I think we can all agree that 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 teenager. Most of their ideas and emotions are summed up in one little icon. Something’s drop-to-the-floor funny? 😂 will do. Do they have parents looking over their shoulders? Insert 👫 .
I think that’s why I was so excited about a tweet shared by Steve Wick recently. And while his post focused on how we can use emojis (Yes, emojis!) as a way of organizing our Google Drive, his tweet introduced me to a new Chrome extension that I didn’t know I needed in my life. Do yourself a favor and add Emoji for Google Chrome to your browser. Not only will you have access to all of the same icons and pictures that are a built into our smartphones, you will open up a whole new way of using Emojis in the classroom:
Visual summaries. Challenge your students to use emojis to summarize pieces of text. Take a look at this example from the prologue of Romeo and Juliet. Are you a science or social studies teacher? Why not call for students to summarize important historical events or moments of discovery using emojis?
Feedback Fun. The comment feature of Google Docs is a great way to provide meaningful feedback to students in real time. Why not up your feedback game with emojis to share your thoughts and reflections on students’ writing?
Smiley Strategies in Writing. When I was teaching middle school English, I encouraged students to use figurative language, challenging vocabulary words, and specific strategies for adding voice to their writing. I referred to these writing flourishes as “Smiley Strategies”. As students would write their drafts in my paper and pencil classroom (we are going back a few years), I had them add smiley faces in the margins of their work to indicate places where they took a chance with a new strategy. Not only did it make me aware of these compositional risks, but it helped the students identify the strategies in their own writing. Why not take the same idea and apply it to our in digital writing world? Have students highlight their writing risks and use emojis in the comment feature to indicate their use of these “Smiley Strategies.”
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.
Math Challenges. During a recent coaching visit, a math teacher (Thanks, Melanie!) introduced me 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 inductive reasoning and creative problem-solving skills to arrive at a solution. Just Google “emoji math”, and you will be shocked by the amount of emoji-based math problems that have been posted to sites like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. Why not create your own math puzzles and problems using emojis? Or, better yet, have students create their own problems to share with their peers.
Digital Exit Tickets. Have students use the 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 of a post in the Google Classroom Stream.
Jennifer Fischer is a former middle school English teacher, full-time instructional coach, and part-time edtech nerd, who strives to help next JENeration educators transform learning for all students.