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Lesson Plans
Shh...It's a Secret!
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:
Create copies of the student handouts

Cue the videotape to the appropriate starting point, which is when you hear Jackie ask, "I've got it! What if we make a code by replacing the words of our messages with numbers?" Onscreen, Inez is standing on her head, and Jackie is pacing in the submarine.

Load the Shockwave plug-in, available at www.macromedia.com, and Quicktime, available at www.apple.com/quicktime/download, onto each classroom computer.

Bookmark the Web sites for the Introductory Activity.
When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1:

Ask students if they have ever told a secret. Ask them how one can tell a secret without anyone else hearing it. (By whispering.) Lead into this introductory activity by telling your students that you are going to tell them a secret, and that you want them to pass the secret along by whispering it to their neighbor.

Step 2:

Play a quick game of "Operator." First, arrange students into a line or a circle. Whisper a phrase into one student's ear (i.e., "Math can be fun, if it's learned more way than one!") and ask them to whisper it once to his/her neighbor. The neighbor will then pass the message on to the next person in the circle or line. After the message travels throughout the group, ask the final student to repeat the message aloud. Usually, the message will be changed due to people mishearing the message. Ask students how one can convey a message in secret without it getting misconstrued. (Why, through secret codes!)

Step 3:

Discuss that throughout history, people have used different methods of coded systems to communicate. Log onto the following Web sites, and ask students to identify the codes. Ask them who may have used these codes.

http://www.tigtail.org/TIG/M_View/TVM/E/PreHistory/Europe/prehistory-europe.html
Look at several photographs of actual ancient cave drawings. You must scroll down the page to see the photographs.
(Cave dwellers used pictures to communicate with one another.)

http://www.omnicron.com/~ford/java/NMorse.html
Type in a message and watch it translated into Morse Code symbols, and then actually listen to the sounds of the now coded message.
(Beginning in the mid 19th century, people used Morse Code to send telegraphs.)

http://www.upennmuseum.com/hieroglyphsreal.cgi
Type in your name and click the button to see how it would look in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
(Ancient and modern languages use symbols and letters to represent meaning. In Ancient Egypt, they used a system called hieroglyphics.)

Discuss why it is hard to decode the Morse Code message. (The students do not know the rules in order to communicate, and therefore can't reverse them to decode the message.)


Learning Activities

Step 1:

Explain to your students that they will be learning about codes by watching video clips from the PBS series, Cyberchase. They will be learning how to read codes, and how to construct and share their own coded systems. INSERT the Cyberchase episode, "Codename: Icky," into your VCR. Explain to your students that the Cyberchase kids have to create a secret code in order to thwart Hacker's attempts at listening to their plans for saving Icky, the slug. CUE the tape to where Jackie asks, "I've got it! What if we make a code by replacing our words of our messages with numbers?" Onscreen, Inez is standing on her head, and Jackie pacing in the submarine. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking your students to determine what the rules are for Inez's secret code. PLAY the video until Inez says, "Later, okay?" Onscreen, Inez is talking to Digit who is holding his cookbook. PAUSE the video. Ask your students what the rules are for Inez's code? Write the rules on large chart paper or on the blackboard. (Using books, the three numbers in Inez's code refer to
  • the page number in a book,
  • the line number on that page, and
  • the placement of the secret word on that line.)

Step 2:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to double-check the rules as they understood them. REWIND the video to the part where Inez explains, "Books! Books have words!" Onscreen, Inez is talking to the other Cyberchase kids. PLAY until Matt says, "Great idea, Inez!" Matt is wearing his backpack as he responds to Inez's idea. PAUSE the video. Ask your students if they have to modify the code they wrote based on seeing the video. (Make necessary adjustments).

Step 3:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to listen to and carefully record the coded message. CUE to the section and PLAY the clip where Jackie says, "22-3-5, 22-3-6," as their submarine travels through the water. PAUSE the video. Break your class into small cooperative groups of 4-5 students. Hand out "copies" of page 22 from Digit's Cyberchef (see attached handout). Ask your students to try to decipher the coded message using Inez's rules. Ask them to write the message down on paper. Once your students have completed decoding the message, provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to compare their decoded message to the one deciphered by Inez and Digit. CUE the video to where Inez says, "To decode the message, we find page 22…" She is looking at the cookbook while sitting next to Digit in the submarine. PLAY until Digit points and says, "Icky's at the Hot Dog reef, let's move it!" PAUSE the video. Ask your students if they accurately figured out the coded message. What is the code? (page 22/line 3/word 5 is the word "hot"; page 22/line 3/word 6 is "dog') How did they crack the code? (They knew the rules to create the code and the persons sending and receiving the code had the same book.)

