When I’m reporting from my base in Brazil, I have had entire wordless conversations on WhatsApp, the ubiquitous messaging app, which Brazilians also happen to love. For making a date with friends, I choose martini glass, question mark? The response I get — handclapping and then clock, question mark. And on and on it goes. Portuguese is a foreign language for me, so having all these emojis is really useful. I mean, everyone understands the emoji for getting a manicure.
Then days later, my 3rd grade team ( five classes) introduced the tool Kidblog to all the 3rd graders. For the month of March, we are asking the the students to electronically write small moment stories, post it for the others in their classroom to see and then add comments to their classmates. At a team meeting three days after the launch I asked, “How’s it going with Kidblog?” Another teacher commented, “Fine, but I told them they couldn’t use emojis.” Another said, “I told them only at the end of a comment and just one.” I sat and as typical with me, in the moment, I often can’t find the words fast enough to respond and so I said nothing. I get why they were saying no to emojis. As teachers, we expect to see letters strung together to form a story told across many sentences. Adding emojis seems to just be playing and not writing a story. But I kept thinking about writing and emojis. If we are to write and tell our stories and if an image can help with this, why not use emojis whenever and how often we want?
Then this happened the next day in my room (I wrote about it HERE as my SOL#11):
“Look friends. Dr. Russo (our Principal) just asked me a question about blogging and now she is sitting outside our room typing. I think she is going to add her second small moment story to our blog!”
As we gathered for Morning Meeting, a friend said, “She’s gone.”
“Should we see if she posted?” I asked.
“YES!” was the unanimous reply.
I touched airplay on my smartphone to show my phone display on the smart panel. Then after logging into Kidblog, we could see it! She HAD published her 2nd piece. I had no idea what she wrote and I started to read this aloud…
As I read the lines, “Trust me, you (referring to the students at Discovery ES) are teaching all of us adults so much” my voice started to crack. Her words are so true and I felt so touched by words.
Next I heard, “Are you OK?”
Another friend said very kindly, “She’s just happy. My mom does that all the time. You should see her.” I chuckled and was glad he gets adults that cry when they are happy!!
Another student said, “You should add a comment that says you really like her writing and add a happy emoji that is crying.”
“Does that exist?” I asked. ALL in the room nonchalantly replied in the affirmative.
That same day, I got this comment to my SOL#11:
Then today the DigiLit Sunday focus is TRANSITIONS. So I began to think: Are writers in the 21st century transitioning to using more than just the 26 letters in the alphabet? Our iPad makes it so easy to add an image, a music link, a video, and even an emoji. I am now, as Anna mentions in her comment to me, wondering about my definition of writing and I see a transition occurring.
This March, I am participating for the 3rd time in The TwoWritingTeachers March Writing Challenge (where I happily interact with Margaret Simon and learned of this Sunday posting!) As I look back, it has been 3 years of transitions for me personally as a writer. First, I was just trying to write and put words on the page for 31 days. Then the next year, I felt more confident and started adding hyperlinks and pictures to make my daily post clearer and more interactive. Now this year I am bringing my students along for the ride and I find myself only halfway into the challenge, and am pondering what is writing? Can’t it be letters strung together AND also just the right visual?
For me, I am transitioning to be the kind of writing teacher who will encourage 3rd graders to use ALL the tools they have at their disposal to tell their story that only they can tell. And I will encourage them to use emojis if it helps to make their writing clearer.
(And now that I have written about it, I feel ready to speak up at my next team meeting, too!)