Teaching the Emoji Generation: 12+ Activities & Resources

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“Although an emoticon may look like a smile, a frown or any number of facial expressions, it doesn’t represent a face, as many internet users assume. It’s actually intended to convey a feeling (“I’m happy,” or “just joking”).” – Lauren Collister

Our students humanize their digital experience with text speak, emoji, and selfies. When they are on their devices, they are part of a generation creating a universal language filled with nonverbal cues, fun, emotion, and culture. They are translating English into pictographs and abbreviations recognized and used by people around the world. They summarize, decode, translate, read, and write more than people ever could before the development of digital devices. According to linguist, David Crystal (2012), “… young people are reading and writing more than I ever did at their age, but they are doing it using their computers and mobile phones. The mobile is central, and will become even more so as time goes by.” Below is a slideshow of my initial research into the world of text speak and emoji. Keep scrolling to find activities, icebreakers, apps, and resources for motivating your students to read and write using emoji!

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  • Translation activity- How many of these do you know? TMTH SMH  LOL 🙇 BTW BRB CU 🙅 👍 IDK 🙌
  • Teach with emoji literature! Great titles include Emojidick and the OMG Shakespeare series.
  • Students can translate literature or the quotes of famous characters into emoji. Translating the emoji would be a more engaging quiz. Here is an example of a quiz with famous first lines from literature written in emoji.
  • Back to school icebreaker- Students guess what emojis reveal about you and they write their own statements their peers guess!
  • Get students interested in the topic by posting in emoji why learn your subject or interesting facts about the subject. Students translate the emoji reasons.
  • Students text each other questions and answers in emoji!  Watch this video example that has you guessing the TV show, Youtube.com/watch?v=AUpJcMTlf8E
  • Create emoji poetry! See this example here, https://twitter.com/LOLemojistories/status/359362148683616259
  • Emoji polls! Students ask questions that their peers answer with an emoji, like what did you do this summer? Each student can post their poll as a status update in your virtual learning environment (Edmodo, Schoology, etc.).
  • Students translate their favorite song lyrics or speeches into emoji and show the video! Check out this example! Youtube.com/watch?v=fUutvkIm61A
  • Emojitranslate.com allows you to copy and paste text and translates it into emoji for you. This is a starting tool, but students will have to add more emojis to the translation. With this tool they can begin translating modernized versions of fairytales into emoji or their own imagined stories. See this example of Frozen translated into emoji- Youtube.com/watch?v=qjycf7h4KZM
  • Use emojis as writing prompts! Find several example on Emojinate that gives you 5 random emojis to help students create a short story.
  • Have students create emoji word problems their peers translate and answer.

Awesome emoji apps and sites

  • Emojipedia is a site for discovering what each emoji means and keeping up with the latest in emoji developments and resources.
  • Bitmoji app (iOS/Android)– your avatar becomes an emoji
  • www.🍕💩.ws is an emoji url shortener! Check out this example, http://🍎🚵🍖🔥😐🐢🌻🏉.🍕💩.ws
  • Emojiapp.net and Guess the Emoji app (iOS/Android) are word games where students translate emojis into words.
  • Students can create their own emojis with the imoji app (iOS/Android). Check out Rosco the pug’s emoji!
  • Emojimo iOS app helps you translate emojis and is an emoji app keyboard.

Emoji, by shellyterrell

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. I have to do a 5 minute powerpoint presenationabout Emoji dictionary for my vice president and the and the mangers on his team.
    Your guidance in directing me to the appropiate resources to create the presentation is appreciated.

    Thank you

    Angelo Ortiz

  2. I have to do a 5 minute powerpoint presenationabout Emoji dictionary for my vice president and the and the mangers on his team.
    Your guidance in directing me to the appropiate resources to create the presentation is appreciated.
    Thank you
    Angelo Ortiz

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