The Twelve Memes of Christmas : a seasonal homework challenge

To keep your students busy over the holidays and to practise some digital remix literacy, here’s a little challenge.

As you can see, it’s based on the carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and to introduce the challenge and get into the remixing mood, there’s nowhere better to start than the song itself and some Youtube parodies.  For the original song there’s a very kitsch karaoke version here.  Once your students have got the hang of the original song (if they don’t know it already), then you can move on to the parodies.  There are so many out there, I’ve chosen a couple that appeal to me and my students.  The first one is for Minecraft fans, remixed by two schoolboys, so great role models for younger teens. This one, the Twelve Pains of Christmas,  is for the cynics and Scrooges, possibly better for an adult class.   Having set the scene for a class parody, ask the students to draw up a Christmas present wish-list, or a list of pet hates, or favourite foods, or anything else they’d like to base their parody on, and in pairs or groups, they can create their own 12-days remix and share it with the rest of the class.  Here are the first couple of lines of one of ours (you need to sing along as you read):

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a flat screen plasma TV.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two Wii remotes and a flat screen plasma TV.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, three Mario Bros games! 

 And so on.

They have now completed the first meme of their Christmas challenge.  The idea now is to set up their homework task for the Christmas holiday, which is to come up with 11 other Christmas-themed “memes”.  I use the term “meme”  very loosely!  The idea is based on a phenomenon that has taken our house by storm: Vlogmas.  Heard of it? If not, check it out here in the Urban Dictionary.  My eleven year old daughter watches them obsessively, and has started making her own, though she doesn’t share them.  That was my basic inspiration, but 24 daily video blog posts?  No thanks!  So I came up with a compromise: 12 shared digital documents in any format they want, to be completed at some point over the holidays.

Twelve can still seem a lot, so it’s worth exploring different memes and tools that we could use.  Here’s a short list of ideas, this doesn’t mean they have to use all the ideas below, or any of them, in fact, but it’s fun to explore what’s possible. Once they’ve seen how these work, it really shouldn’t take them much more than 15 minutes to create their post.

 Posters and photo-based memes

  • Keep calm and …. This is a great site (and very easy to use) where you can make your own posters. A very easy first contribution for the challenge.
  • Create an angry cat (or any other meme) poster on the meme generator site
  • Add speech bubbles to photos … with wigflip you can use your own photo, choose one from the gallery, or upload one from a  URL.  Very easy, no account needed and you can save the final version on your computer.

 Avatars, comic strips and animation

  • Voki has a free turkey animation that you can add text to for a talking turkey meme. Or you can record your own voice and there are other characters you can choose from too (although there’s less choice on the free version than there used to be)
  •  The Zimmer twins – very easy and accessible.
  • Animoto let’s you make short animated slideshows with your own photos and captions and a choice of soundtrack


Or, if they want to keep to the traditional vlogmas format, they can record a short video on their webcam and upload on youtube, or post updates to a closed group on a social network like Facebook or Instagram or Whatsapp.

And to make all the work worthwhile, you need to find a platform for sharing.  The simplest format is to draw up a table, a kind of log of their memes, that they fill in for the 12 tasks including a simple description and a note of the format.  This can be used to talk about the challenge in the first class after the break. You can create some kind of space where all the posts can be shared online.  Pinterest, Padlet or TodaysMeet could all work.  I guess the important thing is to choose a platform that’s easy and accessible for everyone.  And one last thing, if you’re asking your students to take the challenge and share their posts, then maybe you should think about doing it yourself too?


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Ceri Jones

I’m a teacher, trainer and materials writer. I live in Cádiz in the south west of Spain. I’ve been involved in ELT for over 25 years. I share more lesson plans and experiences on my blog, Close Up

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