Steal this Program: Codes, Ciphers, and Cryptographs!

We just launched a new program called 7, 8, Create! at my library.  Designed for (you guessed it) seven and eight-year-olds, it’s a pretty open-ended program.  One day (depending on which librarian is running it) we might do a story and thematic craft.  Another day might find us mixing up our own batches of slime.  The possibilities are endless!

For my 7, 8, Create! class this week, I decided to harken back to my girlhood obsession with Nancy Drew, spy stories, and anything mysterious and clandestine.  Using Gary L. Blackwood’s Mysterious Messages as a reference, my sevens and eights explored the history of codes, ciphers, codemakers, and codebreakers.I found a great website, Codes for Cubs and Scouts, that has simple explanations of common types of codes and some examples.   I had prepared a few codes (such as Reverse the Alphabet and Numbers as Letters) in advance and then let the kids try their hand at deciphering.

For example, can you crack the following code?

BLF ILXP!

(answer at the bottom*)

Then, once they were comfortable codebreaking, they teamed up to create their own codes for the rest of the group to crack.  Should the CIA find itself reading this blog post, take note- if you’re looking for the next generation of codemakers, you might want to look to the average second grader.

After breaking and making codes, we constructed our own cryptograph.  They looked something like this:

I had pre-cut two cardstock circles (one slightly larger than the other) and printed out the alphabet (one upper case, one lower.)  Then, the kids glued on the letters to the corresponding circles and we joined the wheels with a metal pin fastener.

I gave them a few codes to unravel using their new device.  Here’s one:

yca vq iq fwfg

Need a hint?  A equals C.    (answer below**)

Besides written codes, we also learned about semaphore- which is a code language using flags.  It reminded me a bit of color guard:

Overall, it was an awesome time.

Code Answers:

* You Rock! (a reverse-the-alphabet code)

**Way to Go Dude! (using our cryptographs set at A=C)

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3 thoughts on “Steal this Program: Codes, Ciphers, and Cryptographs!

  1. Hi! Checking out my fellow Cybils judges…I am so happy to discover another librarian blogger with so many cool things! I run a program similar to the one you describe above – we call it Make it and Take it and the kids make a craft and preview the new books – hopefully taking one!

  2. Hi Jennifer! Thanks for checking out my blog- I’m super excited to be a Cybils judge this year with so many awesome kidlit bloggers. Make it and Take it sounds really cool. I like that you integrate new books into the craft component. Nice!

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