Back Friday 1 Sep 2017 2:23 pm

Three Lessons on Emojis

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There’s been a bit of – sometimes quite heated -  discussion on Twitter and in blogs about whether emojis should ever be taught in the classroom. While I can imagine, in the time-constrained classrooms of KS4, and even perhaps at KS3, that it might be hard to justify a sustained sequence of work on emojis, nevertheless I can see quite a few places where one might bring them in, in a light touch way, to enrich the discussion of an aspect of language or literature and to enhance students’ understanding. Below are three such examples, where perhaps a single lesson or element of a lesson on emojis might contribute to the development of thinking about some key concepts in literature or language, such as tone, mood, subtext, syntax, grammar and punctuation.

Of course, at A Level, for students studying English Language, the study of emojis might be developed more fully. Many academic linguists have chosen to focus on this new form of language in PhD research, academic papers and books. Any new form of language raises fascinating questions about form and function, the pragmatics of language choices, relationships to historic linguistic forms and language change. Emojis will even form part of the content of this year’s Royal Institution Christmas lectures by Professor Sophie Scott, talking about the evolution of language. They also formed the basis of a Radio 4 Word of Mouth programme earlier this year, and have been the subject of numerous blogs, including this excellent piece about why we needn't fear that emojis are a threat to language as we know it.

We would be very interested to hear back from anyone who decides to test out these lesson ideas. Tell us how they worked, how you adapted them, whether the focus on emojis was a helpful contribution to teaching the concepts you were trying to teach or not and whether you have further ideas for adapting or developing them.

Lesson 1: Thinking about sub-texts, tone and ambiguity in literary texts

Lesson 2: What is an emoji? Learning about grammar, punctuation and semantics (word meanings)     

Lesson 3: Poetry

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