Using Memes to Get Their Attention

The other day, someone had a song up on their phone and it sounded rather awful to me, and I asked "What IS that?" and then the someone told me "it's the latest song" by some band I haven't even heard of... I began to sweat. My palms felt clammy. I stepped back and took a deep breath. I am getting worse I thought to myself.
My condition has become a larger and more apparent issue as the years go by. I simply can ignore it no longer. My brain is changing. My tastes, they are changing too. Times are changing, and for me, I continuously try to ignore a simple fact. A thousand scenarios like this have happened to thousands of people all over the world since the beginning of time and the concept of pop-culture. The words float through my head each time I realize I don't know something I should've known about the latest fashion trend or the newest song by so-and-so (Did I just say "so-and-so?") I'm getting old! Not only am I getting older, but having a baby this last year has got me feeling less and less connected to pop culture.
Luckily, this scenario didn't happen in my classroom in front of my students, my MIDDLE SCHOOL students. That would simply be the kiss of death in the face of me clinging to the idea that my 6th graders think I have ANY coolness left in me yet. I'm not yet 30, but I'm really feeling quite square.
While I'm losing the battle against time on the pop media, music, and celebrity beat, I have to think to myself that I keep a pretty solid pace with most internet pop culture. Which I'm pathetically proud of. Perhaps I don't know as much as I think I do, but I like to think I'm still hip in that area... did I just use the word "hip?" Please excuse me while I unglue my hand from my sweaty forehead.

The middle school students of today are no different than they were when I was a middle school student, and even when my mother was a middle school student. They see and know and laugh about things I (or the other adults in their lives) no longer know much about.
But I have one thing going for me in the realm of awkward humor. I can laugh as hard at new memes as they can, in fact, I can laugh harder. (Especially at certain genres like the LOTR "One does not simply..." memes or any of the lolcats.)

 When you think about it, memes are a sort of art form. They are the art of pop culture. A play on words, a strategically frozen shot of video footage. They serve as a point of humor for instructing (and nagging) your students. They remind your students, in a non-confrontational way, to do what you ask them to do day after day, but they don't remember to do.
They are also a fun way to show your students that you do care about what they find interesting, and you can still use them in an educational way.

While I'm not ready to completely full-out build a lesson plan around using memes in my classroom, (like this amazing person is) I am willing to try using them to get my kids' attention. In the first week of school, we went right into citing evidence (CCSS Anchor Standard R1). I was emphasizing just how much I like to see evidence and how sad (and angry!) it makes me when a student has amazing things to say but cannot back up their opinions with text-connected evidence. One student murmured to his partner "Why you no have evidence?" in reference to the meme... it created such a ripple in the room, snickers and chuckles, but how could I be mad that he spoke out of turn? I laughed it off and [badly] imitated the guy in the meme. It has since become an inside joke for our classroom. Try making some of your own. Include your classroom's inside jokes and some of the things you say day in and day out. Maybe I'll get brave and center a lesson around making them, for now, I'm happy to just flash them on the screen during debates and draw the Y U No Have guy on the board when my students are completing reading responses.

(Memes generated at

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