Spies of the Revolution
Hook | Questions
| Procedures | Data
Investigation | Analysis | Findings | New Questions
student page contains the hook only. It is intended to spark interest
in the topic and lead students to ask questions or make predictions.
Can you read this? Why not?
You just intercepted this spy letter sent during the American
Revolution and it is up to you to break the code.
Your country is counting on you.
13.7.3. 5.9. 9.7.4. 220.127.116.11.24.5.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.3.12. 8.24. 126.96.36.199.19.3.
2.3. 188.8.131.52. 184.108.40.206.26.3. 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.
2.3. 22.214.171.124. 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.12. 8.24. 11. 18.104.22.168.
24.7.5. 22.214.171.124. 126.96.36.199. 5.16.3.
188.8.131.52. 184.108.40.206.24. 9.14. 9.7.4.
8.14. 2.3. 11.4.3. 5.9. 220.127.116.11.18.3.
8.5. 18.104.22.168. 24.3. 24.9.2.
5.16.3. 22.214.171.124.6. 8.12.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.19.3. 5.9. 11.
184.108.40.206.18. 220.127.116.11.22.18. 18.104.22.168. 5.16.3.
8.14. 6.9.7. 22.214.171.124. 126.96.36.199.18.19.6.
2.3. 22.11.24. 10.4.9.23.8.13.3.
188.8.131.52.15.16. 9.14. 9.7.4.
184.108.40.206.3.12. 5.9. 220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168. 22.214.171.124.
5.16.3. 126.96.36.199.22.18. 8.12.
10.19.11.24.24.3.13. 14.9.4. 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206. 220.127.116.11.5.
9.7.4. 18.104.22.168. 8.12. 8.24. 22.214.171.124.
Here is the key decoding the spy letter. It is based on the how
letters are arranged on the keyboard. It might work best if you
break up the letter into different parts and let students work in
groups to decode it. Give students the key if time is an issue.
Key to the
coded spy letter:
. = end of letter/beginning of new letter
Due to our recent casualties in battle, we have become severely
outnumbered. We have bunkered ourselves in a fort outside
Saratoga, but fear that the enemy will soon learn of our
weakness. If we are to strike, it must be now. The enemy is
vulnerable to a sneak attack from the north if you move quickly.
We can provide enough of our forces to distract them on the southern
front. The attack is planned for tomorrow night. Our cause
is counting on you.
might ask similar but different questions than those listed here. The
more students are guided to ask specific questions, the less
inquiry-oriented the activity.
teacher you usually have specific topics that you need to teach, so
there are probably going to be boundaries around the types of questions
you want your students to ask. These questions will drive the inquiry.
List here the main question(s) that you will lead your students
1. What was it like to be a
spy during the Revolution?
2. What methods were used
to communicate secretly?
3. How dangerous was a
might be a list of sub-questions that will be asked as well.
1. a. How was each of these
commumication methods effective?
Did they have any drawbacks to them?
Which method do you think was the most effective?
2. What happened if they
3. How did the spies feel
and what were their attitudes after they were caught?
students have asked questions related to the topic, they will need to
decide a number of things, including:
of data needed to answer the questions
tools for data manipulation
how data will be manipulated and presented
(for creating a concept map)
to write spy letter
students will be expected to create a concept map in order to help them
answer their questions. They will also need to use what that have
learned throughout their exploration to create their own spy
letter. The letter can detail something as simple as what the
students have learned during the project, but try to push the students
to create a letter that could have conceivably been written during an
event in the American Revolution that they have already learned about.
is often a giant leap from defining the type(s) of data desired and
actually finding the data. Providing guidance to students in finding
the necessary data may be necessary.
Inquiry Projects use data/information other people have gathered and
placed online. Part of the inquiry process is finding the needed
are provided a website and are then asked to search for the data they
need within this site.
Raw data/information usually
has to be manipulated before
it can answer any questions. Students might be unaware of how data can
best be manipulated, so teacher guidance may be appropriate.
The question is, “what was it like to be a spy during the American
Revolution?” To answer this question we went to
http://www.si.umich.edu/spies/index-main2.html to visit Spy Letters of
the American Revolution. We thought of several questions stemming
from this topic: What methods were used by spies? What
happened if they were caught? How dangerous was it to be a
spy? To investigate the first question we examined the letters
section of the website to fins several methods used by spies. For
the invisible ink letter, we found a letter a letter that was treated
with acid to expose the invisible ink.
The next question deals with the capture of a spy. We analyzed
two pictures: one of his capture and one of his hanging. We
found that even though he was captured in his “spy” American outfit, he
was hanged in a British uniform, denoting his identity as a spy.
We were then led to the question: what were the feelings of a spy
when he was captured and awaiting punishment? In particular, we
looked at John Andre. He analyzed a letter he wrote days before
his death. We found that he was incredibly loyal and quite
accepting of his fate. He was also worried about his
family. He was concerned with everyone else except himself.
The question about how dangerous was it to be a spy, we realized was
better answered using the analysis we just did. The danger
stemmed from the fact fear that you could be caught and put to death.
following is an example of the steps taken to create a concept map that
answers the questions proposed.
- Final Concept Map (click to view)
No result is meaningful unless
appropriately. Discussion of findings should be supported. There may or
may not be definitive answers to the questions students raised.
Unexpectedly, while analyzing the invisible ink method, we noticed that
it was the same letter that we analyzed for John Andre’s impeding
death. The invisible ink letter was written in two parts:
innocuous letter written in regular ink and the hidden message written
between the lines in invisible ink. When looking at the letter we
thought we couldn’t see the invisible ink and thought that maybe it
couldn’t last for 200+ years. Also, while analyzing the letter he
wrote we noticed that Washington allowed him to write the letter to his
commander. This led us to think it might be censored by the
Americans. Once we realized that it was the same letter in both
it led us to some new thoughts. Perhaps, the letter had no
message because Andre was allowed to write the letter. Thus, the
message we were reading was the invisible ink. Also, the letter
probably not censored because it was written in invisible ink.
was an unexpected find for us and we designed the project.
- Have students choose a letter writing method they believe
is most effective and have them support their answer with their
findings from the project. Then have them create their own letter
detailing an event of the Revolution that they have learned about,
using their method. This assignment will demonstrate what they
have learn in exploring this WIP.
Answers often lead to new
questions, starting the inquiry
cycle over again.
List here follow up questions students
and wish to investigate at a later time.
- Who are
some other spies and what was their role in the Revolution?
- Did the
actions of any spy have an impact on the outcome of the war?