The Navajo code talkers were instrumental in helping the Allied forces win World War II. By using their native language, Navajo, to make coded messages, the code talkers were able to send and receive messages the enemy could not break. Integrate learning with fun to teach about this important part of history.
Code Talker Coded Message
Write down a list of Navajo words used by the code talkers, the English equivalent and what letter of the English language the Navajo word represented. An example is ba-goshi which means "cow" and represents the letter "c." Next to this list, write a message using the code talker code. Draw lines in an area underneath the coded message for the students to write down their decoding of the message. Make copies of this paper and pass them out for the students to complete.
Provide each student with a list of Navajo code talker words, along with the pronunciation, to write a message using the code talking. Talk about the reason why it was important for the code talkers to use more than one Navajo word for each English letter, which was to make it harder to see patterns in the code. When all the students have finished their messages, have each student say his or her message one or more times, slowly and clearly. See if anyone can tell what everyone’s message is by having them write down the message and decode it.
Code Talker Drawings
Read a story, such as the novel, “Code Talkers,” which tells the story of the code talkers through the first person perspective of Ned Begay. After each chapter, discuss what was just read and have the students make a drawing about part of the story. Alternately, after finishing the story, have each student draw a picture on a part of the story that stood out the most to him or her.
Navajo Culture Activity
Learn about the code talkers' native culture. Read stories about traditional Navajo culture and what Navajo culture was like around the time of World War II. Pick a craft that all the students can do that relates to Navajo culture, such as weaving a small sampler using a piece of cardboard as a loom and some yarn or using air-dry clay to make Navajo-style pottery.
- High Tech World: Code Breakers; Ben Hubbard
- Scholastic: Code Talkers Discussion Guide
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images