Create Your Own Coded Language
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
Students will discover and encounter cryptology used in their everyday lives. After discovering some uses and types of codes, students will create their own secret writing or coded messages, and develop a dictionary of eponyms.
- Discover and identify cryptology used in everyday life
- Decipher or crack codes
- Apply the new knowledge to create a secret code
- Develop a dictionary of eponyms
Step 1: Activate students' natural curiosity about secrets and secret codes by asking the students if they have ever encountered, used, or created a secret code. Discuss with the students that they have already encountered cryptology if they use email, for example: "U" for "you," "btw" for "by the way." Encourage students to give more examples of times they might encounter cryptology.
Step 2: Discuss with the students that codes are secret communication that is sometimes just for fun, but has also been used for serious matters, such as wartime communication.
Step 3: Distribute Cryptology/Codes (PDF) to each student. Check for comprehension and understanding by explaining to the students that codes are forms of secret communication; a code replaces words, phrases, or sentences with groups of letters or numbers.
Step 4: Once the students have completed the Cryptology/Codes (PDF), discuss and compare the codes. Which were the easiest, which the most difficult to complete?
Step 5: Build anticipation for Day 2 by telling the students that tomorrow they will be creating their own codes.
Step 1: Allow students time to create a rough draft of their code. Encourage students to create a code that will be fun and motivating to their classmates, for example, using pictures, numbers, or symbols to represent the alphabet.
Step 2: Once the students have created the final draft of their code, have them write a secret message (five or six sentences) on a separate sheet of paper for their classmates to decipher.
Step 3: Collect the coded messages for Day 3.
Step 1: Randomly distribute the students' coded messages.
Step 2: Give students time to crack the codes.
Step 3: After all students have completed cracking the codes, have a classroom discussion session about which codes were the easiest to crack and which were the most difficult.
Step 4: Introduce the culminating activity: they will create their own dictionary of eponyms, Slang, and invented words. (This dictionary will be an ongoing journal added to throughout the school year.) An eponym is the name of a person, real or mythical, that has become a word for something else. For example, a "Benedict Arnold" is a traitor, and from the Earl of Sandwich we got the word sandwich. If you had a friend named Amy who was always late to class, you could call a perpetually tardy person an "Amy." Require that all new entries to the students' dictionaries be written out like real dictionary entries, including the definition, derivation, and part of speech.
Supporting All Learners
Struggling students may be partnered with those who can benefit from helping their classmates. Students may be given extra time to complete their coded messages or fewer messages to decode. Have available various modified examples of messages for students to choose from.
Cryptology project suggestions:
- Discover cryptology use in everyday life.
- Decipher or crack codes.
- Create and teach a secret code.
- Create a dictionary of eponyms, slang, and invented words.
- Were your students able to crack the codes?
- Did your students clearly understand this form of communication?
- Were the students on task?
- Are your students ready to create their own dictionaries?
- Next time would you have them work in partners?
- How could you improve this lesson overall?
- Cryptology/Code cracking
- Secret code creation
- Code cracking (classmate's codes)