REFLECTION CAN BE DEFINED as a process of careful consideration - looking back and thinking about how far you've come. This process is an important part of growth - for adults and for children. In the next few months, take time to reflect together on the process you went through this year to become a group. Rather than dedicating just one group-time session to reflection, consider making this kind of contemplation part of the last weeks of school. Here are some concrete suggestions to help children understand and experience the benefit of looking back and enjoy celebrating where they are right now!

Do You Remember Those First Days of School?

Invite children to think about the beginning of the year. "What do you remember about our first group times? What did we do?" "How did you feel about being in this class?" "How has group time changed?" You might talk about how short group time had to be in the beginning of the year, and why. How difficult it was for children to sit still together. Compare that to how well (most of the time!) they can sit together now. Ask a variety of questions to get children thinking about differences: "What can we do now that we couldn't do before?" "How have we grown together as a group?" Share your insights as well. Invite comments. And use experience charts, photos, and/or class books from throughout the year to help make children's reflection experiences concrete.

Reflection Statements

To encourage children's thinking, offer statements for them to finish. Before you begin, explain that you are going to say a sentence and leave off the last part. Each person will have a turn to finish the sentence any way he wants. Anyone who doesn't have a comment can pass. Demonstrate the process by going first, and be sure to invite aides and other adults in your room to join in. Here are some examples: "A time at group I was really happy was ..." "The funniest group time for me was ..." "A time I was really sad at group time was ..." "My favorite grouptime activity was ..." "A group time I was really nervous was ..." "For me, the best part about group time used to be ... and now it's ..."

Children may want to make up their own reflection statements for everyone to finish. The process invites children to reflect on their own personal experience and also allows them to express all kinds of memories.

One Thing I Learned About Friendship

As children reflect on what it's like to be part of a group and how your group has grown, they will probably also think about friendship. Take a few minutes and talk about a friendship in your life why it's important, how long you've been friends, and how your friendship has changed over time. Pose a few questions for everyone to think about: "What does friendship mean?" and "What do friends do for each other?" "Do friends have to be the same age?" "How do people meet friends?" "Do friends even have to be people?" Ask those children who would like to share one thing they've learned about being a friend this year.

Celebrate Group Feelings With a Memorable Event

One way to celebrate how your children have grown as a group is to share a special long-range activity. Choose a project that requires cooperation. One preschool classroom chose to incubate and hatch duck eggs; another hatched and raised butterflies and then made a ceremony of setting them free. A kindergarten class grew bean seedlings indoors, then took them outside to a class garden; the sprouted beans were served in a class salad! Still another group baked bread and made butter to serve to families. From the planning stages to completion, these collective activities remind children how important it is to cooperate and how good they have become at doing so!

Celebrate Group Identity

Together decide on a project that will help children remember their group over the summer and even next year. How about Friendship Tshirts? Each child can bring in a white T-shirt for friends to decorate and "autograph" using fabric crayons. They can also make handprints with fabric paint and sign their names with markers! Kindergarten children often enjoy making autograph books with everyone's address and phone number. You might also take a group photograph and make a copy for each child. Children can then construct their own frames by gluing memorable pieces of favorite art projects around the edges of the photo!

Your group times together have been wonderful, stressful, heartbreaking, heart-opening - a true microcosm of life shared with the purpose of creating a community that will last in children's memories forever. This surely is something to remember and celebrate.

Looking Forward

Explain to children that, together, you are going to make two wish lists - one for summertime and one for next year. Post two large sheets of oaktag and ask children to think about, and then share, things they hope will happen. Record their responses on the appropriate lists. To inspire children's thinking, you might ask: "What do you hope to do this summer?" "What do you hope to learn during the summer?" "Next year?" "How do you hope to feel?" "What places do you hope to visit on family trips and field trips?"