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Collection B, Unit 2 Belonging Frankenstein The Jacket Navajo Code Talkers

Navajo Code Talkers

by Andrew Santella


Reading Level (Lexile) 1020L Format/Length Photo book, 48 pages Picture Support Some Language Register Middle Content Load Historical Related Skills · Comprehension and Critical Thinking Fact and Opinion Sequence

t's World War II and the U.S. military needs codes that the enemy can't understand or translate. An engineer from Los Angeles, Philip Johnston, has the solution--a code using the Navajo language, a language not well understood by code breakers. The Marine Corps eventually accepts the idea. Twenty-nine Navajos join the Marine Corps, create the complex code, and become code talkers. Soon there are about 400 Navajo code talkers courageously serving in battle and using the code to save hundreds of lives. It isn't until the 1980s when these brave men finally begin to receive the recognition they deserve.

About the Author

Andrew Santella is a freelance writer and editor. He often writes for magazines such as Gentlemen's Quarterly and newspapers such as the New York Times Book Review. He has written over fifty nonfiction books for children about American history, ranging from biographies of historical figures to expository books about historical events and Native American culture. Born and raised in Chicago, he graduated from Loyola University. Santella now lives outside Chicago with his wife and son.


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Navajo Code Talkers

Think About What You Know

Code Talkers To prepare students for understanding the

contribution of the Navajo code talkers during World War II: · Invite partners to make up a simple, secret code using a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, or pictures. Some students may want to use their native language to create a code. Then have them create a message using their code for their partner to guess. Afterward, ask students how difficult was it to "crack the code." Why? · Then explain: You just used secret codes to play a game. During World War II, however, understanding codes was as important as life or death. The U.S. military had to use secret codes to send messages back and forth by radio so the enemy wouldn't know their plans. The code talkers who sent and received the messages helped save many lives. · Next, have students use Student Journal, page 3 to describe what the code talkers were like.

Preview and Predict

Have students look at the front cover, read the title, and then read the book summary on the back cover. Say: · What kind of person was Philip Johnston? Why do you think he came up with the idea to use the Navajo language for a code? Then point out The Exchange question on the title page: Can people from different cultures help each other? How? Explain that when they finish reading, they'll share their ideas about this and other questions with a group. Next, have students complete Student Journal, page 3 to preview the book and make predictions about the content. As students page through the book, mention and briefly describe the special features: list of facts, time line, notes about important people, and index.

Student Journal, page 3

Prepare to Read

Think About What You Know

Code talkers sent and received messages for the U.S. military during World War II. What do you think these soldiers were like? What do you think they had to know to do this?

Preview and Predict

· Look at the front cover. · Read the book summary on the back cover. · Read The Exchange question on the title page. 1. This book is nonfiction. Give two reasons that tell how you know.

2. Page through the book. What do you notice? What will the book be mostly about?


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Navajo Code Talkers

Use a Reading Strategy

Main Idea and Details Chart Preview the graphic organizer

on Student Journal, page 4 with students. Explain that as they read Navajo Code Talkers, they can complete the Chart to show how the code talkers helped the United States win World War II. Have students add to their Charts after they finish reading each section.

Student Journal, page 4

Use a Reading Strategy

Use a Main Idea and Details Chart

As you read Navajo Code Talkers, use the Main Idea and Details Chart to show how the code talkers helped the United States win World War II.

Main Idea on Pages 4­15

The Marines and Philip Johnston thought Navajo would be a good language for secret war communications.


Navajo was not well-known and was difficult to learn, so not easily decipherable.


They would not simply use Navajo to send messages, they would make a code from it.

Main Idea on Pages 16­31

The Navajos were good Marines and successful code talkers.


Navajos were good at the physical aspects of military life because many were sheep farmers and ranchers.


Code talkers could translate a three-line message in 20 seconds without error.

Main Idea on Pages 32­44

The Navajos contributed during World War II, but did not receive recognition until many years later.


Because of code talkers, the U.S. won the battle at Iwo Jima.


