I just finished George Washington Spymaster by Thomas B. Allen (book review to follow soon.) The book is all about the spying and deception that took place during the American Revolution. The author explains many ways in which spies for both the Patriots and the British created secret codes to mask messages. One of the ways was the “book code.” I’m already familiar with this type of code because I’ve watched National Treasure about seven million times. (Remember the scene where Riley keeps paying the little boy to bring back the words?) The code uses three number which correspond to a specific page, line and word of a specific text. For example:
35.3.1 = page 35, line 3, word 1
The person trying to decipher the word would need to know what book to use as a key, and have access to that book. In my example the book is George Washington Spymaster and the corresponding word is… L_Y. (I’ll let you figure out that one on your own!) There were a few more guidelines that went along with this, but that’s the gist.
I started thinking about how it might be fun to have the students create their own coded messages. After discussing the “book code,” the students could write reviews or summaries about a books that they have read. They would then code the message using the book itself as the cipher. As the process is a little cumbersome, it might be prudent to have them only create one or two sentences. The code could be written on a sticky note and placed on the front flyleaf of the book so that others could try to figure out the message. This could also be a center activity. How can you see this activity panning out?