Describing a Memory

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Students will be able to use a combination of drawing, dictating, or writing to narrate a single event and provide a reaction to what happened.

Big Idea

Students' recall a memory and share their feelings using descriptive words.


20 minutes

This lesson is done the Friday before National Grandparents Day which is the first Sunday after Labor Day.

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

Once the students are sitting on the rug I ask the students, “Who has grandparents?” Asking this question lets me know right away who I may need to adjust the assignment for. Fortunately I have always had a group of students who know at least one grandparent.

IF I had a student who did not have a grandparent I would ask that student to think of an older special person in their life – could be anyone, neighbor, teacher, aunt, etc.

I tell the student that I am going to go around the rug and ask each student to tell me the name of one of their grandparents. I usually get names like: Pop pop, Grandpa, Pop, Papaw, Nana, Grandma, Me maw, etc. I do this to help the student focus their attention by getting a picture in their brain of a person who means something to them.

“Grandparents are very special people in our lives because they have lots of memories of things that we do not use as much anymore or even things that we no longer see.” I show the students a picture of an old record player, a record, an old dial phone, a video cassette, etc. I do not show things that are of an even older era because I want the student to have a connection with the grandparents they have now – you could but then I think you would start looking at great grandparents. “Next time you see your grandparents ask them about some of these things and they may even have some to show you or other items that were around in their younger days.”

“Now we are going to read a story about three children who go to visit their grandparents.”


30 minutes

“This story is called The Song and Dance Man. The author is Karen Ackerman. If she is the author of the story, what did she do?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and state that she wrote the words, if not I tell the students that the author’s job is to write the words of the story.

“The illustrator is Stephen Gammel. If he is the illustrator what was his job?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and tell you that he drew the pictures. If not then I explain to the students how the illustrator’s job is to draw pictures to support the author’s words.

Now I read the book. While reading we discuss some of the great vocabulary words – words like vaudeville (which is a type of entertainment – see example below), chammy, shuffle, etc. I cover some of the words, mostly the ones the students ask about, but not all as it would make the story too long and this would cause me to lose my audience’s attention.

“Vaudeville means a type of entertainment. For example if you watch a funny show that is a comedy, if you watch an animal show where you learn something that is a documentary, if you watch something that makes you sad it can be a drama, and if you watch a show where they sing all the time that is a musical. Well vaudeville is a mixture of comedy, dance and song.”

Discussing word in context helps the students build better vocabulary which in turns aids in building comprehension skills. 


Once the book is over I tell the students they are going to tell a grown-up about a memory they have of an experience they shared with one of their grandparents.They will also need to think of at least two describing words which tell the reader about how that experience made the student feel. 

"Boys and girls, I want you to think about something you did with your grandparents that you really enjoyed. When you have got a picture of that memory in your brain, I want you to think about how you felt. You will need to think of two words that describe how you felt." 

“For example, when I look at the children in this book with their Grandfather I think one describing word the children from the story might use would be “excited.” I think they would be excited about getting to see Grandpa dance and do his magic tricks. Can anyone else think of a word to describe how the children in the story might feel?”

I take a few student responses and we discuss their suggestions as a group referring back to the page in the book whenever we need to support the word suggestion.  

Once I feel the class has a good idea of the concept of describing words, I show the students the memory chest I made.

“One of my favorite experiences I shared with my grandmother was making jam. I would go over to her house and we would make the jam in a huge metal boiler in her kitchen. My two describing words are “happy” and “warm.” I chose the word “happy” because the memory makes me smile. I chose the word “warm” because it always got hot in the kitchen from the steam of the boiler.”

Teacher example                                Teacher example 2  

I tell the students “Inside your memory chest you will draw an illustration that supports your experience; just like the illustrator of this book used his illustrations to support the author’s words and I drew my picture to illustrate my experience.”

“You will have 15 minutes to complete this assignment so you will need to focus on your assignment and not on your friends. Remember you can always look at the visual timer to see how much time you have left. While you are waiting for a grown-up to take write your words you can be working on your illustration. Remember to take care and show pride in your work because this is going to be a gift for your grandparent”


Over at the tables I have pencils, crayons and a copy of a previously made up memory chest at each student’s location. For this activity I scribe the students’ dictation directly onto the memory chest. I do this for two reasons:

  • My focus for this assignment is not what they can write themselves but whether they can recall and narrate a single event which relates to an experience they had with their grandparent. 
  • Kindergarten students’ often have very big writing and they would not be able to fit both their words and a picture onto the chest outline. By telling the students draw a picture which supports their writing they are reinforcing their narration which I find leads to better descriptive use of language later on.  

Memory Chest Outline


Why narration?

Narrating a single event 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space, put your memory chest in your backpack to take home and give to your grandparent when you next see them, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot. Walking feet, go.”


Once everyone is seated on their spot I tell the students that their “exit slip” to get their snack is to tell me two describing words which describe one of their grandparents. I would give an example so students can see we have switched subject matter.

“Class your exit ticket toady is to give two words that describe one of your grandparents. For example two words that describe my Grandma are “grey” and "adventurous." "Grey" because she has grey hair and “adventurous” because she would always say things like, “Let’s go down this road and see where it leads us.””

"I am going to give you about 20 seconds to think of two words that describe your grandparent." I look at my watch and pretend to take the time. 

I use the Fair Sticks to determine the order of the students. 

Once a student has given me two words to describe their grandparent, he/she is able to use the handsanitizer and goes to get his/her snack. If a student has difficulty coming up with two words to describe his/her grandparent, he/she can wait until the end and we will work on coming up with two describing words together. 


I use this exit slip process to quickly assess if the students understand what an adjective (describing word) is. I would like students to begin to see how adjectives add to our writing and how they give the reader a clearer image in their mind. 


5 minutes

For this assignment I would take a picture of the student’s work. Next I would review the work, make the appropriate entries on the Descriptive words checklist and place a copy in his/her portfolio to illustrate whether the student was able to meet the objective or not.

I find using the checklist helps me to stay focused on whether the student met the objectives for the assignment or not. The checklist is also a nice way to convey information to the student's family members how he/she is progressing in the classroom. The students can also use the checklist to see where they need to improve in order to meet all of the objectives set for the assignment.  


Later in the day I reinforce the morning’s lesson by reading Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas. This story is about a little boy who helps an old woman in the nursing home next door to his house find her memories. 

 There are some great supporting activities in Teaching With Favorite Mem Fox Books: Engaging, Skill-Building Activities That Help Kids Learn About Feelings, Families, Friendship and More, by Pamela Chanko

At one math station we would play memory game in the traditional sense with our classmates’ picture cards. Turn over two cards, if they are the same picture of a classmate, keep it. If not, turn the cards back over and it is the next players turn.

At the other math station we play “Memory” by having a plain white board divided into nine spaces. The group gets to look at the board for 30 seconds. Then the board is covered with a light piece of fabric, the group closes their eyes and a grown-up removes one item. The group opens their eyes, the fabric is removed and the group has to decide which item is missing. As the students get better and better at the game we increase the number of items on the board and decrease the amount of looking time.


Another way to increase student comprehension is to find some tap dancing on You Tube and have the students watch a dance or two. Very few students have seen tap dancing performances. My students liked this one:

 I selected this one because it has old time music which fits with the idea of the “olden days.”