Class memory books are a great way to reflect on the school year and remember all the highlights. Students get a chance not only to celebrate their accomplishments, but also to take an active role in the books’ creation.
So what’s new in the world of memory books? EducationWorld spoke with three experts—Marilyn Heywood Page, who has taught scrapbooking at the National Constitution Center; Linda Taylor, author of My Dog is Barking... A Story From Nigeria; and Julie Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Tips and Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family —who offered advice on crafting these classroom treasures.
Our experienced scrapbookers recommended beginning the work as early as possible in the school year. For elementary-school children, the project is an excellent way to engage students. “Start the scrapbook at the beginning of the year. Let the kids know they will be making a memory book throughout their year. Explain what a memory book is and why it's important,” suggested Page.
Why Make a Memory Book?
When Taylor was a first grade teacher, she would make a memory book every year. Made from a loose-leaf binder and plastic protector pages, the book was something she’d keep in the classroom and occasionally loan to students when they got older and wanted to look at in their new classroom.
For Taylor, the classroom memory book was a learning tool for the kids, who would discover personal responsibility when they took the book home to create pages in it.
“Children were responsible for getting the book to and from school in the special backpack. It was their responsibility also to make sure younger siblings or pets did not damage the book,” said Taylor. The kids were also in charge of returning all the supplies with the book. “Since the book belonged to the whole class, we were able to talk about the benefits of responsibility for everyone,” she said.
Memory books can also be used as part of a writing curriculum, added Page. “You can use it as a tool to teach writing, if you tell the students to write journal entries for the book,” she said. “Depending on the age of the students, you can ask each student to write a letter to their future selves, telling their future self what they hope to accomplish in their lifetime, or by high school or whenever. You can include their letter with a candid photo of them.”
As scanners and online book-making have become easier, teachers like Taylor have gone digital with their class memory books, so that all class members can access them.
“In the most recent past, at the end of each year I would have a volunteer scan all the pages onto a computer, burn them onto a disc and give that to each child for a personal memory while retaining the scrapbook within the classroom,” said Taylor.
Julie Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child: Practical Tips and
Storytelling Techniques That Will Strengthen the Global Family, creates memory books in her work at international schools.”Some parents like the hard copy or portfolio-type items but I am finding more and more families like the ease of digital books. I think this is a wonderful way to get extended family to also see the classroom information,” she said.
Involving the Kids
Page suggested having memory book days in class, where you take photos in class for the book and work on pages.
Simens likes to involve kids by using digital video and imaging. “I use flip cameras, and the children interview each other and add clips to the (memory book) presentation. They are able to do it all themselves. These are five-year-olds. If you want a more polished book, you would have to edit the sound bites or video but sometimes the child's own work is priceless,” she explained.
In one unit on expressing yourself, she has her five-year-old students act out emotions using their body and facial language. The kids take photos of each student and then review them together, talking about whether the expressions match the emotions. “If it was 'a hit' they labeled the emotion and saved it to their own photo files. If the face didn't match the emotion, they threw it away and tried again, sometimes asking another five-year-old for help. The end results were better than any teacher-driven project would have been,” said Simens.
She offered a final word of advice: Teachers should make sure that all the students are reflected in the book. “Make sure every child is represented relatively equally in the photos included in the book. The worst thing is for one kid's photo to mistakenly be left out altogether, or for the same kid to be over-represented in every picture. Keep a checklist with every kid's name on it and make a check mark when a photo of him or her makes it into the book,” she said.