Starting a Biography Project? Consider Adding a Meme.


Photo Credit: Drew via flickr


Technology tools have brought new elements to biography study. Teachers are now utilizing a variety of presentation tools, online timelines, and talking avatars to enhance biography units. No longer limited to a typed report, biographies have now evolved into multimedia classroom presentations.

An interesting addition to your biography unit is the use of a meme.  Allow students to create a meme with the historical figure and a brief quote.  Using this simple graphic can foster essential presentation skills that go beyond reading from a notecard or word for word from a PowerPoint presentation. Students can become well versed presenters by learning  the importance of being knowledgeable about the topic and using visuals as a supplement to the presentation.

Student created biographies tend to provide us with information such as dates, names of family members, and notable accomplishments. Providing simple facts is an adequate starting point, but allowing them to delve into research from a different angle can provide a  fresh perspective, and reveal meaningful information. Beginning with a powerful quote can also serve as an ideal launching point for deeper questions and discussions.

Here is your quick start guide to implementing memes in your classroom:

Do You Know Your Memes? outlines some simple meme building tips for teachers and students.

Create your memes using simple meme generating sites such as quick meme or imgflip. But educators use caution. Previewing these sites is a must to make certain that cataloged memes are suitable for students.  Ensure students stay in the meme generating section of the website and do not allow students to search for memes using a search engine. Many memes are classroom appropriate and many are not.  As with all classroom technology tools, good supervision is essential.

















Do You Know Your Memes?


I admit, I love memes. Not only do they evoke a laugh here and there, they allow me some serious procrastination as I scroll down my Facebook news feed. For those who may be unfamiliar with a meme, Wikipedia describes it as:

meme (play /ˈmm/, rhyming with “cream”[1]), a relatively newly coined term, identifies ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another. The concept comes from an analogy: as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.

A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.[2]

Memes can be a useful and innovative educational tool. They are, in essence, part of our collective knowledge. According to Sean Micheal Morris, “memes seem to come about spontaneously, as though growing not from the mind of any one person or organized group, but from the material of society itself”.

Appealing to your student’s creative drive and sarcastic zeal, memes provide an ideal platform for propagating information. What can memes look like in practice?

Suggestions for a general overview lesson (from Memes in the Classroom):

  • Define “meme”
  • Identify popular memes
  • Learn to recognize memes versus truth (try
  • Define the audience (“remixers”, “sharers”)
  • How was this meme spread?
  • Why did the meme spread?
  • How was the meme created (skills required)?
  • How was the meme remixed?
  • Discuss the collaboration, modification and sharing of memes
  • Identify counter memes

Memes in content areas:

  • Write a riddle for math over a picture of Albert Einstein.
  • Pose a science question over an image of Marie Curie.
  • Summarize the main idea of a text over a snapshot of a book’s cover.
  • Create a slogan in Social Studies corresponding with a social movement.
  • Create a meme about grammar rules in Language Arts.
Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

  1. Go to flickr (or any photosharing site)and choose a Creative Commons photo.
  2. Use a photo editing site. A simple site to try is Glogster. Students can upload images and  add text using a simple click and drag feature.

Recognizable to the masses, memes are part of our social fabric. Spreading through our social media channels, they are infectious in nature and are essential to information literacy.