Step 4:

FAST FORWARD the video to the part when Matt says, "Ha- now that we've sent Hacker on a wild goose chase, we can make up a new code for sending our messages." Onscreen, the shot moves from an external view of the outside the submarine to an inside view of the kids. Explain to your students that the Cyberchase kids have to create a new code, since Hacker caught on to their book code. Luckily Icky understands their code at a crucial moment. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking your students to figure out the rules for the new code the Cyberchase kids create. PLAY until Digit says, "…I got it!" as Icky looks on from a sandbank. PAUSE the video. Ask your students what kind of code they have created. (A picture code which can be communicated through a set of numbers. Each picture relates to a unique number.)

Step 5:

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to determine how Icky communicated with the kids in order to be rescued. CUE to where Digit says, "Listen, Ick, we're here to help you…" as he calls up to Icky who has been trapped by Hacker. PLAY until Digit says, "He got the message!" referring to the smiling Icky onscreen. STOP the video. Ask students how Icky could communicate with the Cyberchase kids. (Both parties knew the rules that were used to create the secret code and then could reverse them in order to communicate.)


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1:

Explain to your students that they will now watch the Cyberchase for Real epilogue. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to watch how Harry created a code with his friend, Julio. After viewing the clip, ask students how Harry communicated in code with Julio. (He matches the alphabet to cryptic symbols. Each letter corresponds to a different symbols)

Step 2:

Tell them that they are going to learn a new secret code, the Zokzyvg Code. Write a secret message to your students on chart paper or the blackboard using the Zokzyvg Code:
Dsl rh blfi uzelirgv Xbyvixszhv xszizxgvi?

Step 3:

After they have a chance to mull it over, give them the handout which begins to describe the rules for this code. Ask students to describe the connection they see between our alphabet and the Zokzyvg Code. (In order to write in Zokzyvg Code, you have to substitute the letters of our English alphabet with the letters of the Zokzyvg Code, which is the English alphabet backwards. a=z, b=y, c=x, etc.) Encourage your students to finish the Zokzyvg Code by translating each letter of the English alphabet; then, they will have the means to reverse the rules and decode the secret message. Ask your students what question the message asks. (The question is, "Who is your favorite Cyberchase character?") Solicit their responses. Have them write the character's name using the Zokzyvg code.

Step 4:

Break the class into cooperative groups of 4-5 students. Have them create a secret message of four to six words using the Zokzyvg code. Have the groups trade messages and see which group can work cooperatively to decode the message first.

Step 5:

Have your students log on to the "Crack the Code" activity at http://pbskids.org/cyberchase/webisode_2/game0.html.
Tell students that they will be watching Digit in his own webisode try to save the cyber citizens of Valussa.

Step 6:

First, walk students through the instructions. Begin a game, and ask students what they notice about the message itself. (Each part of the message is made up of dots and arrows encased in a set of shapes.)

Step 7:

Ask students what they now notice about Digit's decoder. (As you move the mouse, you notice that shapes and symbols-- dots and arrows--are revealed. Also, the decoder is set up as a 3 square by 3 square grid. If you think of a tic-tac-toe game, groups of 3 letters are listed in each portion. So when you see a square it is the middle group of letters, If you see an "L'shape, it is the group of letters in the upper right. )

Step 8:

Bring students' attention back to the secret message. Individually or in partners, allow students to experiment and try to crack the code. When the code is cracked successfully, the game will proceed to a harder level.

*HINT: Ask students how the dots and arrows and the shapes work together to correspond to a letter. (The shape corresponds to one of nine grid positions on the decode, like the tic-tac-toe grid. Then, the arrow or dot corresponds to one of three letters within that grid area.)


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Language Arts/Drama
Ask you students to develop meanings for a variety of gestures, postures, and/or facial expressions. For example, touching your elbow could signify that you want to know what time it is. Similarly, a left eye wink could mean that you're hungry while a right eye wink could mean that you need a pencil. Can your students integrate these gestures and their coded meanings into their daily routine?

Social Studies
Have your students study the symbols used in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Make enough dough to give each student a fist-sized ball. Explain to the students that they are to use the dough to make a tablet, and using a stick (end of a plastic spoon works well) as a scribe, they are to write their names in hieroglyphics. (*note: Egyptians wrote their names vertically, not horizontally.)

Learn the story behind Morse Code. Have your students try to send messages and decode messages using the patterns of Morse Code. This activity can be a bit noisy, although your students could "tap" messages out on each other's hands.

Math
Investigate an ancient culture's symbols, and create math problems with various operations. Try using the Ancient Chinese numerical system. Can your students solve the problems? Can they write the solutions using the ancient symbols?


Community Connections

Ask students to create a secret code with their families or caregivers. Urge them to try communicating with this shared secret code. Notes can be left:
  • On lunch bags
  • On bedside tables
  • Under pillows
  • Next to toothbrushes
Invite in members of the working community to talk about how they use codes on the job:
  • Policemen use codes an emergency code system to detail the particulars of crimes.
  • Firemen use an emergency code system to detail the particulars of a situation.
  • Doctors use codes in an emergency room to communicate quickly and efficiently with one another.
  • A baseball player uses a code made of gestures to signal plays.
  • A football player uses codes to relay plays to each other.