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Secret Scroll

What's the secret message? Students create a secret code and antique-looking paper. Who can decipher the messages on the scrolls?

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Invite students to read about secret codes and how languages work. Find out how scrolls were made and where they were used. Symbols that create a secret code match up with a specific letter of the alphabet or numeral.
    2. Challenge children to create their own secret code using original symbols they have designed. Suggest the use of tiny drawings, letter forms, or unusual shapes. Remind students to make a key to show what word or letter each symbol stands for using Crayola® Fine Tip Markers.
    3. Ask students to cover their art area with recycled newspaper. Each student will crumple up a piece of construction paper and soak it with diluted brown Crayola Watercolors and a Watercolor Brush. Next, students spread the paper flat and allow it to air dry.
    4. Students write a secret code message on their handmade antique-looking papers. These secret scrolls are then tied with string.
    5. On construction paper, students draw shapes that relate to their meessage. Cut them out with Crayola Scissors. The shapes are attached to student scrolls with Crayola School Glue. Allow time for glue to air dry.
    6. Set aside time in the school day for students to share their secret scrolls with classmates. Who can decipher a message?
  • Standards

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Participate in shared research and writing projects.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories.

    VA: Use visual structures of art to communicate ideas.

    VA: Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janeczko; Secret Codes and Hidden Messages by Jeffrey O'Hare; Super Little Giant Book of Secret Codes by David Lambert

    Encourage students to select a favorite poem or historic document. Students copy the document or poem onto their scrolls.

    How was secret coding using during wartimes? Research secret codes that were used during the American Civil War, World War I, and/or World War II. Organize research into an electronic format for presentation to classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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