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Tips for Using Emojis and Bitmoji in the Literacy Classroom

By Sam Weigle and Kathryn Caprino
 | Sep 27, 2018

bitmojiToday’s youth have an unprecedented ability to manipulate and use technology. That said, it is important for us as teachers to stay up to date with our students’ vast knowledge of popular technologies and incorporate them effectively in our classrooms, many of which have moved to a one-to-one environment or have tablets or iPads available for our students.  

In this blog post, we, an early elementary education major and a literacy teacher educator, provide you with ideas about how to use emojis and Bitmoji—or similar apps—in your literacy classroom to allow students to showcase their digital competencies while building important literacy skills.  

What are emojis and Bitmoji?

Emojis are digital clipart or icons used to express feeling or provide a visual aid during digital communication (see these examples). Bitmoji is a free app that allows users to design their own avatar, complete with hair style, eye color, and outfit.   

How can you use emojis and Bitmoji in your literacy classroom?

Most students are familiar with emojis and Bitmoji or similar apps, so why not use their knowledge and incorporate it into our classrooms? Following are three ideas for incorporating these tools into your literacy classroom.

1. Build an emoji storyline

After printing out images of different emojis, ask your students to sit in a circle as you pass out one emoji to each student. After each student receives his or her emoji, invite them to add a sentence or two (inspired by the image) to create a collective classroom story. Emojis of places, people, and objects might work best. 

Here is a sample Sam created:

  • Student 1: There once was a mouse named Bob.
  • Student 2: Bob was a goalie on the Mighty Mouse soccer team.
  • Student 3: At halftime, Bob and his teammates ate watermelon as a snack.

2. Design an “All About Me” Bitmoji

All About MeUsing the Bitmoji app, students can create a self-portrait. The app’s many features (e.g., eye color, dress, and hair color) will help them think carefully about elements of characterization, a literacy skill that can be practiced in the app and then applied when students are reading print text. The students can then use their self-created avatar to write an “All About Me” story. Here is an example of a self-portrait Sam created and a sample of an “All About Me” page that can be created by adding the saved
avatar to a Word document.

3. Create a Bitmoji manuscript

Have students create an original manuscript based on characters they invented with Bitmoji. In addition to creating avatars, students can create illustrations with the avatar clipart provided by the app.

Here is a sample from the book Sam created for Kathryn’s children’s literature course last spring:  

Bitmoji Manuscript

Challenges of using emojis and Bitmoji in the classroom

We understand that not all emoji or Bitmoji (intended for ages 12+) components are appropriate for school and we encourage you to think about how they will work best in your classroom. Creating some ground rules and boundaries with your students, who may not be old enough to use Bitmoji independently, would be wise. We recommend using Bitmoji as a class first.

There are many apps similar to Bitmoji that are geared toward younger students: ZEPETO is intended for ages 4+ and MojiCam is intended for ages 9+.

We also realize the potential for some students to create unrealistic or stereotypical representations of characters, classmates, or themselves. Discussions around digital citizenship might be appropriate here.

Although we admit using technology does not come without its challenges, we hope that we have sparked your thinking about how to use emojis and Bitmoji—or similar apps—in your literacy classroom.

We are excited to hear how you plan on using these tools in your classroom and we encourage you to be open to learning from your tech-savvy students about how these tools might complement your literacy curriculum.

sam-weigleSam Weigle
is an early childhood education major at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. She will be graduating in May 2019 and will be using technology in her classroom in the fall of 2020.

kathryn-caprinoKathryn Caprino is an assistant professor of pre-K–12 new literacies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and a book blogger for teachers and parents at katiereviewsbooks.wordpress.com. She teaches courses on children’s literature, culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and literacy assessments. Her research areas are children’s and YA literature, new literacies, and the teaching of writing.

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