Using “Emoticons” for creative output

*An interpersonal communication activity*

Interpersonal communication is the hardest skill for our students to gain confidence. How can we better prepare students to have meaningful interactions in the target language?

“Emoticons” or those little images have been part of our student’s texting conversations for some time now. Then, it struck me, why not use these fun little symbols in our classrooms?

The idea is to transfer the usage of the “emoticon” into a conversational activity for our second language-learning students. If you try this activity and have other suggestions, please share below!

  • Bravely find a volunteer to assist you and have an emoticon-only conversation or use a message generator tool to create your own.
  • Take a screen shot of your conversation an email it to yourself.
  • photo
  • Display for students to view. Ask questions about what the different pictures mean in the target language. For example, point to the happy expression: ¿Está feliz or está triste? Allow some time for creative brainstorming, no note taking needed though! A true interpersonal communicative activity means students use what they can, based on the input acquired.
  • Students pair up, at their desks or in a circle/line formation, to have their own emoticon translation conversation.
  • Students rotate to a new partner, same image displayed, more creative output occurs.
  • After a fair amount of rotations, display a “key” of emoticons for the class to see. ( or )
  • Have students message one another using only the emoticons. Have one student take a screen shot of their conversation and post to the classroom learning management system or share with you via email. *If there is no technology on hand to use, have students pass back & forth a 5×7 index card and draw the emoticons they would like to communicate with.
  • Using the newly student created emoticon conversations, continue the next day by having students use each other’s conversations to spark some creative interpersonal conversations. You can also follow this up by having students create a story using the emoticon conversation as their spring board- what will happen next? 🙂

Back channeling in a World Language Classroom

Recently, students in my Spanish class were allowed to BYOD- bring their own devices to class (when permissible). I gave one day of advance notice and sure enough, my “techie” 8th graders were ready to use their devices! 

Once connected to our classroom’s WiFi, students visited a website URL that I provided, which used the website: As the “coordinator” of the discussion, I was able to create the URL for an hour, day or week and provide the unique code to my students. When arriving to the website, they were prompted to provide their name and instantly, were able to back channel!

Due to the fancy technological term, some may think “what in the world is back channeling?” In the simplest of explanations, back channeling is your classroom discussion/dialogue but virtually accessible. It is just another way to create a discussion forum online, which is restricted to only those with access to the URL and only open for dialogue in a designated period of time. 

Students quickly logged their name into the website and began to respond to some questions that I had about authentic movie posters found in Spanish speaking countries, thanks to visiting the website created by Zachary Jones.(

Questions such as, What is the name of the movie? What is the name of the actor? What type of movie is this? Does it interest you or bore you? (Why?) Would you recommend this movie to others? (Why?) The questions were simple and to the point. Right away, students began to type in their answers using their devices. We were discussing our thoughts and opinions-but my room was filled with silence! Only the pitter patter of moving fingers on mobile phones or the occasion laugh, where students showed their enjoyment in reading their classmates responses. Also, many students had iPhones or iPads, so they were able to “add” a Spanish keyboard in their settings options, so the “autocorrect feature” wouldn’t change everything that was written in Spanish. 

Overall, the use of their own device with this simple online forum was successful. Students were observing authentic realia, responding to questions and reading each others responses, all in the target language. Let the BYOD initiatives continue!