For this encoding and decoding data activity, which could be adapted for all year levels, the students could experiment with Morse Code. After learning about the concept of Morse Code and how it works, the teacher could introduce the lesson by reading an age-appropriate story about code-breaking (see Fairlie (2021) for examples). If there is no suitable or appropriate story, the teacher could write their own. The teacher could explain how the story included the encoding and decoding of a secret message in order to solve a problem. From there, the teacher would then explain the task.
Students could be told that there is a problem that needs to be solved, but that it can only be solved through the encoding and decoding of data. Lower years could start off by decoding a single letter or word, whereas the upper years could potentially decode a sentence, thus there is also ample room for differentiation within a single year should it be required.
Students could be divided into pairs (or groups of three) and would then be provided with encoding cards (with the answers on them) and a decoding sheet (to help them decode the code). Depending on how students have been taught and their proficiency, they may encode the data by typing dots and dashes or by using varying lengths of light beams/flashes (using a torch). Students would take turns being the encoder and decoder, and check to make sure the encoder is sending the correct message and that the decoder is deciphering the message correctly. The teacher could walk around the room, listen to and facilitate discussions, help students who are struggling or who require extension, as well as informally or formally assess their encoding and decoding skills.
This activity could be completed remotely through Zoom or a similar platform such as Microsoft Teams using the breakout groups function to break students into pairs. The teacher could prepare some words and Morse Code decoding sheets prior to the session and email/send them to each student so they have access to them. Students could type the Morse Code using dots and dashes or a torch (if they have access to one). Alternatively, students could agree on a different way of encoding the data, ie. replace dots with finger clicks and dashes with a hand clap. The activity could also be done as a whole class, with one student encoding the data and the rest of the class decoding the data and then typing it in the chatbox or holding it up after writing it down on a piece of paper, which would allow for the teacher to assess their progress.
Blog with examples of books about secret codes:
Fairlie, K. (2021, May 31). 20 awesome kids books about secret codes and ciphers. Picklebums. https://picklebums.com/kids-books-about-secret-codes/