Discovering new ways to engage students is a challenge for teachers in all disciplines. One way to keep students interested is to make connections to the real world. A meme is a popular way for people of all ages to send a message that demonstrates a nuanced understanding of a particular event. In the social studies classroom, educators can use memes as teaching tools and projects for their students.
Dictionary.com defines a meme as “a cultural item in the form of an image, video, phrase, etc., that is spread via the Internet and often altered in a creative or humorous way.” Even if your students haven’t used the word meme in conversation, they’ve most likely seen memes spread on social media or sent via email or text message. Memes usually include an image and with text layered over top. There are a variety of tools that teachers and students can use to create memes that make connections to current events or topics covered in your class.
Memes can communicate ideas or make people laugh. You’re sure to find plenty that are appropriate to share with students once you go searching. This website contains a handful of memes that are student-friendly. If you plan to assign students to create a meme that relates to a specific topic, try to create one of your own to use as a model for students.
To create a meme, students need to layer text on top of an image. Students can design memes with publishing tools like Pages or Word. Once their image is inserted into the document they can add text on top of each image. If students are making a series of memes they might find a slide-based presentation tool like Google Slides, PowerPoint or Keynote a better option. On mobile devices students can use apps like Meme Creator to quickly add text to an image. Poster making apps like Pic Collage are another option that are great for smartphones and tablets.
Memes are a fun option for students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. Students can create memes that connect to a story in the news or a period of history. Teens can collect primary source documents, famous paintings or current photographs as part of the project. Support them by showing examples, choosing one picture for the whole class to use or more specific focus on one subject area. To help students demonstrate their thought process when creating a meme ask each one to include a piece of writing that explains the meaning behind the words and image that they chose to use.
Have you used memes in your social studies classroom? Share your stories and ideas below!
Monica Burns is an EdTech & Curriculum Consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.