World War II ended in 1945. Code talkers finally got recognition in 1982.

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Navajo Code Talkers

Read the Book

Form the group that will read Navajo Code Talkers. Plan how the group will read and respond. Some options are: · Read with a Partner Have students read the book aloud, alternating chapters. Students should complete the Student Journal page after each section. Encourage them to plan their reading sessions, using the planner on Student Journal, page 2 to establish meeting times. · Read Independently Group members read the book on their own and then meet for The Exchange. The group can use the planner on Student Journal, page 2 to establish the meeting time. · Guided Reading Read aloud the summary at the beginning of each chapter to give students an overview of the chapter. Use the Before You Move On questions to check comprehension as students read. Use Look Ahead to set a focus for reading the next set of pages. At the end of each section, assign the appropriate Student Journal page. Discuss the page before starting the next section. Establish a date for The Exchange and record it on the planner. Whichever option you choose, use pages 5­7 for an at-a-glance view of Student Journal pages, as well as answers to the Before You Move On questions.

Plan Your Schedule

My group members are: ___________________________________________________________________________________ We plan to read Navajo Code Talkers and meet on these dates:

Student Journal, page 2


1: Pages 4­15

Date We Will Finish Reading

Date We Will Discuss

2: Pages 16­31

3: Pages 32­44

Our Exchange meeting will be on this date:



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Navajo Code Talkers

Pages 4­15

Student Journal, page 5

Section 1: Pages 4­15

Section 1



Respond to Pages 4 ­ 15

Main Idea and Details Chart

Write the main idea of what you read on your Chart on Journal Page 4. Then write two details about that main idea.

1. Inference Why do you think Roy Hawthorne got in trouble for speaking the Navajo language in school? Teachers wanted English spoken so students would learn English; perhaps also because American teachers could not understand what they were saying. 2. Conclusions Reread pages 9­10. Why was the Navajo language so useful for a code language? It was simple, but a code using it would be almost impossible to break.


Think It Over

Think about what you have read so far, and write the answers to these questions. 1. Personal Response The Marine Corps doubted Philip Johnston's idea. But he convinced them that it was good. Tell about an idea you had that people doubted. How did you convince them that it was good?

2. Fact and Opinion Philip Johnston asked Major James E. Jones to use Navajo as a code. Reread what Johnston explained on page 13. Which statements are facts and which are opinions?

Fact: The Navajo nation was very large. People understood other Native American languages, but few people understood Navajo. Opinion: The enemy would be puzzled by the Navajo language. The code would be almost impossible to break.

3. Make Predictions The Marines needed to find Navajos to create the secret code. Will it be difficult to find Navajos to join the Marines? What might happen if not enough Navajos join?

1. Summarize Navajo was difficult to learn, but the Marine Corps officer did not think it would be useful as a code. Why? Reread page 12. They already tried several Native American languages and the Japanese and German militaries were beginning to learn the languages. 2. Conclusions Reread page 13. How did Johnston convince the Marine Corps to use the Navajo language? He suggested making a code using Navajo and explained that Navajo was not as well-known and understood as other Native American languages.

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Navajo Code Talkers

Pages 16­31

Student Journal, page 6

Section 2: Pages 16­31

Section 2



Respond to Pages 16 ­31

Main Idea and Details Chart

What was the main idea of pages 16­31? Write it on your Chart on Journal Page 4. Then add details that support the main idea.

1. Comparisons Reread pages 22­23. What parts of the Marine training were easy for the Navajo recruits? What parts were difficult? Why? Physical activities were easier because they were used to them. Cultural differences were more difficult because Navajo culture was different from American culture. 2. Context Clues Reread page 16. What tells you that a reservation is an area of land where Navajos live? "stretches across parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico"; "about the size of the state of West Virginia"; "Within the boundaries . . . recruiters found a unique world."


Think It Over

Think about what you have read so far, and write the answers to these questions. 1. Personal Response Use the Sample of the Navajo Dictionary on page 26 to write your name. What do the letters of your name mean in Navajo? Now write a message to another student who is reading Navajo Code Talkers. Can you read his or her secret message?

