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Symbols are images designed to represent ideas, objects, conditions or operations. Symbols can have a secret power to those who understand their meaning and to those who cannot read them. Some symbols can communicate a quality (slippery road), quantity (a pound), place (castle), or instruction (Poison! Don’t drink!). Symbols can be objects whose forms replicate the original thing (stoplight) or image (deer crossing), details of an image (falling rock) , a pattern of images (sales code), or even a color (brown for historic location). Think of the stop sign or the railroad crossing sign. Both communicate a condition and an instruction. Symbols can also be sounds, words, and gestures. Symbols can be written as glyphs, that communicate anything other than sound. Symbols for sounds are called graphemes, letters, logograms, etc. Symbols usually originate and become recognized within specific cultures, religions, and disciplines, but now there are several hundred symbols recognized internationally.

Communicate with symbols! Use your culture to communicate!

Activity 1 Symbol Sleuth (In Your own Home)

What symbols do you know and use? Make a list of common ones. Start you search by looking at your closest appliances - your computer, telephone, microphone or TV. What symbols do you see and what do those symbols communicate? Start a record of symbols in your home in your journal. Make drawings of the symbols, paying attention to their shape and color. Next label the symbol as to where you found it and what it means. Which room had the most symbols? Can you find more than 25 different symbols in your home?

Be a symbol sleuth!

Activity 2 Symbols Sleuth (In Your Neighborhood)

Leave your house taking your journal, a drawing tool, and/or a digital camera. Look for new symbols. Many times symbols at the neighborhood scale are larger so as to be visible to both people walking and people in cars. Streets are full of symbols. Record as many street shapes, signs, and patterns (striped lines, painted curbs, etc.) that serve as instructions.

See in symbols!

Activity 3 Universal, Secret, Powerful

What symbols are universal? Make a list of common symbols that are recognized around the world using the resource link. Next, research three new symbols using the symbol dictionary. Copy the symbol, the history of the symbol, and the meaning of the symbol in your journal. Now make a symbol of your own. Think succinctly! Communicate with symbols!!!

Seek the secret power of symbols!


  1. A printed sign is called a glyph.

  2. A symbol can be a sound.

  3. Letters in an alphabet are symbols.

  4. New symbols can be created.

  5. Words are printed or written symbols of meaning.


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