Through your group-time discussions about favorite memories and past events, children gain a facility with the vocabulary and an understanding of the concept of time. (Have you ever heard a child say, "We went to the zoo, tomorrow ... it was great!"?) In addition, it is such FUN to think back and remember. And fun leads to more talk--which, of course, leads to the further building of language skills!
Model a Memory
Share a favorite memory--perhaps something involving this group of children, or it could be your own childhood memory. Choose something interesting that will keep the class engaged and involved. Show a photo or draw a picture, if possible, to illustrate this memory. Use language that introduces the vocabulary of time and remembrance. You might say: "I remember my first day of school when I was little. I was so shy and scared. I didn't speak to anyone. Here is a picture of me on the way to the school that first day. How do you think I felt?"
After children have had an opportunity to talk about your experience, you might ask: "Do you remember your first day here? How did you feel that day? What songs did we sing?" As children are recalling their first days of school, invite them to talk about what makes the memory significant. Notice the differences in the way children recall the same event. Interestingly, recent studies of the brain show that memory is tied to emotion. We remember best the events that had a strong emotional component.
Write down children's recollections on an experience chart titled Our First Days of School. If possible, illustrate the chart with photos or drawings children made early in the year. During another group time, invite children to compare how they feel about school now as compared to early in the year. You might ask: "What feels different? What seems the same? How have you grown and changed?"
Prop It Up!
Now that you have "primed the pump" of memory, you can invite children to share more memories using a variety of techniques. Bring in a prop to spark a remembrance. Try using toys, books (including those that are class-made), posters, an example of an art project, or a photo from early in the year. You might ask: "What does this remind you of? What do you remember about this time in our class?" Choose one prop per day over a period of time to spark children's recollections about their favorite books, songs, field trips, and projects. Record these reminiscences on chart paper, in a class book, or even on a graph of "favorites" from each category.
Try This for Starters
When you provide a structure for young children to recall their memories, they can easily join in the conversation and use the "language of memory." You can help this process along by providing sentence starters such as: I remember a time when I... (was so happy; laughed so hard; felt so silly; was really angry; was so proud). Choose one and give your own example of a time when you were so happy. Then invite children to share, without expecting all children to participate.
Gain a New Perspective!
The perspectives of older children and adults captivate young children. If possible, invite a grandparent or parent to share a memory of childhood or school with the class. Use a tape recorder or video camera to capture the rich oral history that is shared.
If your group is moving on to kindergarten or first grade next year, use this time of reflection as the perfect opportunity to invite an older child to visit your group time. Ask the child to share her impressions of the new grade. This will provide children with a wonderful window into the future!
Get It on Tape
Children can store their collection of memories shared during this time in many ways. A "Memory Book" can be dictated and written on chart paper, leaving space for children to illustrate each page. Children can even add collage materials (such as photos from the year and scraps from favorite projects) to decorate the cover. One class made a photo album for next year's incoming children that showed their favorite events of the year. In it, they "wrote" messages to the new children. The teacher used it as a way to introduce the program when she went on home visits. Of course, either audio- or videotaping (interview style) is an excellent way to vividly record all the wonders of the year.