Illinois teacher grades assignments with memes—and the kids love it

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Ainee Fatima’s methods are winning her a slew of new fans.

Memes are saving the day. A high school teacher based in Franklin Park, Illinois, is using the quippy images to grade her student’s homework, and she is seeing real results.

Ainee Fatima is a 27-year-old English and media studies teacher. She said her use of memes to grade assignments saw an immediate reaction from her students who were motivated to do more and better work. They went viral this week, too.

Fatima told the Daily Dot that as a young teacher, it’s been validating to know that she is doing something right. “I needed a way to express my emotions to my students while grading,” she said. “I think memes and GIFs are so a part of texting culture now that we have a reaction and meme to everything. I thought why not use it for grading?”

Fatima was kind enough to share her formula for grading memes with other teachers. She said she printed them onto sticker paper and cut them out herself—even sharing the file with fellow educators.

Fatima was also ready for the online criticism that anyone who goes viral faces. She explained for those who may think classrooms are not an appropriate space for memes that she would not use this grading method with younger students. Her high school seniors, however, loved it. She also pointed out that since her class revolves around “social media, trends, news, politics, music, film,” the memes were an appropriate addition.

Fatima also shared her positive meme stickers, used for high grades.

The reaction on Twitter was swift and full of encouragement this week. People loved the idea, particularly among an age group that can be difficult to connect with as an educator. Her method of “speaking their language” made sense to parents, students, and other teachers alike.

“We need more teachers like you who make education fun for kids,” one user wrote.

https://twitter.com/hauxchoa/status/1053053857201180672

Other people threw out suggestions for other memes that would pair well with different types of assignments. Deadpool, Kevin Hart, and Shia LaBeouf were all on the shortlist.

She said the reaction from her students, fellow teachers, and even strangers online has been amazing. She is constantly looking for new ways to get information across to her students and says she often learns from other teachers’ methods as well. She quickly found that she wasn’t the first to think of using memes and pop culture references to boost engagement from her students. Other teachers shared examples of their methods for keeping students interested. One even used Bitmoji stickers to grade work.

“It’s sometimes important for teachers to meet their students at their level,” Fatima said. “Including pop-culture and media in their curriculum will get your content and instruction across way farther than sticking to age-old content.

“It might seem silly but just having those few kids try a little harder made my day! I have striven to be the teacher I needed when I was in school.”

Nahila Bonfiglio

Nahila Bonfiglio

Nahila Bonfiglio reports on geek culture and gaming. Her work has also appeared on KUT's Texas Standard (Austin), KPAC-FM (San Antonio), and the Daily Texan.