Magazine article Technology and Children

Give Me a Signal! Flags, Signs, and Patterns Used in Signaling Technology

Magazine article Technology and Children

Give Me a Signal! Flags, Signs, and Patterns Used in Signaling Technology

Article excerpt

Grade Level: 3 and up

Time: 2-3 periods (less is modified)


This signaling activity is a visual communication technology that can be used in any classroom to show the patterns of signaling. Signaling technology is a form of visual communication that many times is overshadowed by today's modern forms of machine-controlled technology. It has influenced many communication technologies being used today. This has a place in our classrooms and fits well in the elementary setting.

Signal flags can be found in many areas, from the marine boating environment to storm warnings, etc. Ask students where else they might see signal flags during the day. Draw attention to signals that include storm warnings such as hurricanes; road signs or flags such as stop, MPH, yield, etc.; railroad crossings; and car racing. Survival skills may also be discussed to determine how someone can signal for help while lost in the woods.

In this activity, students will explore the semaphore alphabet signaling system, based on waving a pair of hand-held flags in a variety of patterns. Semaphore is used primarily in a marine/boating environment where messages are communicated either from ship to ship or ship to shore, instead of using a radio.

Design Problem

Use the semaphore alphabet to send a short message.


* Yellow and red construction paper.

* Scissors, glue, markers, straws, or bamboo skewers for flag holder (K'NEX rods or Tinker Tools work also).

* A set of pre-made semaphore alphabet flags.

* Optional: Computer with Internet capability, drawing program, color printer.

Design Activity

* Display the alphabet flags and discuss the red and yellow color scheme (check out the Web site at semaphore.html or the Web site at Brainstorm ideas such as why red and yellow were chosen as the flag colors or how waving flags can create words and convey ideas. Explain that the flags are held at arms' length and correspond to the layout of a dock. There are four positions for each arm, which combine to represent letters. A fifth arm position shows each arm parallel to the legs. This indicates a neutral or "no sign" position.

* Students can make their own set of flags, using colored construction paper or markers. You can also make a flag outline for each student and then have the students color it in or match the construction paper to the pattern sites.

* Form teams and allow the students time to practice using the semaphore flags to spell a word or a name.

* Then teams of students will present a word or phrase to the class. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.