Looking back and looking forward encourages children to use important higher-order thinking skills, and memory, observation, communication, and evaluation. It's also a wonderful way to celebrate the year and get ready for the future.

Looking Back

By inviting children to talk about their experiences over the past year, you'll help them recognize and think about the changes that have taken place during the year. This looking back will also help them reflect on the future, to the time when they'll move into a new classroom.

Play a reflective game by asking children to recall one thing that was fun this year. You can help children organize their thoughts and responses by making a chart with columns for their memories in different categories, such as things we made, things we learned, places we visited, songs we sang, games we played, books we read. You might also want to include a column, too, for the things that were "hard" this year. Children will see that what might have been hard at the beginning of the year is not too hard now!

Looking Forward

Part of growing up is facing the unknown. At this time of year, the unknown is next year's class! Be aware that some children may be feeling a bit anxious about the change. One way to face the future is to talk about the past. You might ask, "How did you feel on the first day of school this year?" "What can you do now that you couldn't do then?" By looking at how they felt at the beginning of the year, children may realize how they once had the same fears about a new year as they have now. They will also realize how those fears faded and how comfortable they became. This is a big confidence builder! You can also look forward by making time for children to ask questions about next year. What do they wonder about? If possible, make a visit to next year's class, or invite someone from that class to visit your group time.

Preparing for the Future

As you well know, young children love to help their teachers. A good way to get children to assimilate their feelings is to enlist their efforts in writing a message to next year's incoming class. Start by asking children to remember how they felt at the beginning of the year. Were they nervous, shy, excited? Then ask them to close their eyes and think about what they liked best about this year. When they are ready to open their eyes, write down what they say on chart paper and include their names in the message. You can start the message this way:

Dear New Students,

We would like to tell you about the fun things that you will do in [teacher's name] class.

Johnny liked building with blocks.

Brittany liked dressing up in the dramatic-play corner.

Morgan liked exploring at the water table.

Jessica liked creating in the art corner.

Jimmy liked learning to write his name [and so on].

From [all children can sign their names and add pictures, too!]

Put the letter in a safe place and read it to your new class on the first day of school. It will make a wonderful icebreaker activity during your first group time!

Growing Up

Ask children, "How have you grown this year? Are you bigger than at the beginning of the year?" Invite children to bring in a piece of clothing they wore during the first few days of school. Does it fit now? Is it too tight or too short? Why? It may be helpful to ask children to lay the old piece of clothing over something they wear now for them to see the difference. If you made handprints or height charts at the beginning of the year, compare them with the children's size now. They will be pleased to see even the smallest changes.

Counting Down

Children can look ahead by observing the passage of time. How many days until summer vacation? Let's count down and see! Children can make their own summer vacation countdown paper chain links (one link for each day). Hang these in your group-time area and let children remove a link each day. Then count how many rings are left. Keep a countdown number line on the board so children can also see the numbers they are counting.

Try singing the countdown to the tune of "Ninety-nine Bottles of Pop on the Wall"! Always start at the top number and work down to the number for the day:

Twenty-eight days until summertime,

Twenty-eight days to go,

When one of those days is over and gone,

Twenty-seven days to go!

How We've Grown: A Group Time Transaction Activity

This is a perfect time for children to reflect on how much growing they did this year. You can incorporate the growth concept into your group-time and transition activities. Suggest children act out the following "growing-up" scenario to jump-start their reflections.

Ask children to find a comfortable place on the floor in your group-time area so that they are not too close to one another. They will need to be able to move freely.

Say to them, "I am going to tell a pretend story about growing up. As I tell the story, you can use your body to act out the different ages." That's an example of how to frame your story. You can change it to fit the needs of your group or your own personality.

Observing and Reflecting Around the Room

Did you take photos this year? Place them in your literacy center for children to look at and think about. Invite children to organize the photographs in different ways. They might like to put them in chronological order from the first days of school to now. Provide paper for children to write down or dictate their thoughts. These photos can be put together to make a class album.


Best-Ever Circle Time Activities: Language Building by Ellen Booth Church (Scholastic)

The Complete Book of Activities, Games, Props, Recipes and Dances for Young Children by Pam Schiller and Jackie Silberg (Gryphon House)

The Giant Encyclopedia of Preschool (and Kindergarten) Activities edited by Kathy Charner (Gryphon House)