Thrifting, Repurposing & Technology

I cannot tell you how often I’ve explained to family members, friends, strangers and acquaintances that, we, teachers always spend our own money on our profession. We buy classroom decor, area rugs, prize box toys and office supplies. We buy books, folders, gidgets, gadgets, this and that which we believe will make our day more functional and meet students’ needs more meaningfully. In fact, my husband and I have had a monthly teaching budget since my first teaching job. It’s sad, but very true.

Because teachers are apt to feel strained financially due to a lack of budget/stipends and a growing list of needs, thrifting can become an invaluable habit. For this particular exploration in using the Makey Makey in my classroom teaching, I chose to repurpose four glass mason jars. Originally, when headed to the thrift store, I had no good ideas for how I wanted to innovatively use the Makey Makey in my classroom. Seeing many fun, unique items, I settled on four, simple, run-of-the-mill glass jars. Why? As confident as I am that teachers often do not have the funding they need for classroom materials, I am even more confident in teacher’s ability to gather too much stuff. I chose the glass jars for this particular repurposing project knowing that the jars themselves could be continuously repurposed in my classroom even after used with the Makey Makey kit.

To use the MakeyMakey kit and four glass jars for a activity/assessment on syllabication, read on.

You will need:
-MakeyMakeyKit: USB cable plug, MakeyMakey board, five alligator clips
-Aluminum foil
-Four glass jars labeled or numbered for your lesson/activity

Step 1:
Connect larger end of red USB cable to computer.

Photo Jul 09, 3 35 08 PM
Step 2:
Connect smaller end of red USB cable to Makey Makey board. When done correctly, a red light will turn on.

Photo Jul 09, 3 34 32 PM
Step 3:
Pull up on your computer/interactive white board/etc.

Screenshot 2014-07-08 22.51.38
Step 4:
Attach an alligator clip to two of the holes labeled “Earth”. The other end will be attached to you when ready to begin.

Photo Jul 09, 3 27 12 PM
Step 5:
Wrap aluminum foil around the top edges of each glass jar. The aluminum makes the glass jars conductive so that they can interact with the Makey Makey board.

Step 6:
Attach one alligator clip to the top of each glass jar.

Photo Jul 09, 3 29 28 PM
Step 7:
Attach the other end of each alligator clip to one of the arrows on the Makey Makey board as shown.

Photo Jul 09, 3 30 22 PM

Photo Jul 09, 3 32 14 PM
Step 8:
Hold onto the other end of the alligator clip attached to the “Earth” portion of the Makey Makey. (You can also make a ring or tight fitting bracelet out of foil or use a hair tie to attach the Earth clip to so that you do not have to hold it.) This completes the circuit so that when you touch the jars with your other hand, that particular piano key will sound. Make sure the various alligator clips and the glass jars are not touching each other.

Photo Jul 09, 3 28 42 PM Photo Jul 09, 3 33 09 PM

How can I use this in my classroom?
I have designed this particular activity to be used in conjunction with the teaching of syllabication. When young students are learning to listen to words and break them into syllables, they are often taught to clap each syllable. However, this can be confusing when students are trying to clap the syllables of a word while counting to determine approximately the amount of syllables for which they clapped. Using the numbered glass jars and the Makey Makey, a teacher can give a student a word like, “rainbow”. The student can then repeat the word listening for the syllables, find the jar that says “2” and tap the jar two times to make two piano sounds/notes while saying the word in its separate syllables to check their answer. Not only does this activity offer a more precise, clear alternative to the clapping, but gives a student the opportunity to connect the written number to the oral number. This interdisciplinary connection combines both ELA and Math Common Core Standards for kindergarten. Additionally, using the piano with light up keys, means students throughout the room can see which particular key lights up (I suggest writing the number associated with each key on the white board) and determine whether or not they agree with the response. This method could also be used in small groups or one-on-one as a fun, interactive form of assessment.

See a copy of my syllabication lesson plan here.

This activity reaches auditory, kinesthetic, tactile and visual learners, meaning the majority of students are likely to be engaged and enjoying themselves while learning and practicing syllabication!

**This multi-modal blog post adds to the value of my work because I’m able to reach an audience through text, visual display/photographs and auditory explanation/video. Therefore, the blog post and the lesson plan focus on the inclusion of many different types of readers, viewers and learners.


National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards. Washington, DC: Authors.

Rosenbaum, E. & Silver, J. Makey Makey. (2012). Joy Labz, LLC. Retrieved from

Rosenbaum, E. & Silver, J. Makey Makey Piano. (ND). Joy Labz, LLC. Retrieved from



  1. Ashley, I really like how found ways to appeal to multiple learners in your MaKey MaKey lesson. I think one of the great benefits of utilizing the different piano keys is that students not only see the answer their peers are selecting on the computer screen, but they can also associate the sound of the notes with particular examples. I could see “dueling pianos” in which two students select an answer at the same time and listen to see if they are selecting the same note.

    It is also great that you incorporated a formative assessment into your lesson plan. I think it’s really important that we make time to check for individual understanding and ensure that all students not only interact with their peers but also with the instructor. Great job!

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