A simple Shift or Caesar Cipher in which the alphabet is shifted so that one letter represents another.
From that point on, previously resistant students were suddenly more interested in the unit, and previously interested students had an even deeper level of engagement. They just needed that connection to History, which was their subject of choice! I realized I had placed the topic of cryptography in a mathematical/scientific box just as we often place reading comprehension in an English box. However, in this day and age, with some countries even combining subjects (Finland’s Plan), it is important to have students see how everything is interconnected, and what better way to do this than using technology and current events to fully engage all students?
However, there were some students who “hated math” or “hated science” and struggled to complete simple substitution ciphers. Imagine that A=Z, B=Y, C=X, etc. and then using this to decode a message. With time, all students can figure it out, but without persistence and interest, they won’t try. I had students who were heading in this direction until one day when a student approached me and shared a podcast channel he was subscribed to called Stuff You Missed in History Class. This podcast covers a wide range of topics, two of which discussed Axis and Allied Cryptography in World War II. I shared this in class, and then had students relate things that came to mind to what they knew from History class about World War II, and the level of discussion was mind-blowing! After this, things changed.