George Lucas Educational Foundation
Student Engagement

How to Use Emojis in Teaching

The fun little characters can add visual cues to student assignments and help you manage classroom routines.

January 5, 2022
Illustration concept for choosing emojis
Mitch Blunt / Ikon Images

Do your students love using emojis? While they might seem silly on the surface, emojis can definitely pack a punch. Why not incorporate them into your teaching?

Here are some ideas that go beyond the popular or common ways we use emojis (in text messages, comments, and social media posts) and connect to projects and routines you might already be using in your classroom.

Using Emojis in the Classroom

Bullets on anchor charts: If you’re making anchor charts in your class, use emojis instead of a traditional bulleted list. For example, as a classroom teacher I used to put lots of reference materials on chart paper for students, including resources to support student writers. Print out emojis (making them larger) or draw emojis on your chart paper.

Sharing feelings: Another way to use emojis is to have students choose an emoji that illustrates their feelings. For example, give students a selection of emojis to choose from each day, and give them an opportunity to record or write about their feelings. Or you can use a tool like Emoji Finder that lets students type in keywords and see different emojis that connect to their feelings.

Rating experiences: Just as we might give a five-star rating to an online shopping experience or a ride service, students can rate experiences using emojis. Whether it’s a star emoji, the fire flame emoji, or another favorite, they can rate how much they enjoyed a class read-aloud, the outcome of a science experiment, a field trip, or any other experience.

Peer feedback: Encourage students to add emojis, just one or two, to any comments or feedback they give to their classmates. They can use an emoji keyboard on their device or an online tool, such as the one above, for finding the perfect emoji to add to their comment before posting their thoughts.

Labeling folders: Emojis can work for you, as well. Add emojis to your folders in Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive, or anyplace you’re adding a new title to a folder or file. Emojis can help you find what you’re looking for faster.

Organizing information: Students can organize their work using emojis, too. For example, they can include emojis as part of the headers for different categories of information as they conduct research, or they can use emojis alongside their comments in the margins of the text they read, for quick access.

Retelling a story: Students can retell stories or short excerpts of text using emojis as part of their retelling. Ask them to choose one emoji that goes with each sequence of a story, "first, next, then, and last.” If they’re creating a retelling with emojis that connect to their own stories, this might even be an opportunity for students to play a guessing game with their classmates.

Giving directions: In the same way that we recognize a logo of a company before we read their corresponding social media post, emojis are visual cues for students. If you’re posting directions for a task like a do-now or exit slip on an interactive board in your classroom or as a post in a learning management system, adding emojis can help break up information and provide a visual cue for directions.

Add to infographics: Have students use emojis as the icons that go along with the information they share on an infographic. This is a great way to connect visuals to any research they do themselves or data they want to represent in an infographic. In my book, EdTech Essentials: The Top 10 Technology Strategies for All Learning Environments, I discuss infographics and other favorite student project ideas.

Indicate patterns: Emojis are a great option for having students represent patterns. This could be part of a coding course or an opportunity for students to annotate the patterns in poetry. For example, if you explore ABABAB patterns, ask students to use emojis to represent the patterns.

Annotating a passage: Your students might be familiar with using color coding to annotate a passage, whether they use physical highlighters or have access to a few colorful digital tools. Introduce the idea of annotating a passage by adding emojis next to the text. You can give students a lot of flexibility for annotating with emojis or model for them how to use just a selection of emojis as part of a regular annotation routine.

There are many creative ways to use emojis—I share a few more on this episode of the Easy EdTech Podcast—and I hope the above list will help you get started.

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