From a teacher's desk: How guidance and feedback produced an extraordinary activity on Antimatter

Jonathan Libov

Jonathan Libov

Jonathan is the Founder & CEO of Antimatter

I teach 6th and 7th grade Social Studies at Schmucker Middle School in Mishawaka, Indiana. I discovered Antimatter last spring and spoke with the team back in August (quick and early aside: the team at Antimatter is very helpful!). I was really intrigued by having my students make memes for formative assessment and impressed with how easy Antimatter made it to run the activity.

So as not to bury the lede, the results of the exercise I ran last week were excellent by my own standards, and impressive enough that the Antimatter team invited me to share how I ran the activity to produce such great memes. Here are a few of my favorites, but you can view them all here on the activity page.

Here’s how I did it

My first step was watching the video of the workshop that Antimatter ran over the summer. The workshop made it clear the results of a well-run meme creation activity would be really outstanding. I also see really great work done by students every week on Antimatter’s Discover page. At the same time, I knew that, like most creative activities, the guidance and instructions I provided to students would have a large impact on the success of the exercise.

Recommended viewing: Antimatter’s PD workshop (“Memes to an End”)

The topic I chose for the Antimatter activity was Roman Achievements and I ran it as a two-day activity. On the first day, students completed a graphic organizer where they created a brief description then provided Roman and modern examples. The organizer was meant to prepare them for the formative assessment. I let the students make memes with a simple “how to” model. Following the first day’s exercise, I created a feedback slide deck where I went through the disappointing trends and broke down how to make them well into a few simple-ish steps for the second day. You can check out the slide deck here:

I also left this slide up while my students were making their memes on the second day.

Here are the key pieces of feedback I gave to my students on the second day which produced such great results:

  • Make the memes about the content, not the class
  • Stay on topic. This being Roman Achievements, a meme about Caesar Salad doesn’t teach about Roman Achievements.
  • Do not copy from Google Images (that’s where a lot of the Caesar Salad memes came from)
  • Re-research the content and plan the overall message before you make your meme
  • Make it readable by selecting large enough fonts with good color choices and outlines when needed.
  • Triple check spelling

All in all the feedback deck resulted in a major uplift in the quality of the memes and proved to be a very valuable exercise that the students really enjoyed. It was a really great experience and now I’m swimming in memes that the class is making about everything!

My students can’t wait to do it again.

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