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Makey Makey Musical Water Lesson Plan

By Teacher Librarian Colleen Graves

Appropriate for grade levels ES to HS (with adaptations)

Don't know coding? Want to dip your feet in the Makey Makey pool with minimal start up or fuss? Then this is the lesson for you! Let students explore soundscapes with real objects in this musical water lesson that utilizes a key mapping software called Soundplant.


Lesson Objectives

  • Introduce the key mapping concept
  • Use time order to sequence steps and music
  • Identify how important sequence is in music
  • Use singing to reproduce melodies
  • Demonstrate awareness of rhythm and phrasing in music
  • Identify themes, musical phrases, and note structures in music
  • Perform rounds, partner songs and four-part harmony from vocal arrangements

Lesson Materials

  • Makey Makey for each student or partner groups
  • Alligator Clips
  • Cups or tubs
  • Water
  • Prepared Telephone wires
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1. Clip jack 2. Carefully cut outer casing 3. Don't cut colorful wires
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4. Pull off the outer casing 5. Each wire has two usable wires twisted together. 6. Use Wire stripper to expose copper
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7. Twist ends 8. Push into Makey Makey 9. Or wrap and twist

Lesson Steps


Using Audacity(or a web application), students can record their own voice or instrument and make a wav or mp3 file. The students will connect those wav/mp3 files to keys on the computer utilizing Soundplant. Lastly, the Makey Makey will allow students to play the parts they've recorded by linking the water to the keys on the computer keyboard.

Musical lesson ideas that will work with this concept:

  • Using Audacity, students can record each musical section of a song (verse/chorus/bridge) and then challenge others to play the water in the correct sequence or find the correct rhythm, or whichever objective you decide to cover.


  • Since the Makey Makey will allow you to layer songs, this would be a great activity to introduce the concepts of singing in the rounds or perpetual canon.
  • Students could compose a song for four part harmony and use Audacity to record each vocal section. (If band or orchestra wants to recreate this lesson you could have students record themselves playing notes on an instrument. ) In this way, when students "play" the water, they can test the harmony in their composition.
  • You could introduce rhythmic notation by having students draw notes on the water cups, so others would have to correctly read and play the water to get the correct duration. (Students could practice timing of 16th notes, 8th notes, whole notes, etc.)
  • Students could record a pitch scale, and draw notes on a water scale to practice pitches.
  • What would you do? Add your own great idea to this Makey Makey Crowdsourced Gdoc!


After teaching the musical theory concept you want to cover, get your kids excited about the musical possibilities with Makey Makey by watching this video.

  • Use Audacity to record voices or instruments and export files as wav or mp3 files. You can also use these web applications:
  • Vocaroo - super simple, you will just need to download the mp3 or wav file.
  • Audioboom - record up to 10 min the only downside is you have to create a log in.
  • Soundcloud- You'll have to create an account, click upload, and then "start new recording." Then you can download your file when you are happy with your recording.
  • Alternatively, you can import a file into Audacity and have student select a musical phrase and then export each selection as a wav file.


Introduce key mapping concept with software Soundplant

View this tutorial to see how easy it is to connect student mp3s to specific keys on the computer.

Choose keys and upload wav files or drag and drop wav files to desired keys.

Connect ports on Makey Makey to match keys programmed with Soundplant.

Connect Wires to Water

  • Set up water in cups, tubs, etc.


Create a Ground

  • Create an "earth" or ground


Play Musical Water

  • Have students play water to experience the concept in which you focused your lesson.


Note on Standards

These lessons were developed with the idea that teachers all over the globe and a variety of grade levels could hack the lesson plan to meet their students' needs. Therefore, these are just some of the standards the lessons are based on, and not an all-inclusive list. Many of the CCSS align by grade level, so if you teach 9th grade, you could find the stair-stepped standard for CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.6 by looking at CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.9-10.6.

Common Core

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3: Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.5: Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

National Core Arts Standards

MU:Cr1.1.6: Generate simple rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic phrases within AB and ABA forms that convey expressive intent.

Music - Composition and Theory Strand: Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

MU:Cr2.1.C.Ia: Assemble and organize sounds or short musical ideas to create initial expressions of selected experiences, moods, images, or storylines.

MU:Cr3.2.C.IIa: Share music through the use of notation, solo or group performance, or technology, and demonstrate and describe how the elements of music and compositional techniques have been employed to realize expressive intent.

MU:Pr4.1.C.IIa: Identify and select specific passages, sections, or movements in musical works that express personal experiences and interests, moods, visual images, concepts, texts, or storylines in simple forms (such as binary , ternary , rondo ) or moderately complex forms.

MU:Cr1.1.T.IIIa: Generate melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic ideas for compositions and improvisations that incorporate digital tools, resources, and systems.

MU:Cr2.1.T.IIIa: Select, develop, and organize multiple melodic, rhythmic and harmonic ideas to develop into a larger work that exhibits unity, variety, complexity, and coherence using digital and analog tools, resources, and systems.

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