8-10 yrs old
11-13 yrs old
Reading and Writing
Students will create a “space language” using light, sound, or a pattern. This language will be used to communicate effectively with others.
June 1, 2020
Wonderopolis: Do You Know a Universal Language?
Morse Code Translator
Miss Bensko’s playlists
The Pigpen Cipher
Various codes and ciphers
International Space Station Minecraft World
Have you ever met someone who spoke a different language than you? Have you ever wished you could speak to your pets? In this lesson, students will both study and create unique ways of communicating with those who do not share a common language with us. Their final device or language/alphabet will be showcased in Minecraft.
• What is language? Why is it important?
• What are some different ways of communicating besides speaking?
• Are there some sentences/phrases/words that can be recognized across many cultures? What are those?
• How can we design a device or create a language/alphabet that can easily be used or understood by all introduced to it?
Teacher Preparation & Notes
1. Read the article Wonderopolis: Do You Know a Universal Language? and use the last “Try It Out” idea as a guide for this lesson’s activity.
2. Think of a situation in which humans would need to communicate with others in space (they need fuel, they are lost, they are curious about their culture, etc.) and create five basic sentences/phrases/words that you will want students to translate into light, sound, or written patterns.
a. The length of what you want translated depends on the grade-level/abilities of your students.
3. Decide if small groups will be chosen by the teacher or the students themselves.
4. Gather materials for the lesson:
b. Music for classroom transitions (try out Miss Bensko’s playlists)
c. Copies of the alphabet in Morse code and Pigpen Cipher for students
d. Writing paper
e. Graph paper
f. Writing utensils
Estimated time: 60 minutes
1. Students read Wonderopolis: Do You Know a Universal Language? article.
2. The teacher will explain to students that communicating with others who do not speak the same language as we do can be very difficult at times. To help understand this, the students will practice communicating sentences/phrases/words the teacher shows them only using simple pictures.
a. For example, if the teacher shows the students the phrase, “I am lost,” the students would have to use simple pictures to try to convey that statement.
b. The teacher should explain to students that they are encoding the statement- converting the phrase into pictures.
3. Students will discuss, as a whole group, what was easy and what was difficult about this activity.
4. The teacher will tell children they are going to practice decoding now- converting a coded message into [English]. Students will work in small groups if necessary.
a. First, the teacher will use a flashlight to create a word using Morse code for the students to decode. Students will have a visual to use to help them.
b. Next, s/he will play short clips of music and associate them with actions in the room (sit in your chair, line up, put your head on the table, shake your neighbor’s hand, etc.) The students will decode the music after learning the associations.
c. Last, the teacher will give students a Pigpen Cipher visual and have them decode a phrase using their visual.
5. The class will gather as a whole group and reflect on today’s lesson.
1. Students will begin by reviewing yesterday’s lesson with the teacher in a whole group.
2. The teacher will explain that the students have a challenge today- they will create their very own “space language” that can be used by humans… or ALIENS!
3. In their small groups, students will decide if they would like to create a device that can communicate or a language/alphabet using light, sound, or images. This will be done in Minecraft, so it is important that they think about the knowledge levels of their group members regarding using various Minecraft materials.
a. If creating a device, students could use Redstone lights with pressure plates (light) or note blocks (sound).
b. If creating a language, they can develop their alphabet by writing with blocks, making signs with a cipher, or using different colored blocks.
4. The students will create a device or language proposal to show the teacher. It must include what materials will be used and if the communication will be light, sound, or a visual pattern.
a. If a group is having a hard time coming up with an idea, they can use the various codes and ciphers website for some inspiration.
5. Collaboratively, the students will work in a flat Minecraft world to create their communication device or language/alphabet.
a. Alternatively, students can create a new template in the Blocks of Grass world available in the Minecraft Library.
Once all groups have finished their project, the teacher will assess the groups’ understanding of their devices or languages/alphabets by presenting them with a short phase to translate in their Minecraft world.
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