Adding a meme creation task increases student engagement and can make something as dull as a back-to-school rules lecture more fun. Here are five more ways to use memes to increase student engagement in a lesson.
1. RULES, PROCEDURES & CHECK-INS
There is nothing kids look forward to more than sitting through six classes of syllabus lectures and rule speeches on the first day of school.
Starting the school year with a list of what not to do or a rules lecture creates a culture of compliance. Instead, I'd prefer out-of-the-box thinking, risk-taking, and pushing boundaries with innovative ideas. So how do I set the tone for what my classroom is all about?
While I need to review some classroom expectations, I try doing it memorably. For example, I have created a slide show of memes that illustrates behaviors that I don't like in a very humorous way. This lets kids know that while I have expectations about how they conduct themselves in my class, learning can be fun…even when learning about rules.
At the end of the slides, I give them the chance to create memes about teacher behaviors that annoy them. It's only fair, right?
After my presentation, students created their memes in a shared slide deck about their expectations of me. Since I have students create memes throughout the year, this first day of school lesson serves multiple purposes.
Communicating my expectations for how students conduct themselves in my classroom.
Bonus: Grammar Memes
Memes about rules can make those rules memorable. There are lots of rules that students have to learn in school that are unrelated to classroom behavior and adding a meme to a lesson can help make those rules stick. My friend, Kevin Feramisco, was creating a Grammar Hyperdoc and looking for ideas.
I sent him a MEME:
...and he created this piece of awesomeness: The Grammar Hyperdoc Click on his name to follow him on Twitter because he shares cool stuff and is an all-around nice guy.
2. DAILY (OR WEEKLY) CURRENT EVENTS PROTOCOL
In History class, I used CNN 10 for daily warm-up activities. Students go to https://www.cnn.com/cnn10 to watch a ten-minute video highlighting several top news events. Then, students spend five minutes creating a meme in a shared slide deck. It takes less than one minute to make a meme and can be made on a slide. The first few times will take longer if your students are new to meme-making. The other four minutes are for thinking of the idea for the meme.
The ten-minute news videos explain multiple current events, which is an opportunity for a fun way to check for understanding. Students can choose the news story they find intriguing and create memes for the selected news. The presentation turns into a guessing game in which the class has to guess which news story the meme is from.
3. LIT MEMES
I love the exploding brain meme as a template to move students from identifying a topic from a text to describing a theme, which seems to be a real struggle for middle school readers.
Memes are also an effective way for students to show their understanding of characters, conflicts, or plots from the books that they are reading.
4. WHAT DOES IT MEME?
Memes are a great way for students to show their understanding of word meanings. Since memes, by definition, are meant to be shared, create a collaborative slide presentation in which all students can add their memes. Once complete, you have a great collection of images for a word that may have multiple or connotative meanings, as shown in the example below.
5. HISTORY MEMES: WHAT IF I TOLD YOU...
The "What if I told you..." meme is an excellent way to get students to think about elements of our culture that may have been influenced by ancient civilizations. The example below is taken from a unit on Ancient Greece. We learned about Plato's Allegory of the Cave, and I showed them a video clip from the film The Matrix, which has been compared to Plato's allegory.
My students have digital portfolios in the form of Google sites. They add samples of their work on their websites throughout the year. These sites, or digital portfolios, are a great reflection tool. Since much of our work is digital, student websites are perfect for showcasing their work at Open House. We have one bulletin board for the seventy students that learn in my classroom; digital portfolios become individual bulletin boards for the students. The meme task described here adds something more engaging to a written assignment posted on their website.
The Portfolio Task:
Write a post on the History page of your website that responds to the following prompt: Do you think it’s important that we still teach ancient Greek philosophy? Why or why not? Use your meme as an image to enhance your post.
The "What if I Told You" meme would also be a great template for students to share different perspectives on a historical event.
6. THE MORAL OF THE STORY
There are many ways memes can add an extra engagement element to text-based lessons. For example, during a History unit on Ancient Greece, there was a lesson on Aesop's fables in the textbook. I was shocked that my students had made it to middle school and claimed not to know what a fable was, so we took a detour into the land of Aesop. The original fables were quite tricky for my students to read and understand. They struggled to identify a moral when it wasn't clearly stated at the end of the short text.
Even when the moral was stated, the language used to communicate it was somewhat unfamiliar. I noticed that students didn't understand the moral and could not connect it to real-life situations.
After a little direct instruction, their task was to create a meme for the moral of a fable. When the slides were presented in class, students had to summarize the fable and explain how the moral relates to middle school life. We created a shared slide deck of favorite fables and added memes to explain the moral.
Interested in Memes? Check Out These Additional Resources:
How to Create Funny Memes About Issues That Matter from KQED
WITCOIN: THE NEW MEME ECONOMY from David Theriault