Classroom Activities: Learning How to Send Messages in Code

This Classroom Activity is from the website Lesson Planet–a service for K-12 teachers.  It recommends having students learn simple secret codes.  The simplest: have them write the sentence backwards. However, you can also try simple letter swaps:  Learning How to Send Messages in Code

Lesson Planet recommends this as a language arts lesson, but there is no doubt that it also helps with math skills. What is algebra, but a letter standing in for an unknown number?  They are also important for teaching computer skills–particularly programming skills.

You can even use a lesson like this to talk about history.  Did you know that the Cherokee language helped us to win WWII?  

You might even talk about poetry as a kind of code. Metaphor, for example, is sometimes used in simpler codes.  (Anyone who watches American gangster movies knows the characters probably doesn’t really want a bag full of cannolis.)  It is also critical in more complicated codes.

If you’re looking for more complicated codes for older students, you might also check out the following references:

1)  A Wiki on Creating Secret Codes

2) This Tutorial from The Problem Site


3) And another How-To from The Secret Code Breaker Online Cryptanalyst’s Handbook


About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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