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Code Breakers

Literacy games, like code breakers, are useful for students who need to develop literacy in a second language. In this game, students create a code for other students to crack.

literacy games codebreakers


1: Divide the class into teams.

2: Ask the teams to write at least three sentences about a given topic. Ensure the sentences are correct.

3: Now give the students a grid like the one below. Tell students to put different characters next to each of the letters. They can simply move the letters around, or they can use new symbols although these should be relatively easy to reproduce.

4: Now ask students to put the sentences into the code on a separate piece of paper.

5: Finally give students a new code table and tell them to copy their characters for E, R, S, T and L into the table (these are the five most frequently occurring characters in English so should give students a chance to crack the code).

6: Collect in and redistribute the sentences and partially completed code tables. Tell students they now have ten minutes to try and crack the code. You can invent some extra incentive such as needing to disarm a bomb. You could set a timer if you have one, or alternatively just write the number of minutes left on the board and update periodically (this way you can give them longer if they are close).

7: The winner is the team who cracks the code first, unless no team manages to crack the code in the given time.

S1: I think this letter is “h.”
S2: Why?
S1: This letter is “t” and this letter is “e.” Probably this is “the.”


In addition to the timer you can also have a scoring system by giving teams 30 points to start. You can then offer for teams to be given an additional letter but they will forfeit five points for each extra letter they request.

Example Code and Sentences:


{?$< ?$IF 0T> RFF3 2TU3* <T2$0

___T ___E ___ _EE_ _____ T____? 

£$3 0T> £+$£% <?UL £T2F

___ ___ _____ T__S ___E? 

U8 0T> *T< <?UL <?F3 U $S US5+FLLF2

__ ___ __T T__S T_E_ _ __ ___RESSE_!

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