On Writing Like You Meme It

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Computers & Writing Doge MemeI love image-based memes like the doge graphic on the right. Their combination of linguistic text, visual image, and arrangement makes a perfect example for discussions of multimodal texts. Everything matters with these images. The linguistic text has to connect to the image. Separately, the words alone or the image alone would have an entirely different meaning. The arrangement of the image and the words changes the meaning further. In the case of the doge image, the words float around the image, mimicking the idea of thoughts that the animal is having. You can learn a lot more about this particular meme on the Know Your Meme site.

Kitten memeA few years ago, I began adding memes to the daily course blog posts. I either found or created memes that somehow tied to the activities we were working on or to current happenings. The kitten meme on the left is one of the favorites of those that I created. This poor, sad kitten showed up on the class website on the day that we discussed the importance of documentation. As students worked on their multimodal projects, it can be tempting to save assets (like images they find that relate to their projects) as they come across them. If they don’t also write down where these assets come from, they too will be sad kittens when it comes time to all documentation to their projects. You can see all the other memes I have collected in my Tumblr collection.

Because I enjoy these memes so much, I love sharing them with other teachers, so at the 2017 Computers and Writing Conference (hashtag: #cwcon) earlier this month, I presented a mini-workshop on using memes in the classroom. My session was titled, Write Like You Meme It: A Hands-on Intro to Memes in the Classroom.

During the workshop, we explored reasons to incorporate memes in the writing classroom, looked at a variety of examples, explored tools for making memes, talked about potential challenges, and then created memes using simple, free tools. You can find links to the free tools, background information, possible assignments, and other resources on the session webpage. We had a great deal of fun making our conference and teaching themed memes. The doge meme above was created by the whole class. I displayed the Doge Meme Generator on the screen, and attendees shared phrases to add to the image. The bottom-most phrase, “Go Elkie,” refers to the conference chair, Elkie Burnside.

To end this week’s post, I want to share the other memes that were created by attendees during the session. Just click the Play button below to see them all:


Have you used memes in your classes? My students always enjoy the chance to make memes. I have created a similar slideshow of Student-Created Memes that you can view to see their work, and check out the session webpage for details on the guidelines and assignments that I share with them. If you use memes with your students, tell me about your experience. I would love to hear more in the comment below!

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.