Resources for Teaching Languages to Children


3 Ideas for Using Memes in the World Language Classroom

AS WORLD LANGUAGE TEACHERS, WE ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR AUTHENTIC RESOURCES we can use in class that are both engaging and COMPREHENSIBLE. There have been some great posts written about using MEMES and other visuals of this kind in class, but I haven't seen any for ELEMENTARY level, so here are some ideas that work for me with my students: (they can be used with older kids, too!)

Using Memes in the World Language Classroom for Elementary Spanish French Kids

NOTE: At the end are some guidelines I use when choosing memes-all the ideas are predicated on these guidelines. Links to memes are there as well :)

*JUST FOR FUN: Unexpected lead in, right? Actually, my favorite way to use memes and other humorous visuals is to post them outside my classroom door so when my kiddos arrive, they can look at them, read them, we all chuckle, and punto. No making a big deal, no working hard to get kids to understand something, just good ole fun- we need this with our students, and humorous memes can make it possible with little to no work on your part as a teacher. What I love about this, too, is that kids see these throughout the day and week, not just when it's Spanish class, since they are in the hallway. I frequently hear kids repeating the phrases to each other, or reading them out loud as they pass. (BONUS: Reading!!)

If you are on a cart, without a classroom, just post the memes somewhere in the hallway or lobby of the school. (I did this for years when I was on a cart :) )

*CREATE A CAPTION: This is a fun activity for students who have more language under their belt- challenge them to create an alternative caption to the one in the meme. This can be a fun centers activity, 'right before a holiday' activity, or as part of a theme that focuses on specific vocabulary sets. I am also a huge fan of putting up an image, handing out sticky notes, and having kids write their caption on the sticky note. We then put them all up there, sharing as we stick them- I then hang the whole thing in the hallway so other classes can check them out. Take, for example, the image below- students can create captions about the sock, how he's feeling, or even just a short phrase or sentence describing the image.

Link to this pin
*CULTURAL CONNECTIONS: Perhaps it goes without saying that since memes are authentic resources, they inherently convey culture-which is a huge bonus as they therefore allow us to incorporate "small culture", my term for culture that doesn't fall into those 'big ticket' cultural topics like holidays & celebrations, food, traditional dress, etc...those 'everyday' bits of culture that, in my opinion, are as powerful and important as the big ticket topics, and are far easier to incorporate on a daily basis. By virtue of being authentic, they allow students to experience the act of enjoying humor that has been created for exactly this purpose, or as a way to brighten one's day; additionally, many memes contain images from the perspective of the target culture: this could look like the type of food depicted (a beet or turnip in a Russian meme, for ex), the type of animal depicted (a llama for Spanish vs a moose for Canada), the scenery (the Eiffel Tower in the background, a forest vs mountains, etc), even the color scheme can convey cultural perspectives (Russian illustrations often have a very typical color scheme which is immediately recognizable; many memes & other images incorporate colors of the flag connected to the region/country, which again, conveys cultural information). The season depicted might also convey cultural perspectives- imagine snow for Canada or Finland, or an autumnal scene with chestnuts for Spain...these types of images tap into deep cultural perspectives and associations for native speakers, just as the Canada geese honking overhead reminds me of my childhood and the arrival of fall. You can see what I mean in the images below:

Using memes in the foreign language classroom

You can point out these cultural components when talking about the visuals, or just let your kids soak them in. Never underestimate the power of unconscious mental connections!

LIST WHAT YOU SEE: Given many of our students are at Novice Low and/or Mid, single words & phrases are a hallmark of their proficiency level. Give them a prompt to simply list any and all words they can think of related to what they see in the meme (or any image!)- it could be as simple as naming colors, objects, etc or phrases like ‘I like’ or ‘I’m hungry’. I love this because it allows for differentiation across all students & abilities, including heritage learners.

HOW DO I DECIDE WHAT MEMES & PINS TO USE? I look for ones that have language in context that my elementary novice level students can comprehend without me translating... this means vocabulary that we have used in class, and vocabulary they can intuit through the image and context. If the language is too challenging for their proficiency level (and/or age range and mental stage), then it is not appropriate for my kiddos, even if I personally think it is great! This ties into my goal of teaching 90-100% in the target language. There are so many out there that fall within these guidelines! For a bunch, you can check out my Pinterest board here (Spanish and some Russian). For French, more Russian, and German click my board here.

HOW DO YOU USE MEMES? Let me know in the comments!

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