Kids love emojis. World Emoji Day just passed us by. Teachers love creative thinking and writing. Why not combine all of these in the name of creative writing and constructive language learning?! Whether to celebrate World Emoji Day or seed creative writing, these do-nows and longer activities can help motivate and activate creative thinking.
This exercise is not about guessing the message, as many emoji exercises are, rather it is about constructing meaning and connecting ideas. Both of these are essential at any level in language study, whether ESL, ELA or MFL.

I believe that this visual-to-verbal prompt could be especially effective for ESL and MFL. Why? Students are free to select words they know and search for vocabulary they can activate rather than play “Guess what I’m thinking” around a more traditional prompt.

Here is a simple set-up that can work on ELA classes at the k-5 level or ESL and foreign languages at any level, K-12. Benefits? Practical vocabulary + transitional phrases + story structure = language success.

1) Choose a genre: Horror, Sci-fi, Melodrama, News report, Tweet, Soap opera, TMZ, Magical Realism…

2) Select a set of six emojis: Any will do. You could standardize the pattern–place, people, twist, conclusion–or just lay them out and see where creativity takes the class. Why six? It’s a nice round number that allows for some development of idea, plus it’s an interesting spin on the six word story craze.

3) Set to writing: As silly as this exercise seems, it is an opportunity to work on narrative technique and form. In modern foreign language, things like transitions and tropes matter and can help students parlay new understanding into everyday speech.






Interesting variations:

  • Lay the emojis out one-by-one to have students construct the narration on the fly.
  • Give students a beginning, middle and end point and have them link them together in a logical sequence. This is a visual representation of a word map activity I described in a previous post.
  • Have students string together the emojis to try to stump their peers.
  • Have the whole class or larger groups string together narrations with 12+ emojis.
  • String together words and emojis in a modified Mad Libs narration.