(He cracks his knuckles, raises his fists, assumes a defensive stance and prepares for a fight…)
I think we need to use more emoji at school.
Hear me out?
The thing that most teachers hate about emoji is that they reduce language to its basest form: little pictures that lack depth and precision. They make kids dumbererererest.
But what if they don’t?
According to the Adolescent Literacy Guide “another area in which teens need explicit instruction so they work toward independent practice is applying comprehension skills (e.g., predicting, making connections, visualizing) purposefully and strategically to subject-specific texts. ‘A challenge in adolescent literacy is the number and variety of structures that underlie expository and informational texts. These are much more varied than narrative structures, both across and within subjects. The challenges are compounded by less familiar content, dense information and unfamiliar vocabulary.’”
Maybe emoji hold some secrets to explaining difficult to read texts.
When students act as translators (converting words into images), then they are engaging actively with text. There is definitely a danger that they will look at texts too literally, but I welcome that as a learning opportunity. In fact, that kind of literal translation will help identify unfamiliar words. It’s way more effective than asking students “what are the words you don’t understand” only to get the answer “none”.
Maybe emoji will create interesting conversations about texts and their meanings.
If translating to emoji was done by pairs of students, I’m sure there would also be meaningful dialogue over which pictures best explain the text (and which words they can not convert into emoji).
Maybe emoji could help students internalize text.
I have a hunch that sets of emoji would serve as a powerful mnemonic tools for students. Emoji sets could be used by students to help them explain what they had just read. Imagine challenging your students to describe a piece of reading orally, using only a collection of emoji as speaking points. If they were able to use little happy faces to cue their thinking, I’d say that they had internalized the text.