2. Confirm Predictions What was your prediction? Was it difficult for the Marines to find Navajos who were willing to join the Marines? Write what happened.

There were long lines of interested Navajos. Some Navajos even told the Marines they were 18 just so they could join.

3. Sequence Reread pages 24­29. What did the code talkers do at Camp Elliott before they went to fight in World War II?

1. Comparisons Read the Navajo words at the bottom of the chart on page 26. How are their meanings alike and different from the English words? Their meanings often describe the word or something about it. They are more symbolic and connected with nature. 2. Conclusions Reread page 29. Why was it so important for the code talkers to memorize their code? To keep their code secret. They could not bring written code outside Marine training centers.

They learned to use, care for, and repair their radios. Then they developed the code. Finally, they memorized the code.

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Navajo Code Talkers

Pages 32­44

Student Journal, page 7

Section 3: Pages 32­44

Section 3



Respond to Pages 32 ­ 44

Main Idea and Details Chart

Finish your Main Idea and Details Chart on Journal Page 4 by filling it in with information from pages 32­44.

1. Summarize Reread pages 32­34. Code talkers often did their jobs in the middle of heavy fighting. Describe what a code talker did during a battle. He carried his radio and set it up. He reported the location of enemy forces, reported the progress of allied forces, and made requests for reinforcements. 2. Conclusions Reread page 36. Why did it take so long for the code talkers to receive medals for their service? Because their code was so successful, the United States wanted to keep their service a secret.


Think It Over

Think about what you have read so far, and write the answers to these questions. 1. Personal Response The Navajo code talkers did not receive awards until many years after the war. Do you know of any person who deserves an award or medal of some kind? What did they do, and what is a good way to honor them?

2. Narrator's Point of View The person who narrated this book was not a Navajo code talker. How can you tell? How might the story be different if a Navajo code talker told it?

We can tell that the narrator is not part of the story because the book is written in the third person. The narrator uses he and they. A Navajo code talker's narrative might not have included as much information and facts. But it might have had more personal details.

3. Fact and Opinion Reread pages 39­41. Which statements are facts and which are opinions?

1. Inference Reread page 43. The code talkers did most of their work during World War II in the 1940s. Why were the years 1864 and 1868 also important? These years were when Navajos fought the U.S. Army, were treated very badly, and were away from their homeland. 2. Summarize Reread page 44. Who was Manuelito? Why was he an important person in Navajo history? He led the Navajos against the U.S. Army. He signed a treaty that let the Navajos return to their homeland.

Fact: Only 5 of the original 29 code talkers were still alive to receive the awards in Washington, D.C. Silver medals were awarded to every Navajo code talker. Opinion: The code talkers "brought honor to their nation and victory to their country." All Americans owe them gratitude.

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Navajo Code Talkers

Allow time for groups to meet for The Exchange. If you plan to participate, use these tips for guiding students in discussing the big question:

Can people from different cultures help each other? How?

How would Philip Johnston answer this question? Think about his experiences with the Navajo culture. Philip Johnston would say great things could be accomplished when people from different cultures share talents and experiences. He would also say that this happens when people respect others and consider contributions others could make. Many people in this book did not understand Navajo culture. Do you think it is important to know about other cultures? Why or why not? What would have happened if Philip Johnston never recruited the code talkers? Tell about a time you asked someone with a special talent to help you. If Philip Johnston had not recruited the code talkers, the United States may not have won World War II. The code they created made it difficult to understand American strategy and was very important.

Extend the Reading

Write a Letter

Remind students that the Navajo recruits had to go through boot camp in 1942. What was it like for them? Have students imagine they are one of the recruits and write a letter home to describe their military training.

Make a Speech

Encourage students to think about what Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico may have said in 2000 when he came up with the idea for an act honoring the code talkers. Then have them give speeches to the group using their ideas.

Find Out More

Invite groups to use the library or the Internet to find out more about the code talkers. They can take, compare, and organize their notes, and then share the results with the class.


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