getting past the masks…emoji check-in sheets

As a teacher, it was always difficult to get past metaphorical masks students would put up to protect themselves. When we also had to wear LITERAL masks in the year after COVID, I knew it would be another challenge to know how my students were doing in the classroom.

The summer before fall 2020, I wracked my brain for ideas – how to “check-in” with my students to determine how they were doing – not only with my content, but also in their personal lives. Yes, their eyes tell a story, but I wanted to know more. I wanted to give them opportunities to express themselves.

That fall I was teaching all high school seniors in person, so I developed an emoji check-in page. I utilized many emojis students regularly use to text one another and gave them (what I believed to be :)) clever captions. I even gave them a blank emoji for them to create one of their own.

I popped on Amazon and purchased 1000 game pieces for cheap (so I could easily replace them if students lost them) and gave each student a check in page and a game piece. Many of the students stuck the check-in page in the cover of their binder or folder so they could easily pull it out. The game piece went in their pencil case or the binder.

I was absolutely amazed at the response I received from my students. Every day — sometimes multiple times during a block period – I would check in with them. While they were working on an assignment or bellwork, I would walk by and check emojis. I learned MORE than I ever dreamed I would — especially from quieter students who normally might not speak up during class.

If I would forget to ask for their emojis, students would ALWAYS remind me. They would put their game piece on the “good news” emoji and tell me about a new job, an accomplishment in sports, or a college acceptance letter. But they were also very honest and would mark the “stressed” emoji or “sad” emoji when they were struggling. Some students would choose the same emoji each day until they became more comfortable with sharing their feelings. You can only imagine what emojis they created on the blank face. High school students never cease to amaze me. 🙂

I remember being concerned about building relationships in the classroom when we were wearing masks — and then CHOOSING to find another way — to face the challenge I had with a creative option that high school students would respond and buy in to. And even without masks, this is still something I would utilize if I were still in the classroom (I am now an assistant principal and loving it!) because it had such a huge impact on the culture and climate of my classroom.

I wanted to share my discovery with others for free, so you can find my printable emoji check-in sheet FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Feel free to check it out — and if you really like it, maybe you’ll find another product I’ve created and support my store! Or, if you want, you can buy me a coffee.

I would love to hear about your check-in ideas and how you continue to build relationships with your students! It’s always a pleasure to learn from one another! I look forward to hearing about your ideas in the comments!