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Write A Message in A New Language

Students will create new words or a new language. Using a set of rules, students will decipher messages and write a response in the new language. After the messages have been deciphered, the class will discuss the activity.

PROCESS:

  1. Point out that languages follow rules. Letters or symbols spell words. These words have specific meanings. If you put the words together in the right order, they express an understandable thought. However, languages are also like living things. They grow and change over time. New words are invented and added. The meaning of existing words can be revised. Revised definitions may vary depending upon timeframe, geography or who is communicating and why.
  2. Select two words with multiple meanings, such as bad or cool. Write the words on the board. Encourage students to define each word in as many ways as they can. Examine how time, location and social situation affect the meaning of each word. Encourage students to introduce and examine other words in this same way.
  3. Then challenge students to create new words or write an entirely new language of their own.  As a class, brainstorm ideas for how this could be done. For example, students could write a code, substitute letters or perhaps all words in a sentence must be in alphabetical order. Encourage students to be creative, but remind them that their words or languages must have rules that are easy to understand. If they don't, nobody will understand what they are saying.
  4. Give students time to work on their languages. Encourage them to write a list of rules and a message to a classmate using their new words.

ASSESSMENT: 

Challenge students to decipher each message and write a response in the new language. After all messages have been deciphered, discuss the activity as a class. Which messages were the most creative? Which ones best followed the language rules? Which messages used the most new words?

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:     

Grades 3-4:
As a class, write a simple set of language rules. Then divide the class into groups of four. Instruct each group to write a one-sentence message in the new language. Have two groups switch messages. Encourage group members to work together to decipher their message and write a one-sentence response.

Grades 5-6:
As a class, write a simple set of language rules. Then divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to write a short message in the new language. Tell students to create a dictionary of new words to help others decipher what they wrote. Have two groups switch messages. Using the other group's dictionary as a resource, challenge students to decipher the message and write a short response.

Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into small groups. Supervise groups as they write a simple set of language rules. Then have each group write a short message in its new language. Have two groups switch messages. Using the other group's rules as a guideline, challenge students to decipher and respond to the message. If any students struggle to understand what a message says, instruct the two groups involved to work together to identify problem areas and write new rules that make the message easier to understand.

Grades 9-10:
Assign each student a partner. Instruct pairs to write a detailed list of language rules and create a dictionary with several new words and their definitions. Tell pairs write a short message in their new language. Then have two pairs switch messages. Challenge students to decipher and respond to one another's messages. Encourage them to use the other pair's dictionary as a resource. If any students are unable to decipher a message, instruct the pair that wrote the note to provide more detailed rules for interpreting the new language.