Introduction: Makey Talking Book From Scratch

About: NBCT Teacher, Maker, Grower, Gamer - School Librarian and Coordinator for "Make It...Awesome!" GMS Makerspace and Gardenspace, Seaperch Coach, Girls Who Code Mentor

Using the Makey Makey and Scratch, we will make a book more accessible to our youngest students and those learning English by adding an audio version of the text that goes along with the pages. We want to create a button for most pages of text that will cue each audio file using the Makey Makey and Scratch.


Makey Makey

Lengths of wire

painters tape

Wire cutters

A book

Computer and a Scratch account

Copper tape, Scotch tape

Step 1: The Plan

Adding audio to a story can make a book come to life. It can help students who are developing readers to use the audio to support their reading. It can also be a great project for skilled readers to create; by choosing how they will read and record their voices, they can develop their language mastery too. That's why this is a great project for makers and readers.

We will divide our picture book into 6-10 audio segments. For some parts of the text, this included 1-2 pages of text. The layout of this picture book was all text on the left sided pages and pictures on the right. This made it simpler to plan. Using some basic planning about how a reader would hold the book, we decided to put the Ground end on the inside front cover, using copper conductive tape and running the length of the book from the spine to the outside edge. This will give our reader lots of options how to read and hold the book.

We will add copper tape to each right page so that a reader can touch each new page to cue the next part of the audio.

Step 2: Building the Book

Using copper tape and short lengths of wire, we started to connect each planned section to the book. Start by cutting short lengths of wire, about 6 inches long, and strip each end. We needed about 12 pieces for our book.

Start to "embed" the wire to the book using copper tape. Use the same technique as shown on the previous step. Starting from the inside edge, use a short piece of copper tape and run it parallel to the bottom edge. Add one end of the wire and tape it in place with Scotch tape so that the stripped end of the wire will make good contact with the tape. Then add one long piece of copper tape running the length of the book across the bottom and overlapping the short starter piece. This way we make, kind of a sandwich by sealing the wire on both sides with copper tape. We only did this with right sided pages so that a reader would touch the ground with the left hand and the page with the right hand throughout the book.

While adding your wires, it's a good time to label them. We decided to number them in order as we built each page. To keep it organized, we added pieces of painters tape with the labels on each wire.

Step 3: Adding the Makey Makey

Once you have all wires in place, you can start to connect the book to the Makey Makey. Flip it over and notice that there are even more options for how to connect things on the back. We chose this because we were using jumper cable-like wiring and there are more ports to work with. We started on the left side, where the ports are labels W,A,S,D,F,G. Noting this will be important when we move to Scratch. Find your wires labeled 1-6 and connect them to the ports. If you trim the stripped wiring short, you can get a snug fit in each port. Once the six wires are secure, a piece of painters tape wrapped around the whole side will keep it all in place. The ground wire can be connected to the middle ports, at any of the ports labeled "GND".

If you need more than six audio clips, move to the right side and use the arrow ports: Up, Down, Left, Right. Continue to connect the wiring and then tape it all up to keep it snug!

Step 4: Showtime!

Get some hot tea to sip because it's time to lay down some audio tracks. Using Scratch,, log in or create an account. We will be mostly using the audio options in Scratch, so head to the "Sounds" tab at the top. Rather than using the already available sound effects, we will record new audio files using the "Record" button at the bottom left corner. Because our story had some dialogue in it, we gather a group together, planned out our characters and started to record. Scratch has some basic editing features built in and once we had the files sounding good, they were each labeled with numbers, "1-10" using the same numbers as their attached wires.

With the audio files recorded and saved, some basic coding will make this book come to life. For each audio file to play, we only needed three blocks of code: "When a [ ] key is pressed", "play [ ] sound until done" and "wait [ ] seconds". For each, choose the right keyboard key in the drop down menu, then the right sound file you recorded and it should be ready to go.

For example: Key "W" should go with sound file and wire "1" and so on. If you can't remember you naming system, it could make for an interesting audio book!

Test and enjoy!

Step 5: Maker's Note

This project was inspired by Colleen Graves' amazing blackout poetry videos, which invites students to add their recorded voices to "black out" poetry. Adding personalized audio to projects is just one of many great things you can do by combining Scratch and the Makey Makey.

Also, we used a personal copy of a book to create these recordings to complement the text. We recognize that sharing the recordings of this text in a wider way would only be possible by seeking permission of the publisher and author. This project is meant to test an idea and to design something to make reading more accessible for students. And the book is a family favorite.

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