Codes & Ciphers Thematic Unit

Rated 4.86 out of 5, based on 21 reviews
21 Ratings
Thematic Teacher
Grade Levels
3rd - 6th
Formats Included
  • Zip
145 pages
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Thematic Teacher

What educators are saying

My students loved this resource. They were very interested in figuring out different codes and this introduced them to a variety of codes.


When I asked a class of fourth and fifth graders what topics they would choose if they could study anything they wanted, cryptography was one of their top choices. Codes & Ciphers is an integrated language arts, math, social studies, and science unit focused on cryptography, the study of secret writing. Students learn about the use of hidden messages from ancient times, how the science has developed, and some of the important people in the field. They experience several types of encryption and decryption, and write their own secret messages to classroom friends. Since cryptography is built on mathematical principles, there is a lot of problem solving and thinking skills embedded in the topic. Whether you use Codes and Ciphers as a 1-3 day unit for a substitute (complete detailed substitute lesson plans are included) or you choose to spice up a few days with a little something special, your students will have plenty of practice using many of the reading, research, writing, problem solving, and thinking skills you’ve been working on throughout the year. I hope you’ll find it interesting and exciting!

Thematic Unit Materials include:

*Overview and Lesson Plans

*Detailed Substitute Lesson Plan Guide with sample worksheets and answers included in the guide

*Field Kit, Read and Follow Directions

*Student Readers: Grades 3-4 and Grades 5-6

*Comprehension Worksheet and Answers

*Vocabulary Activities

*Worksheets to introduce students to a variety of codes and ciphers

*Cipher Rings, Read and Follow Directions

*Art Project based on the study of an artistic spy

*Spy Files (Prizes for locating secret messages hidden in the materials)

Spy Center Materials will expand the learning for many days after the thematic unit is completed. Included are:

*Posters and Lettering for the center

*Reading File Cards for ongoing research

*Trivia Board Game with lots of interesting information and ideas for independent research

*Maritime Signal Flags Information Cards

*Disk Cipher, Read and Follow Directions

*Task Cards

* Blank Grids for Spy Center

I hope you and your students will find these materials exciting and educational and that they will provide you with an example of thematic teaching in the upper grades. It’s a really effective, efficient, and fun way to provide instruction for a wide variety of students.

Other Thematic Units for this grade level:

Loch Ness Monster

The Bermuda Triangle

Cave Paintings and Petroglyphs


The Mayflower Research Center

Art of the Pennsylvania Dutch

Total Pages
145 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Draw points, lines, line segments, rays, angles (right, acute, obtuse), and perpendicular and parallel lines. Identify these in two-dimensional figures.
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.


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