I’m fascinated with adding coding to all kinds of books and writing projects for kids. The possibilities are endless! Make a book with your students in Writer’s Workshop, or in response to literature and code it to read the work aloud. Write poems and make them talk! Add sound effects to student-created graphic novels or make a circuit and add lights to illustrate a concept or idea.

Here are a few examples of interactive books (or responses to books) my students have made!

Collaborative Interactive Constellation Book

This project was a collaboration between second and fourth graders. The second graders researched constellations as an extension to a Greek Mythology unit we were working on. They wrote a piece describing the story behind their constellation, and then I recorded them reading it out loud. We created a simple program in Scratch (each second grader made the same 2-block program) that would read their writing aloud. We then hooked up a Makey Makey and had the book read the student’s writing when a button made of conductive tape was pressed.

The fourth graders learned circuitry and created the constellations with LEDs, copper tape, and a bit of soldering. We overlayed each constellation with black tissue paper to create the night sky.

To activate the book, you touched the foil covered star and then pressed the x made of copper tape by the students’ name.

5th Grade Phantom Tollbooth Map

When I taught fifth grade, we read Norton Juster’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth. A group of students recreated the map using watercolors and then wrote descriptions of each important place Milo visits in the story. They recorded their work, and added paper fasteners marking each spot. They hooked the map up to a Makey Makey. Now people viewing the map could press each paper fastener and hear the description of the places on the map! Click the link to see it in action!


Second Grade Flora and Ulysses Characters

Okay, these definitely aren’t a book. But, they used the same idea. This time, after studying Kate DiCamillo’s completely wonderful book Flora and Ulysses, students created favorite characters from the story by sculpting them out of foil and then wrapping them in yarn. When we added the Makey Makey, though, the foil wasn’t a great conductor with alligator clips, so we added a copper tape “button” as well. The students chose a favorite character to write about and explained what attributes that character had that made them a favorite. They supported this with a quote from the book. They recorded their voices reading the character’s quote and programmed Scratch to read aloud when the button was touched.

Two Renderings of Ulysses the Squirrel.

And, one in progress:

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, I read Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science aloud to a group of 4th and 5th graders. We determined the important events in her life and now the students are creating interactive books, this time using Micro:bit and a flower fold style of book. The little triangle pages contain sentences about the important events in her life and the contribution she made to the world. The students are going to program the Micro:bit to play music in her honor when the book is opened or tilted.

A Few More Ideas:

The above projects are just a few that I’ve facilitated. Here are a few more that I have either done or have in the back of my mind:

  • Last year, my third graders made graphic novels and used Micro:bit to program in some sound effects using MakeCode
  • A 5th grade study of Carl Hiassen’s Hoot (This editor doesn’t seem to let me underline anything – sorry about the non-underlined titles. It just seems wrong!) in which we study invasive species and make books that teach people about this problem and give them ways of helping to solve it.
  • Creating a display of student-written poems on a bulletin board that students record themselves reading. Then add your favorite microcontroller and programming to have the bulletin board read the poetry in the students’ voices.
  • Find even more ideas from my 2019 Maker Ed Convening presentation here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Fhmvqt6BVurlpOqP130zg1AXHKEdzbEMzqw4XVx-GhU/edit?usp=sharing