10 ways to use emojis in the classroom

Emojis are a fun way to share thoughts and feelings. Children (and adults) love using them to express themselves. How can we use the power of emojis in the classroom? Here are 10 ideas.

This post was written by Suzanne Crowley and Jennifer Fischer. Suzanne is a high school English teacher in New Jersey. Jennifer is the Supervisor of 21st Century Learning Skills at Edison Public School in New Jersey. You can check out their website and blog Not Your Grandma’s English Class. 

Emojis are the modern-day hieroglyphics. In fact, our students are sharing complete thoughts and complete stories in, get this…PICTURES. It’s true! Take a peek at the phone of any tween or teen. They’ve traded words for icons. Something’s drop-to-the-floor funny? 😂 will do. Their parents are looking over their shoulders? Insert 👫 .

Emojis can add instant engagement to an activity or lesson and it’s easy to do. Let us introduce you to the Emoji Keyboard Chrome extension, the extension you didn’t know you needed in your life. This will up the fun-factor and transform the language used in any classroom!

Here are 10 ways to use emojis in your classroom

1. Visual Summaries

Challenge your students to use emojis to summarize key ideas from a text or unit. Take a look at this example from the prologue of Romeo and Juliet. Teaching a history unit? Call for students to summarize important events or moments of discovery using emojis.

2. Feedback Fun

The comment feature of Google Docs is a great way to provide meaningful feedback to students in real-time. Why not level up your feedback game with emojis to share your thoughts and reflections on students’ writing?

3. Smiley Strategies

Challenge students to use figurative language, academic vocabulary, and specific strategies for adding voice to their writing — and call these risks “Smiley Strategies”. As students write their drafts, encourage them to highlight their writing risks, and use emojis in the comment feature. Not only does it make us aware of these compositional risks, but it helps students identify the strategies in their own writing.

4. Google Classroom Questions

Post an open-ended question in Google Classroom and have students respond using emojis. Whether you are asking them to reflect on their learning or to use the icons to show agreement or disagreement as part of a class poll, emojis are a great way to get students to process their thinking and share in a new and innovative way.

5. Emoji Retellings

Have students ONLY use emojis to retell important parts of a text. (Tech Tip: Try Emoji-Translate to help your students get started.) An even crazier idea? See if your students can summarize the entire plot of a story using nothing but emojis. Impossible, you say? Try to figure out which classics are represented by these strings of emojis:

or…

6. Digital Exit Ticket

Have students use emojis to gauge their understanding of a new topic. They can add the emoji as a comment to a shared Doc, on a note in Google Keep, or even as a comment on a post in the Google Classroom Stream.

7. Emoji Annotations

Annotating text is a key part of any English classroom. Take the struggle out of the strategy by asking students to use emojis to express their reactions, thoughts, and feelings about a passage. Students can “mark-up” a digital text by adding emojis to note key points and improve comprehension. Our high school students give emoji annotations a big 👍.

8. Emoji Check-In

There is a lot of talk about social-emotional learning (SEL), but sometimes our “littles” have a hard time expressing their emotions. Our Emoji Check-In chart gives our students a little help by adding an emoji to their feelings. Students write their names on the back of sticky notes and place them next to the emoji that best represents their feelings.

9. Emoji Icebreaker

Need a great get-to-know-you activity? Ask your students to identify the three emojis that best represent who they are. For a fun tech component, have students add their emojis to a shared slide deck and have others reason as to why they chose each emoji. Feel free to make a copy of this one to help you get started.

10. Emojis Beyond English

During a recent coaching visit, a math teacher introduced us to the idea of emoji algebra. Basically, the teacher shares a math problem that incorporates emojis to symbolize numbers and variables, and students have to use reasoning and creative problem-solving skills to arrive at a solution. Why not create your own puzzles and problem-based prompts using emojis? Or, better yet, have students create their own problems to share with their peers.

Do yourself a favor- add Emoji for Google Chrome to your browser. Not only will you have access to all of the same icons and pictures that are built into our smartphones, but you will also open up a whole new way of using Emojis in the classroom!

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