Why I Let My Students Use Emojis in Writing Assignments

Plus, tips for teaching with emojis in your own classroom.

Teaching With Emojis - 5 Ideas for Building Student Literacy

One of the most essential goals of education is teaching our students to be literate. For many teachers, the thought of finding an ? in any writing assignment would make them ?, ?, or ?. Emojis might seem inappropriate for school, but they can be really useful in today’s classroom.

Those who ? at language found in places like urban dictionary will likely ? on the proper use of English in writing. But, literacy is more than being able to ? and ?. It’s also about the ability to use language well and in different ways.

SMS is no longer a secret language only known by a small group of ? nerds. It is widely understood and used by ? ? ?? and also ?? ?? ?. Modern text-speak is here to stay, and it could make a great lesson in your next journal activity or writing assignment. I believe encouraging the use of emojis in writing can help engage students and also give them a ? grasp of grammar and phonetics. Here are my best tips for making emojis relevant to today’s curriculum.

1. Use emojis to give classic curriculum a makeover.

The art of great communication is making a message relevant to the audience for which it is intended. Using language our students use helps make lessons accessible, relevant, and more easily remembered.

Engaging your students in studying how language affects communication is a core part of literacy skill development. Using everyday language is inclusive and also gives us endless teaching opportunities. Think about how you could use the emoji-speak version of Shakespeare to improve ? and English classes. Teaching materials that employ emojis and textese can be used as scaffolding to help students access more complex literacy forms.


Imagine, for example, giving your class a 200-year-old poem to study. You might consider that the reaction would be an instant ?. However, consider your students’ response if the poem included lines such as “Sweet MLE K U never more shall C!”  This line is from the comic poem “Elegy to the Memory of Miss Emily Kay.” It was written in 1837, but the line sure looks like a text message.

2. Use emojis to understand the evolution of language.


The English language has never stood still, and its norms are constantly changing. Slang often shifts over time. And the meaning of certain slang words can change, too.

The Oxford English Dictionary publishes a list of new words every year. They also note changes in word meaning and discard words that have fallen out of use. In the same way, new emojis are added, and less popular ones are scrapped. Studying archaic words can be a fascinating activity that also shows us that learning how to correctly use an evolving language is a nearly impossible task. For example:

Archaic word


Learn Teach
Noise about Talk about
Profess Teach a subject as a professor
Quiz Look intently at (someone)
Usher An assistant teacher

Early forms of rebus, or hieroglyphs, were a precursor to the development of the modern ?. So, we could say that emojis are a return to the foundation of our language. I believe the expansion of emojis, because of widespread ? usage, shows an important development in our language. Rather than dismissing emojis, we should embrace them to ensure our students are armed with literacy skills appropriate for modern-day communication.

3. Use emojis to help students gain communication skills.

Language plays a crucial role in how students develop conceptual understanding and form meaning. Knowing how language develops and how meaning changes through usage is essential if students are to learn how to ? effectively.

Different subjects use the same words to mean different things. For example, in physics, the word disintegrate describes radioactive decay and energy release; in everyday usage, it means breaking into little pieces. It’s up to us to teach students how to derive meaning from the language we use. This includes understanding how to use emojis to communicate meaning.

4. Use emojis to enhance students’ language.

One of the best things about SMS language is that it is paralinguistic. It doesn’t reduce our language; it enhances it. Emojis provide a meaningful unit of semiotic language in a global digital world where distance, ? , and ⏰ barriers have changed.

In 2015, OED made ? it’s word of the year. In a statement, president of Oxford Dictionaries Caspar Grathwohl said, “Emoji are becoming an increasingly rich form of communication, one that transcends linguistic borders.” This isn’t a passing fad limited to school or the younger generation. This is the world we live in.

5. Use emojis in written assignments.

Our challenge is to encourage our students to correctly use emojis to enrich their written language. This goes beyond using emojis to engage students in talking about their feelings or writing a rebus story. Emoji-use in written assignments or writing prompts could include:

  • Accepting emojis as a literacy device in storytelling. For example, look at the line “shocking news has arrived.” Then enhance it using either ? to show anguish; ? to express surprise; or ? to a show a mistake or embarrassment.
  • Exploring how language conveys meaning. Encourage students to use different emojis to show how they change the meaning of the message. For example, “that’s terrible ?” is very different from “that’s terrible ?.”
  • Inspecting sentiment. Think about how lack of context can lead to misunderstanding a situation or a person’s action. For example, “This is the best book I’ve read all year!” might be interpreted one way, but the added context, “It is the only play I’ve seen all year,” could make the statement seem sarcastic. It is possible to add this mischievous perspective by using an emoji, “This is the best book I’ve read all year! ?”

What are your thoughts on teaching with emojis? We’d love to hear about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. WeAreTeachers HELPLINE is a place for teachers to ask and respond to questions on classroom challenges, collaboration and advice.

P.S. Interested in decorating with emojis? Check out our shopping list for an emoji classroom theme. Plus, 7 lies the teacher emoji tells the world.