Using GIFs and memes in the ELT classroom

I was exploring different tools that we could use in today’s classroom and that would capture our students’ attention. The reality is that most students will automatically be reeled in by anything that is similar to what they are used to seeing on their social networks. This means tons of video content, animated GIFs and memes. I think as teachers, even with just YouTube, we have tons of options and ways of using video in the classroom, not to mention TED, English Central and But, what about memes and animated GIFs? Here’s a quick run through of how these two fun tools could become educational.


You can either create them yourself or simply find one that’s already made. All the same, you can spark conversations in your classroom and get students interested in what you have to say. A meme is a combination of an image and words, so you can use this to explore language, expressions, idioms, vocabulary or context. They can be funny, or serious and will still work to get the topic going. Here are some ideas of how you can use it:

  • Get students to share: Have students use a meme to either share what they did over vacation, or to introduce themselves to the class. Choosing just the right image and the right words to place on it can be a more challenging task than you think. Now, of course, despite all of the misspellings and poor grammar usually seen on memes, my students are expecting to demonstrate their good use of the language.
  • Report or summarize a book or project: While doing a summarizing activity or even during a debate you could have students make their own meme to express their ideas and ensure they give only the most relevant ideas. Post these memes around the room, and you’ll get a sort of visual summary, where you can then get students to group them into categories and explain the relationship.


  • You can also create your own, or bring them in: As teachers you can also play around with making your own memes. Be it to show the rules of your classroom or as a warm up to a book or project you are going to do in  class. One idea is to make an inference game with memes, where students have to infer the meaning based on the image and phrase that is given, you could give them options to make it easier at first. Another idea is to have a meme corner, where you place one image weekly and all of your students have to assign a phrase to the same image. You’ll get tons of different versions and it’ll make for great discussion in the class.

Here are some sites where you can get good memes to teach English, or where you can make them:



Meme Generator

GIF Lingua

Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs are short looping videos and they have become very popular on social networks. We can also use them in the classroom in many different ways.

  • Vocabulary: By presenting a short animated GIF you can solicit vocabulary words and brainstorming from students. By using an animated GIF you can give a full context of difficult-to-explain phrasal verbs, idioms, and collocations that an image just might not get across.
  • Short story and prompts: Use animated GIFs as a prompt to get students to continue a story, be it in writing or as a speaking exercise. You can find tons of creative and fun prompt animated GIFs here.
  • Get students involved: Give students a topic and have them bring in animated GIFs that are related to the topic. If you have access to collaborative tools like Google Drive, have students share them. You can even get students to vote on their favorite and find the favorite one from each topic. This can be a great warm up when starting a new unit.


  • Reaction animated GIFs: Find three to five animated GIFs that express a reaction your students could have to something. These animated GIFs would represent if they agree strongly or don’t agree at all with a particular topic. Use these in class when having student weigh in, by having them vote. Or to make it even more fun, have students find a animated GIF that shows how they feel about a topic and then have them explain why they chose this animated GIF.

Here are some sites where you can make your own animated GIFs:

Images to GIF

Make a GIF

GIF maker

Giphy (My fav)

GIF Creator


If you are ready to start using animated GIFs and memes, consider opening a closed Facebook group with your students. This will make it very easy to get students to share and vote on the animated GIFs and memes that you will be using for your activities. You can even make an album for each lesson or topic and that way easily revisit ones that you can reuse with other groups.


How to grade board games and other “fun” activities?

RES00001645-LWhen giving fun classes and being creative in assessing students’ progress throughout a course, it sometimes seems impossible to give an official grade to those “fun” activities. Now, these activities usually don’t show up in the final grades that the student (and their parents, bosses or institutes) sees. Doesn’t this seem a bit unfair? During these games is where they are usually put in a situation where they can interact freely in a stress-free environment using the target language or grammar, which will later be evaluated in a test. So why don’t these activities weigh in just as much in their final grade? Well, the first reason is that it’s quite difficult to quantify. How do you get a percentage from the times a person spoke during class, or his /her performance during their turn in a board game activity? I’ve learned many strategies that allow you to grade student’s performance, but in this post I will focus on the one I have found to be the most effective.

Creating a marking criteria for gamesRubric

Every activity we, as teachers, do in class should have an expected outcome. The secret is sharing these outcomes with students in a way they easily comprehend what’s expected from their performance, be it in language skills, target language or grammar. When faced with this situation the best solution for me has always been to create a marking criteria that has the basic skills I expect from the given activity (2 to 3, keep it simple) and then give each one a mark (0-5, 0-100, whatever works for you). By grading them in each criteria and then obtaining a final average, you can show students which areas they have to work on the most, and which ones are their strengths. This way you can grade any activity, as long as you’re doing it with a clear objective in mind.

Extra tip:

Adding a self-assessment component to a course is a great way to compliment any grading system. Almost all text books come with the “I can” statements at the end of each unit, so why don’t we take more advantage of them? When planning games and activities make sure that the end result are these “I can” statements, which are usually communicative, allowing them to clearly demonstrate if they know the grammar rules, but more importantly if they know how to communicate using the grammar and target language. So, when doing the activity place these “I can” statements on the board, letting students know what they are expected to do during the activity. At the end have them evaluate their own performance, assuring in this way their active participation in their individual learning process.

At the end of the day evaluation and assessment are necessary in any learning process. In today’s ESL/EFL classrooms where we are expected to take activities and make them fun, engaging and creative; we also need to find strategies to not forget the student’s need to recognize their individual learning goals and take part actively in their process.