THINK BACK TO THE FIRST FEW GROUP-TIME MEETINGS of the year. How did the children work together as a group? What were the issues then? What was the main focus of these early group times? How are they different now? What can you do now that you couldn't do then? After you have considered these questions on your own, take them to your next group-time meeting and invite children to reflect on their year at group time together. You can use many different kinds of media to help make the reflection process concrete, hands-on, visual, and fun!

Compare Then and Now

Did you take photos of children the first few weeks of school? Perhaps you have class pictures taken in the early part of the year. (You can also ask families to send in pictures.) Bring these out for a self-reflection time. Place the photos on chart paper or a low bulletin board for easy reference during the discussion. Children will be excited to see pictures of themselves when they arrive at group time! After they have had plenty of time to examine the pictures, talk about group time back then. Ask children to discuss what group time was like then and how it is now. What was hard then that is easier now? How has group time changed? How have YOU changed? At the end of the meeting, take a group photo of the children and hang it with the other photos. This will be a photographic display children will visit frequently over the next few weeks.

Have a Sing-Along

As you well know, singing songs is a major part of group time. Why not invite children to take time to reflect on the songs they remember and love? Children can brainstorm a list of their favorites-and sing them, of course! Then, ask them to take a vote for their five or ten favorites of the year. You can use a simple tape recorder to document them singing these songs. Children will delight in hearing themselves singing at group time. Write out the words and invite children to illustrate the songs and create a book of lyrics. Make copies and send them home as an end-of-the-year gift for families.

Make a Photographic Time Line

Do you (and the families) have photos taken throughout the year? You can use these to make a photographic time line. This will help children reflect not only on the events but also on the sequence of the year. At group time, set out a series of pictures and invite children to discuss what is happening in each. Then, ask the group to arrange them in a line in a left-to-right time sequence. A clothesline is a fun way to encourage discussion about and display these pictures, and it's easy to move the photos around using clothespins as hangers!

Create a "Photo Graph"

One way to reflect on the year is to make a graph of children's favorite activities and centers. Use your group-time gathering as a time for children to graph the year together-in pictures! Children understand the process of graphing best when the graphs are both concrete and personal. Photos are perfect for this. Include children in the taking of photos around the room and throughout the day. Pictures might include each of the learning centers or the special events of the day. These will become the categories for the classroom "photo graph." Paste the photos in a row on the bottom of a large piece of chart paper or poster board. Draw columns above each photo. Use circles of construction paper to make simple smiley faces for children to use for voting. At group time, ask children to vote for their favorite center or event. Which is the most popular? Count the smiles to see.

Enjoy a Video Party

Wow, have we grown and changed! If you took videos throughout the school year, you can make a video collage of children's favorite moments captured on tape. Then have a group-time matinee party. Make and serve popcorn, invite the families, and enjoy the show!

Using Media Throughout the Day

The end of the year is a wonderful time to take advantage of different media, both in and out of the classroom. Here are some things to try:

  • Invite children to choose music to serenade them at snack time.
  • Take disposable cameras outside when children play.
  • Put on impromptu plays, and record them on video.
  • Create a class photo yearbook.
  • Take pictures of children and invite them to draw self-portraits. Ask children to talk about themselves and what they learned this year. Invite children to glue their photo and self-portrait on facing pages, and add their writing below. Make copies for everyone and send them home as a remembrance of the year together.