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Deciphering Morse Code

Subject:Arts & Humanities, Science
Grade:3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Featured Graphic Brief Description

Students write and decode messages using Morse code, as Civil War soldiers might have done.


Students use a guide to translate written messages into Morse code and to translate coded messages into written form.


Morse code, Civil War, telegraph, message, electricity, communication

Materials Needed

the Morse Code Alphabet online or printed, paper, pens or pencils

Lesson Plan

First, explain to students that the telegraph was an invention that enabled news about the Civil War to travel faster than at any other time in prior history. A telegrapher tapped out messages in Morse code, and others on the receiving end of the messages could translate the coded dots (short electrical impulses) and dashes (long electrical impulses) into letters and words. Invite students to work in pairs to create messages in Morse code. Then the students can exchange messages and solve them. (Decide ahead of time on a maximum letter count for each message; that count will depend on the grade you teach.)

As a fun addition to this lesson, you might introduce students to one of the Morse code translators that are available on the Web. Students can input a message and click a button to translate that message into code, or students can input the code and have the message translated into words with translators such as this Morse Code Translator.


Create a bulletin board. In one column, offer ten handwritten messages. In the other column, write the same messages in Morse code. Challenge students (working on their own, in pairs, or in small groups) to connect a piece of yarn attached to each handwritten message in the first column to the matching code in the second column.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards

Social Sciences:

Originally published 06/05/2000
Last updated 03/17/2009