Emojis you shouldn’t live without

Earlier this year my friend (and former student) Isabella Ferraro shared a lesson with me she had taught to her adolescent students. I thought it was interesting, but at the time couldn’t quite find a group to use it with. Now recently I was organizing the files on my computer and came across Isabella’s lesson again.

This time around, however, I had two students that I thought would be perfect to discuss emojis with. This is what came out of it.

To begin with, you could set the context by having students discuss the following questions:

  • How many text messages or WhatsApp messages do you send per day? To whom?
  • How often do you add emojis to your messages? Which emojis do you use the most?
  • Do you think younger people and older people see emojis the same way?

After a couple of minutes, turn this into a whole group discussion and focus on the last question. Then tell students they are going to watch a video where Ellen DeGeneres talks about the topic of Emojis. A simple while-watching questions could be

  • According to Ellen, do younger and older people see emojis the same way?

You could also focus on the specific emoticons she discusses and ask students to say how younger and older people see them.

Now tell students they are going to read an article about emojis from the Evening Standard. Here are some while-reading questions that can be used with the text.

  • How are the new emojis more sophisticated, according to the text?
  • Which emoji had been used the most by the time this text was being written?
  • According to this article, emojis are similar to which type of language?
  • According to Jonas Downey, what’s the role of emojis in textual communication?
  • What’s the purpose of combining emojis in the same message, according to the writer?

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.

Smiley Faces (Evening Standard)

The newspaper also created some new emojis for Londoners. There are ten of them in the article, but to make things simpler only six will be used for the next activity.

Show the picture below to students and say these are six emojis Londoners shouldn’t have to live without. Get them to answer the questions in pairs.

  • Can you guess what they mean?
  • Which of these emojis would you use? Why?
  • Are there any other emojis you’d like to have?


The meanings are, from left to right: twerking, hipster, waiting in a queue, troll, detoxing and let’s get out of here.

At this point, if you have artistically inclined students, you could get them to create their own emojis, based on the needs of Brazilians.

Alternatively, you could decide to explore the text for language. If you do so, I’d recommend working with the following words.

to come of age
a milestone
a raft of
to draw (criticism)
to shift
to convey

Finally, in order to give students a chance to practise the language in context, you could get them to discuss the following questions.

  • Have you done anything to draw criticism from your parents this year?
  • What are some of the responsibilities you can’t avoid once you come of age?
  • Which event was a milestone in your life?
  • How much of your online time you have shifted from PC to smartphone? What sort of things you just can’t do on the phone?
  • What emotions do emojis help you convey?
  • What do you and your mates like to do together?

Thanks for reading.

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