, students will be able to record their voices/sound effects using sound recorder on laptop computers.
  • After this lesson, students will be able to attach recordings to keys using soundplant.
  • After this lesson, students will create meaningful keys for their words.

Broader Goal: 5th grade students will use technology to extend their learning of ELA topics, share learning with 2nd grade buddies and think about ways to use technology in the future.

Reading Buddies

Reading buddies in the library


As this is a collaborative lesson, librarian and classroom teacher will remind students of the concept of onomatopoeia.  “We have been studying Onomatopoeia in our ELA time.  Turn and talk  – what is an example of onomatopoeia?” Students will share examples.

5th grade students will already have had exposure to MaKey MaKey – perhaps in school maker space, or during a tech time.  Librarian will ask students to remind each other of MaKey MaKey properties at their tables.  Students will then share out to whole class, with statements such as: “Remember to connect the board to the computer.  You need to have a program open that tells the keys what to do.  Make sure that the person is touching the grounding pad, etc.”

Librarian will introduce objective: “Today, we are going to program the MaKey MaKey to make the sounds that the Onomatopoeia words make in the poem or short story your group will choose.  You will share the book with your 2nd grade buddy, and help them understand onomatopoeia.”

Lesson will be structured thusly:

  1. Divide into class into groups.
  2. Model process.
  3. Each group will choose a poem or a picture book with onomatopoeia.
  4. Each group will choose 5 words to program for the MaKey MaKey.
  5. Students will record sounds using laptops and save the files to their S drive.
  6. Students will open Sound Plant.
  7. Students will add the sound to the key that group chooses.
  8. Students will make keys: They will need to decide what they would like to use as each key.  They will need to think about how they will share this book with their 2nd grade buddies.  How will the 2nd graders know which key to press for that sound?
  9. Connect keys to the MaKey MaKey board.
  10. Connect the MaKey to the computer.
  11. Test the keys.
  12. Practice reading and cueing the sounds.
  13. Visit other groups’ MaKey MaKey projects.


This Checklist will help students keep track of the steps, and allow for reflection on the project.  Classroom teacher and Librarian will also use observation to see if students understand the project.


As the school teacher librarian, I look forward to team teaching with grade levels.  For this maker lesson, I wanted to bring media learning into existing curriculum so that the MaKey MaKey technology just wasn’t a fun factor but provided a meaningful learning opportunity (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

By heterogeneous grouping of students, collaboration is fostered.  The students will be able to learn from each other and help each other.  As O’Donnell (2012) wrote, “When there is student interaction, there is the possibility of students constructing new meanings” (p. 76).

Through librarian and teacher modeling of how to use the MaKey MaKey and recording software, students will be exposed to essential skills.  Students will then have a chance to practice in a supported environment.  This follows the constructivist model of apprenticeship learning and scaffolding (O’Donnell, 2012).

This lesson has a real world focus.  5th grade students will share a book/poem with their 2nd grade buddies.  They are creating the MaKey MaKey keys for their buddies to interact with the book.  Moreover, the 5th grade students will also function as experts to the 2nd grade novices in both ELA content and technology incorporation.  Perhaps in the future, the 5th grade students could teach the 2nd grade ones how to work the MaKey MaKey, thus continuing the apprenticeship characteristic of dialectical constructivism.

Research has demonstrated that agency is an essential component to personalized learning, motivating students and helping them to construct meaning (Adair, 2014).  In this lesson, students will be able to choose the book to use with the MaKey MaKey, and then have choice over which words need sound effects, how to make those effects, and how to represent those effects in a key.


1. Show students The Squeaky Door retold by Margaret McDonald.  Page through the book with them and model deciding which words to record for the MaKey MaKey.

2. Model recording sounds or sound effects with USB microphones and Sound Recorder on the laptops.  Great tutorial here.

Click on the Start button, type in Sound Recorder and click on it.

Click on the Start button, type in Sound Recorder and click on it.


Click the red circle to start recording.

Click the blue square to stop recording.

Click the blue square to stop recording.

Name your sound your word, and save it in your S0 space.

Name your sound your word, and save it in your S0 space.

3. Model adding sound to Soundplant keyboard.


4. Model creating a key for each of the chosen words.  Remind students of options – conductive objects, play-doh, graphite drawing.

Conductive materials

Conductive materials

Play Dough


Pencil drawing

Pencil drawing

5. Model connecting cables and MaKey MaKey to computer.


6. Test out the words.

7. Remind students to use checklist to keep track of their progress.


Adair, J. K. (2014). Agency and expanding capabilities in early grade classrooms:  What it could mean for young children. Harvard Educational Review, 84(2), 217-242,278. Retrieved from

O’Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washgington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003.

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition.  Prentice Hall.  pg 13-33.Squeaky Door

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