Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Like a sir... teaching with memes

This year at our IATEFL Slovenia conference I attended a very interesting talk of our student helper Nina Jerončič. She presented different types of memes and why she thought they were useful. The force is strong with this one and it's a delight to see you're not the only teacher who puts up these kinds of pictures after students do EXTREMELY badly on their mock-test. Go see her presentation! It's awesome.

But what's a meme I hear you cry!

True story.

Why use memes to teach concepts?

The teens relate to them, at least those who spend at least a portion of their time online. You're bound to have at least a couple of them who know more memes than you can shake a stick at and can explain it to those who don't. (And to hipsters, who will pretend they don't follow memes because they're too mainstream.)

Besides, they're funny. Humour in the classroom is to be embraced and cherished, we get enough seriousness in our lives anyhow. Yes, just like with any thing, there will be students who love it and students who hate it and students who spend their time thinking of how they'd rather be playing Skyrim than listen to the teacher.

So, how about some ideas for the class?

Questions with the Philosoraptor

Does instagraming your lunch make it more delicious?
You can use this advice animal to introduce any sort of question formation. Since the philosoraptor's musings are often quirky and sometimes just plain idiotic, it's a perfect excuse to indulge in a bit of weirdness in the classroom.

Here, have a PPT I used in a lesson on Reported speech.

Poor Bad Luck Brian and Socially Awkward Penguin

The Bad Luck Brian and Socially Awkward Penguin are memes about an unfortunate young man and a penguin that can't talk to girls, respectively. They're great for practicing giving advice. Also, Perfect Modals!

You shouldn't have even run, Bad Luck Brian!
I have employed the help of my trusty partner in finding the memes and he's been surfing the web, dying of laughter for the past 15 minutes. So if even a fellow teacher cracks up, they're bound to be at least mildly amusing. Make sure you have plenty of pictures to show and double check you don't accidentally show something naughty in class. Google Images are right out for this one, so if you're thinking about skipping on prep time and just do a search during class, boy, you're in for some surprise.

This works wonders when introducing PC language to adult advanced students. Teens will just make more silly jokes.

First World Problems If onlies

Who doesn't like a good whine? Okay, so maybe no one does, but the pictures are just begging to be used for the I wish / If only construction!

If only I could reach through the screen and explain why I'm right.

The problems are often trivial, so it's also a good starting point for a lesson on social problems. 
Also, fails and epic fails (disasters of a ...disastrous sort) lend themselves nicely to lessons on I wish and Conditionals.

If I hadn't been so immersed in studying for my English class, I would have remembered that fire and plastic are not friends.

Comparing and contrasting

How about stuff that totally looks like something different? It's find the difference game, but 20% cooler.
President Eisenhower is creepier than Gollum.

And the wild world of Failbook

Grammar mistakes, who doesn't love correcting them? Especially when they've been used to seeing their own mistakes corrected since primary school, take this chance to give the students an opportunity to feel good about themselves when spotting real life grammar mistakes and coming up with suitable alternatives.

(Stay tuned for a lesson on politicians' mistakes and faux-pas, coming soon to a blog near you.)

... and they're filled with puns, for  you vocabulary enjoyment.

Speaking of puns, those of you doing cross-curricular teaching with Chemistry - check out Chemistry Cat for a wealth of bad jokes.

Sentence structure with MemeSpeak

This section owes a big fat Thank you to Nina Jerončič, who first gave me the idea. Before that, I saw memes only as speaking prompts/grammar practice vehicles. 

I'm in your (ur) PLACE, verbing my/your(ur) NOUN. Great practive for the -ing ending. Word of caution, your sentences might be a bit hard to find, most grammar is weird by normal standards. 

You can bring some pictures and have students write their own sentences. Bubblr can help you build streams of pictures that students can share with you, each other, their parents, neighbours' dog...

Adjective noun is adjective
But why are you happy, happy chair?! The suspense...
Same as with the above, you can give your students a list of five adjectives you need to practice and kids can find of take photos (pairwork taking each other's photos miming sentences such as "Confused student is confused." or "Overly attached schoolmate is overly attached."- priceless fun, especially if you let them do it in class).

Go forth and explore!

I'm sure you've used memes in your class before, but if you haven't, explore these:

9gag - lots of pictures, but organisation leaves something to be desired.
Cheezburger - organisation, I love it. They have a category Know Your Meme, where you can find origins and most popular examples of memes.
quickmeme - what it says on the tin.

The above is also my list of sources for this post. And let me tell you, it took almost two weeks to write. Why? Because I got distracted by pictures of cats!

Oh well...

1 comment :

  1. Very nice article; right now, I'm collecting different ideas from many different blogs and this was really helpful.