Teaching the Emoji Generation: 12+ Activities & Resources

4 min read

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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!

Enjoyed these ideas? Get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my ebook, Learning to Go.


  • 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

Emoji, by shellyterrell

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