Code Talkers – Primary Sources


Students will be able to describe the significance of Native American Code Talkers by identifying and evaluating primary and secondary sources.

Coin Type(s)

  • Dollar

Coin Program(s)

  • Native American $1 Coins


Students will be able to describe the significance of Native American Code Talkers by identifying and evaluating primary and secondary sources.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies
  • Language Arts

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Art


  • 6th
  • 7th
  • 8th

Class Time

  • Sessions: Two
  • Session Length: 45-60 minutes
  • Total Length: 121-150 minutes


  • Whole group

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of primary and secondary sources, annotating text and World Wars I and II. Students should also have a working knowledge of literary techniques, quotations, transitions and conclusions.

Terms and Concepts

  • Native American $1 Coin
  • Code Talkers
  • Reverse (back)
  • Obverse (front)




Worksheets and Files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

  1. Display and examine the "2016 Native American $1 Coin" reverse image.
  2. Tell the students that the front of a coin is called the "obverse" and the back is called the "reverse." Ask the students to read the inscriptions on the image of the coin's reverse.
  3. Ask the students what information may be inferred from the inscriptions. As students make their inferences, list them on the board or chart paper.
  4. Explain that the 2016 Native American $1 Coin commemorates the contributions of the Native American Code Talkers in World War I and World War II. The reverse (tails side) design features two helmets—one in the shape of the U.S. helmets used in World War I and the other in the shape of a World War II helmet. Next to them are the inscriptions "WWI" and "WWII." Behind the helmets are two feathers that form a "V," symbolizing victory, unity and the important role that the code talkers played in both world wars. Additional inscriptions are "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA," "$1" and "CODE TALKERS."
  5. Explain that it is estimated that more than 12,000 Native Americans served in the U.S. military during World War I. In World War II, more than 44,000 Native Americans, out of a total Native American population of less than 350,000, served with distinction in both the European and Pacific theaters. Hundreds played a vital communications role in both world wars. This select group of Native Americans was asked to develop and use secret battle codes using their native languages to communicate troop movements and enemy positions. Their efforts saved many lives because America's enemies were unable to decode their messages.
  6. Continue by explaining that native languages came to play an increasingly vital role in the U.S. war effort in both World War I and II. Several tribes provided Native American speakers for telephone squads on the French battlefields in World War I. Additional tribes sent soldiers to join the code talkers of World War II, serving in North Africa, Italy, France and the Pacific. The languages used by American Indians greatly assisted their fellow American soldiers in the heat of battle by transmitting messages in unbreakable battle codes.
  7. Using sources listed in "preparation," display primary and secondary sources and discuss with students the significance of the imagery on the coin. Include images, texts and other documents for reference.
  8. Lead a class discussion about the reliability of each source. Include the creation date of the document as part of the conversation. Ask them how they could locate this information.
  9. Tell the students that analyzing the primary sources is only the first step in corroborating sources of information.
  10. As a class, confirm the accuracy of at least one secondary source against the primary sources.
  11. Facilitate a class discussion about why it is important to corroborate sources of information in history. Ask the students if they think this is a skill that can be applied to other academic fields or in daily life. Have the students provide specific examples and details with their answers.
  12. Tell the students that tomorrow they will write an essay explaining the importance of the corroboration of sources of information in daily life.
  13. Distribute the "Primary Sources: Code Talkers Essay Question and Rubric."
  14. Review the essay question and rubric with students.
  15. Allow time for the students to write the first draft of their essays. Provide individual assistance as needed.
  16. Allow time for peer editing and feedback.
  17. Have the students write the final version of their essay.
  18. Have the students fill in the self-assessment on their rubric. Collect the rubrics and essays.


Have students conduct research on the roles of Native Americans during other times in U.S. history.

Have students select a topic from their textbook and conduct research to find primary sources that corroborate or refute the information in their textbook.


Criteria 4 3 2 1 Self Teacher
Language Used precise language, domain-specific vocabulary and literary techniques.          
Details Supported the topic thoroughly with significant and relevent facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations and examples.          
Transitions Used appropriate and varied transitions and syntax to link sections, create cohesion and clarify the relationships among complex concepts.          
Style/Tone Established and maintained a formal style and objective tone while adhering to the conventions of the discipline in which written.          
Conclusion Provided a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the explanation presented.          
Organization Clearly organized with the task, purpose and audience in mind.          

Common Core Standards

DisciplineLanguage Arts
DomainRH.8-8.1 Language
Grade(s)Grades 6– 8 
ClusterKey ideas and details

  • RH.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RH.6-8.7. Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
  • RH.6-8.8. Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.

National Standards

This lesson plan is not associated with any National Standards.