What Is Semaphore?
This is a way of sending messages using flags.
These flags are usually square, each one divided diagonally, with each half in two contrasting colours, normally red and yellow.
The name comes from two Greek words: sema, meaning ‘sign’ and phero, meaning ‘to bear’ or ‘to carry’. So, put together, they mean a sign carrier.
A flag in each hand, signallers send messages, holding the flags in different positions, each position signalling a different letter of the alphabet.
To begin, the sender flags ‘Attention’ and the receiver sends back ‘Ready to receive’.
As well as the whole alphabet, there are also flag positions for numbers.
In 1965, The Beatles released their album Help! The cover was meant to show the Fab Four signalling the title in semaphore. However the designers didn’t like the actual look of this and so, while they kept the idea, the final hand positions on the album sleeve don’t mean anything.
In 1970, the Monty Python team made a famous sketch where they attempted to show the novel Wuthering Heights in semaphore. It has been copied many times. Here is one such copy:
Why Don’t You Have A go?
- Everyone makes flags and then sends messages across the school hall/playground/ field.
- Put a question/task on the whiteboard at the start of the day, in semaphore.
- Make a semaphore version of your name to include on a book cover.
- Make greetings cards with semaphore spelling Happy Birthday, Happy Mothers’ Day, Get Well Soon, etc.
- Make your own video clip where you tell a short story or maybe recite a well-known nursery rhyme.
- Have a maths lesson where children can only give answers using semaphore flags.
- Chant your times tables with the answer being shown with flags.
Click here for a great online semaphore encoder and decoder.
Good luck and have fun! (Which, written in semaphore, looks like this.)
David and Mike from Goodeyedeers.