Human beings are able to communicate in a variety of ways besides the use of words. This type of communication is referred to as non-verbal communication. For example, Samuel Morse, inventor of the first electric telegraph, invented a special alphabet of dots and dashes called the Morse Code that is still used today. 

While the Morse Code was used to communicate words quickly over distances, other codes have been developed to conceal the meaning of messages. Such codes have played a significant role in a variety of military battles and are still used in contemporary times to secure important information that travels across the Internet.

Perhaps the most prevalent form of non-verbal communication, however, is body language. Among humans, body language accounts for a large part of meaningful communication. The way we sit, stand, gesture, or orient ourselves in a group often helps others make accurate judgments about our thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Mannerisms such as a clenched jaw, narrowed eyes, or slumped posture can be interpreted as conveying anger, distrust, or disinterest. On the other hand, steady eye contact, a tilted head, and a reassuring smile can demonstrate interest and empathy. 

As we develop a greater sensitivity to body language and its implications, we can be more in tune with the thoughts and feelings of others. We can also become more certain that the messages we are communicating are the ones we intended to convey.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

Codes and Ciphers
There were (and are) many ways to conceal writing. There are actually two separate methods generally used for messages: codes, which use symbols or groups of letters to represent words or phrases, and ciphers, where one letter is replaced with another by a either simple or a complex scheme. These pages are intended to enhance your understanding of codes and ciphers.
Decoding Nazi Secrets
This companion site to PBS's two-hour special entitled "Decoding Nazi Secrets" chronicles how the Allies succeeded in cracking the infamous German message-coding machine, the Enigma. The site offers an opportunity for you to send and crack codes, learn more about code breakers and their tools, and discover the ways that encryption affects us all.
National Cryptologic Museum
The National Cryptologic Museum is one of the few places where the curtain of cryptology is parted. Here visitors can glimpse some of the dramatic moments in the history of American cryptology. Learn also about the people who devoted their lives to cryptology and national defense, the machines they built, the techniques they used, and the places where they worked.  
The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, & Body Language Cues
Items in this dictionary have been researched by anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, linguists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others who have studied nonverbal communication. Simply click on the various entries that range from "Adam's-Apple-Jump" to "Zygomatic Smile" to learn more about the implications of that particular type of body language.
Secret Code Breaker
This series of crytography publications for young readers provide detailed instructions explaining how to "crack" secret codes and ciphers for beginning cryptanalysts. Included are computer programs for code breaking and a series of coded secret messages actually sent by secret agents, spies and military commanders beginning with the Revolutionary War to the present including messages from the CIA "mole" Aldrich Ames to the KGB. 

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People To See

Charlie Chaplin
Get to know Charlie Chaplin. He was king of the silent movies and, therefore, a master at communicating without words.
Marcel Marceau
Meet Marcel Marceau. He was a famous mime who communicated with his face and body without speaking a word.
Navajo Code Talkers: World War II Fact Sheet
During the Great War the Army employed American Indians to encrypt voice communications, using their native language, itself encoded. In campaigns against the enemy the codetalkers never made a mistake in transmission nor were their codes ever broken.
William F. Friedman
Learn about William F. Friedman, the man who was a master at cryptanalysis during the two World Wars and who is referred to as the father of American cryptography. 
The World of Leo Buscaglia
Meet Leo Buscaglia. He was the educator and motivational speaker known as Dr. Hug. He encouraged people to treasure human relationships and emphasized the positive value of human touch such as hugs in communication.

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Things To Do

American Sign Language Browser
Watch many short video clips of individuals using American Sign Language. Click on the words from the menu on the right to see how specific words are expressed in ASL.
Exploring Nonverbal Communication
This web site gives you a chance to learn more about nonverbal communication. You can even test your own ability to "read" samples of real nonverbal communication.
High Tech Dictionary: Emoticons
Brush up on your email skills. Emoticons are much more than just smileys. Emoticons can express a wide variety of feelings with just a few keystrokes. Did you know that :-\' means "I've got the sniffles" and d:-o means "Hats off to you!"
How Stuff Works: Lie Detectors
Figure out how lie detectors work. These instruments use the nonverbal bodily clues that we give off to sense if we're telling the truth. The sensors record a person's breathing rate, pulse, blood pressure, and perspiration.
Morse Code Converter
Use this online tool to translate a word or phrase into Morse Code.
The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs, and Body Language Cues
Be careful if someone exhibits the Adam's-Apple-Jump when they're talking to you. The Adam's-Apple-Jump is an unconscious sign of emotional anxiety, embarrassment, or stress.
Utah's Online Library
Check out CultureGrams from Utah's Online Library. CultureGrams allows you to explore 182 countries of the world and provides information about the history and people of each country. The information about each country also contains a Customs and Courtesies section that provides tips about nonverbal communication in that country.
Phone Messaging: Latest Wireless Trend Growing In Popularity
This form of communication is spreading in popularity, especially among teenagers. It's two-way text messaging–the marriage of the cell phone and the pager. And, if its success in Europe and Asia is an indication of how Americans will take to text messaging, it's about to become wildly popular throughout the country.

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Teacher Resources

Body Language Activities
These exercises are designed to help students tune in to the subtleties of body language and what they might mean about interpersonal behavior.
Lesson Plans/Webquests

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  • Allen, Robert. Secret Codes for Kids. Scholastic, 2000.
  • Axtell, Roger. Gestures: Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World. John Wiley & Sons, 1990. 
  • Bauer, Friedrich Ludwig. Decrypted Secrets: Methods and Maxims of Cryptology. Springer Verlag, 2000.
  • Dimitrius, Jo-Ellan and Mark Mazzarella. Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. Scribner, 2000.
  • Dimitrius, Jo-Ellan and Mark Mazzarella. Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior-Anytime, Anyplace. Ballantine Books, 1999.
  • Durrett, Deanne. Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers. Facts on File, Inc., 1998.
  • Guerrero, Laura K. et al. The Nonverbal Communication Reader: Classic and Conteporary Readings. Waveland Press, 1999.
  • Kahn, David. The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet. Scribner, 1996.
  • Knapp, Mark L. and Judith A. Hall. Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. Hbj College & School Div., 1996.
  • Leathers, Dale G. Successful Nonverbal Communication: Principles and Applications. Allyn & Bacon, 1996.
  • Lieberman, David J. Never Be Lied to Again: How to Get the Truth in 5 Minutes or Less in Any Conversation or Situation. Griffin Trade Paperback, 1999.
  • Morris, Desmond. Bodytalk: The Meaning of Human Gestures. Crown Pub., 1995.
  • Nierenberg, Gerald I. How to Read a Person Like a Book. Pocket Books, 1992.
  • Rankin, Jacqueline A. Body Negotiations and Sales. Rankin File, 1995.
  • Wainwright, Gordon. Body Language. Teach Yourself, 2000