Tips to help teachers run an intergenerational memory session
School memory sessions were a very successful aspect of the Morecambe Bay Lives project. On this page teachers can find tips and support about how to run similar sessions for their classes.
Creating an opportunity in school for children and older adults to meet and share their local memories provides the space for young and old to spend enjoyable, meaningful time together and learn about, and from, each other.
“The children were able to talk to people with first hand experiences which enhanced and developed their knowledge and made the learning real. It provided children with good experiences of meeting and talking
to older members of our local
Teacher, Christchurch Carnforth
The older people were really interesting. I learnt loads about how things used to be and I liked listening to their stories.
Year 5 pupil
EVALUATIONS of the memory sessions, held as part of the project, highlighted how much both the children and visitors had enjoyed the experience and that as a result the children had positively changed their perception of older people discovering that their visitors were approachable, interesting and shared things in common with them. Through the activity children also gained a wider understanding of their local area, how they are connected to the past and the value of memory. Year 3 – year 6 pupils took part in the memory sessions.
OVERVIEW OF A MEMORY SESSION - Older members of the community are invited by pupils in to school for an informal one hour session to share their local memories with a class of pupils. In one room (not the classroom) enough tables arranged so that approximately three children will sit with one adult. Children have previously prepared questions but are asked to have a conversation with the adults, rather than depend on the questions. After about 12 minutes each group of children is moved to the next table - depending on time remaining this will happen perhaps another 3 times. During the session the adults are brought tea and coffee. At the end of the session the children leave and share what they have discovered with the teacher. The visitors usually have a short chat together before they leave.
tHINGS LEARNT DURING mORECAMBE bAY lIVES mEMORY SESSIONS
We found that the optimum number of visitors attending a class memory session was about between 8 & 11. The sessions lasted an hour with no more than 45 minutes of conversation time.
Depending on your community it’s worthwhile checking for clashes with other local events that your visitors may be attending such as church groups, WI events, community outings. Older visitors seemed to prefer to attend in the afternoon rather than in the morning.
Hearing above the background noise can be an issue for older visitors. To help with this make sure that tables are placed as far apart from each other as possible and ensure that children and the visitor sit together at one end of the table.
When the visitors arrive keep them in one space together to say hello before they meet the children (some visitors felt nervous before meeting pupils and of being in a school setting so putting them at their ease was important). Reiterate that they are there to talk about their local memories, if possible, and that its okay to help pupils out by introducing topics if the pupils ‘dry’ up. Also, let them know that different groups of children may ask similar questions (this was something that some adults found difficult).
Tea, coffee, cake or biscuits always went down very well with adults during the session – it also makes it feel less informal. At the end of the session it worked best to take the children from the room and leave the adults who often liked to have a quick chat with each other at the end of the session.
It inhibits the children's engagement if they are writing down information during a memory share, but collecting the memories back in the classroom afterwards is very productive, especially if the teacher makes an audio recording of their pupils recalling the memories they have heard.
Andrew Croskery chats to pupils at the Overton St Helen's memory share.
ORAL HISTORY As Morecambe Bay Lives was an oral history project pupils also recorded the conversations during the memory session. This adds another dimension to a memory share but requires recording equipment and an element of training for the pupils.
Pupils both enjoyed the recording aspect and the fact they were collecting recordings for an archive. Having recordings can be a valuable resource to use in the classroom. A selection of the school recordings can be heard at . If you make recordings, even if they are only for internal use, it is important that you ask the adult participants to sign a clearance form. More information about this and all aspects of running an oral history project in school can be found in a free resource produced by The Oral History Society