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Tip of the Week: Edji and 5+ ways emjois can improve historical thinking skills

No, I didn’t see it.

So I can’t say with 100% certainty that The Emjoi Movie was as terrible as the critics say it was. But apparently  . . . it really was terrible. Not even Patrick Stewart and Sofía Vergara could save it.

But . . . wait for it.

Using emojis as part of your instructional design can help improve student thinking and literacy skills.

I know. I know. You’re thinking that using little graphic images instead of text is no way to teach historical thinking and literacy. And you’d be right. But what if we used little graphic images, great guiding questions, proven historical thinking strategies together with reading and writing activities?

Now I think we’ve got something.

You can get an idea of the potential by taking a look at how Omaha middle school teacher Lance Mosier used emojis to help kids understand what life was like for soldiers fighting in the Civil War.

Lance highlighted a few other online resources that helped him develop his Civil War emoji idea:

And Carol Stobbs used emjois to support student research on the Treaty of Versailles.

So . . . if you’re keeping score so far, we’re now using emjois for:

  • measuring and highlighting author voice and tone
  • analyzing political cartoons
  • summarizing learning and exit cards
  • formative assessment of knowledge
  • writing a rebus story
  • close reading and character analysis
  • writing prompts
  • surveys
  • identifying and evaluating primary source texts

I love the combination of analog and digital options for using emjois. I also like the combination of both visuals and text in these activities. Much like memes and Frayer Model graphic organizers, using emojis can help kids create their own schemas and frameworks for learning – using content and emotion to cement their thinking.

And just in time to make your life as easy as possible, along comes a cool tool created by a 4th grade teacher that combines the best of both paper and online emoji use. Called Edji, the tool gives you the ability to create lessons and activities that focus on effective literacy and historical thinking skills while integrating the fun use of emjois.

Create a free account to access the basics. And the basics are pretty powerful. Start by creating an online, shareable activity with text, a photo, or PDF. They call it a Reading.

Share the Reading with your students using the simple code provided for each Reading. Students go to and paste in the code. They can now annotate your Reading using text or emojis. On your dashboard for the lesson, you see everyone’s comments. Use the cool Heat Map option that visually highlights where kids are spending their time. You can also toggle on or off the ability for students see everyone else’s comments and emojis.

Kids can access your Reading via the code without an account but it makes sense for them to create one. This saves all of the Readings that they’ve joined, giving them access to all of your activities on their dashboard. They could also use the dashboard to create their own Edji activities – making this a cool Push / Pull sort of tool.

I especially like the ability to upload a primary source document as a PDF or photo or a political cartoon or painting or whatever you’re using and use that to help kids analyze evidence. You could have kids walk through a document using the Stanford History Education Group’s Historical Thinking chart as their guiding questions – sourcing, contextualizing, and close reading the evidence that you’ve uploaded. Maybe have one group source it, one group contextualize, one group close read. Then share all of the different documents with everyone to jigsaw the thinking.

Not sure how to begin?

The Edji support staff has created a handy Edji Guide with tutorials, tips, and tricks. You can also view a Google Slide presentation for generic uses as well as a presentation that specifically highlights possible Social Studies ideas.

Here’s my first attempt at a Reading using my dogs as sample students:

This is a screenshot of my Dashboard. The student dashboard looks very much the same:

You can have multiple groups use the same Reading – perfect for different hours or sections of the same class. You also have the ability to copy the Readings of other teachers – have them share the group code, go to that Reading and click the blue Copy and Edit button at the bottom. This makes it easy for teachers in the same department to divide and conquer by creating and sharing their Readings.

You also have the option to upgrade to what they call a Hero account for just $1.96 per year. $1.96 a year? Seriously? Yup. $1.96 a year.

As a Hero you get:

Reading Questions
Gather even more insight into your students as they read. Let them answer with text, emoji, or audio!
Comment Replies
Enable entire discussions to be built around a single highlight.
Custom Group Codes
Share a reading with custom codes that are memorable, an answer to a trivia question, or just plain fun!
Audio Comments (BETA)
Record an Audio Comment directly into Edji using the latest browsers.

Give emojis a try. I guarantee that whatever you come up with will be so much better than the movie.

Have fun!


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