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 Lyricstraining.com. But, what about memes and animated GIFs? Here’s a quick run through of how these two fun tools could become educational.

MEME

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.

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  • 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:

Pinterest

MakeMeme

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.

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  • 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

FINAL TIP

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.

 

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Using interactive flashcards for vocabulary practice

I love using Cram.com to practice vocabulary with my students.

First of all, I’m a big fan of teaching vocabulary chunks so when I’m teaching a course, I make it a point to teach certain groups of vocabulary together and to explore how to teach them to my students so they actually stick. For me recycling is the key so lately I’ve been using Cram.com in class and for out-of-class practice for my students. You can create digital flashcards in groups and on the page you can even share your flashcards so others can use them. Once you have designed them you can either view the flashcards, play a memorize game, take a test or even play some of the games the page has available. All of these can be used at different moments of your class to motivate students to learn new words. One more thing I love is that it’s available on iPhone and Android, so you can easily include it as individual practice in class.

EXTRA: You can even get your students to create their own and share with the class.

Stumped? Trying to find the best way to teach a grammar topic? Figuring out how to handle the multi-level group?

E-mail me at tatygoraelt@gmail.com and ask away. I’ll write a post answering one question a week and help out as much as I can. Now, of course I’ll be waiting for others to comment on each post and that way we can all reach the best possible solution to your question!

3 ways to use sheet protectors for easy reusable ESL activities

0002903_penandpaper_separator_sheet_a4_pack_of_100_sheetsI’m sure you have used sheet protectors tons of times to put away activities, organize essays, file attendance sheets, and much more. But here’s another way to use them that will allow you to reuse your activities in class so we can save some paper. So, a few considerations first:

  • To use sheet protectors for any of the following activities you should have erasable markers available for your students. They will be writing on the sheet protectors to do the activity and once they are done all you have to do is erase. Voila! They are ready to be used in another class.
  • Be sure to make the blanks or spaces big enough to write with erasable markers.
  • Depending on the game you should have various colored erasable markers available for the students.
  • Identify your games and worksheets clearly so that they are easy to find and use. Sometimes marking them will save you time when handing them out. Identify things like: winning cards, difficulty level (for mixed level groups), quantity to keep track of them and to make sure you get them all back or target language.

Let’s go over some fun games you can use in class  and how we can use sheet protectors to reuse them.

Jogo_da_velha_-_tic_tac_toe1. Tic-Tac-Toe (or Noughts and Crosses)

For ESL classes Tic-Tac-Toe is a great game to play, especially for basic levels, because it reduces the time you take to explain instructions. This is valuable time and if we choose well-known games this will also allow us to focus on the task at hand and to give the student a sense of confidence. For this game you can either make teams or pairs, where each one will select their mark “X” or “O”. Here is the way I’ve used it and some variations:

  • OPTION 1: Generate tasks for your students such as using a the target language in a sentence. If the task is performed correctly your student is allowed to put the “X” or “O” where ever they want, following the normal rules of Tic-Tac-Toe. The winner will be the student who not only performs the most correct tasks, but the one who wins based on the traditional rules.
  • OPTION 2: Place the target language in the boxes of the Tic-Tac-Toe and have your student choose where they want to place their mark. If they use the target language completing the assigned task correctly they are allowed to put their mark, if not it is the next student’s turn. Once again the same rules apply to win.
  • OPTION 3: Place instructions that the students must follow like: “Speak for one minute about…”, “Name 5 irregular verbs”, or “Introduce yourself to your classmates.”. Again if the student completes the task correctly, they can make their mark, if not then the game continues until one of the teams or students has won.


2. Bingo:

Even traditional Bingo can work if you want to review letters and numbers. But here are some variations:

  • Create Bingo Cards with the target language for your lesson and be sure to create flashcards with the same vocabulary, so you can pull them out of a bag or mark them off. The same rules apply as in traditional Bingo, but since there are so many variations be sure to set clear rules as to how you can win.
  • Musical Bingo. I explained in detail this activity in a previous post. To read more about it click here.

Battleship3. Battleship:

In other countries not everyone might be familiar with the rules of this game so here are the original Hasbro rules. If you are not sure how to play go over those first and then come back so we can explore how to use it in the ESL Classroom. Although the traditional version, similar to Bingo, can be used to review letters and numbers, here are some of my variations:

  • Practice homonyms by placing the homonyms on opposite ends of the board, so that they replace the letters and numbers. The students should create a sentence with both words to “attack” their opponent. The student receiving the “attack” should recognize the correct word based on context. This is a great game to get your students to understand the subtle differences in using words in context. Remember they should complete the task correctly to be able to make their move.
  • By placing nouns instead of letters or numbers, you can have students compare them in a sentence. This way they can practice comparatives. If done correctly their attack will be valid, if not then it’s the next student’s turn.

Finally, here’s a link to a blank battleship template you can use.

Some extra ideas

The following activities can be used traditionally, but by putting them in a sheet protector we are able to reuse them once and again with our different groups. In all of these it’s important to make the spaces big enough to be able to write the answers with an erasable marker.

  • Pair work conversation cards: We’ve all used those pre-made conversation cards that have blanks and as Student A responds, Student B fills out blanks.
  • Word search: Make your own word searches with the target language for your lesson here. (There are a few websites that do this, so explore on Google to see what options you can find).
  • Crossword: You can also make your own Crossword puzzles just click here.
  • Hangman: Have the template already printed out for instant fun. Print it here.

There are tons more games and activities that can be reused easily simply by putting them into a sheet protector and using erasable markers. Enjoy!