Collective Memory (a.k.a. Maps from Memory)

Diagram of a motte and bailey castle
Learners in groups of three or four are given a number within the group: 1, 2, 3, 4.

All the 1s are invited up to look at a source image hidden on the teacher's desk for 10 seconds, then they return to their group and describe (to the number 2s) what they have seen. The number 2s start to reproduce the image on a blank piece of paper as accurately as possible. After 30 seconds, all the 2s come up for 10 seconds, return to the group, and describe what they have seen to the 3s, to help complete and refine the copied picture / diagram. Then the 3s come up, then 4s, etc.

At this point, stop and tell the groups that they are going to have 1 or 2 more rounds to reproduce the images  Ask them "How are you going to best work together to make the image as accurate a copy as possible?" (perhaps combining thinking time with paired talk for this question).

To succeed, learners will need to plan how they will work together (e.g. by splitting the image into quarters and concentrating on one each, or by having one person focus on  the labels, spellings, etc.). They will also need to develop an awareness of how much information they can retain in their short-term memory. It is valuable (from a meta-cognitive perspective) to unpick this in the plenary.


  1. Cordelia15:14

    Collective Memory - Romans
    Year 3
    10 – 20 minutes to prepare

    I used this tool for a History lesson on the Romans. I used a picture which had a scene of Celts living in the Iron Age in Britain. In the picture there were various things going on for example, children playing, women feeding animals on the farm, women cooking, etc.

    This activity does not really involve other adults. However, adults may be able to assist by making sure that everyone has a turn.

    The learners really enjoyed this activity and worked really well as a group. They were very excited and could not wait for their turn to look at the source image.

    Tips: This activity is great for getting children to work as a team and gives every single child in the class a role.

    I would rate this activity:

    Pupil engagement = 4
    Pupil enjoyment = 4
    Pupils meeting learning objectives = 4
    Sustainability of tool for content being taught = 4
    How much I enjoyed = 4 (more emphasis on the children learning allowing the teacher to observe and give feedback)

  2. Sally15:15

    Collective Memory Early writing skills
    Time taken to prepare 5mins to download suitable pictures print and laminate.

    I used this in the Nursery. The children were focussing on early writing skills. We were using the small world area with the cars and were writing number plates for the cars on labels.

    The idea of using it as an activity to find out what they can remember each time they are exposed to a picture, I wrote a number plate and showed it to the children. The nursery children were unsure about hiding what they could see and I let them look at it for a long time and over and over again. This may have been easier had it been pictures of recognisable objects. The more able children who were aware of numbers and letters were able to recall the registrations.

    This tool was used by other adults in the room as we planned the activity together. The children then role played being the teacher and covered up things for the other children to remember

    Children’s response was very positive

    Rate it as 4
    Pupil engagement 4
    Pupil enjoyment 3
    Pupils meeting the learning objectives 4
    Suitability of tool 3
    How much you enjoyed it 3

  3. Olivia and Ellie15:18

    Time taken to prepare (in minutes): 10 minutes
    Class: year 5/6 and year 6

    Science lesson studying how plants grow children were given a diagram showing process of photosynthesis. In groups of 5 memorised diagram with key words.

    Used as starter to introduce new concept.

    Chn loved it and really learnt new science vocab and how to spell it.

    Well worth your time, great!

    Pupil engagement [4 ]
    Pupil enjoyment [ 4]
    Pupils meeting lesson objectives [4 ]
    Suitability of technique for the content being delivered [4 ]
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique [4 ]

  4. Melissa15:20

    Collective memory in history: Celtic village

    We used this in history, as a starter to stimulate ideas for the main lesson.

    TA’s supported teamwork.

    What was the response of the learners?
    They really enjoyed the activity.

    Tip: Use a picture with labels.

    (1= V negative, 2= negative, 3 = positive, 4 v positive)

    Pupil engagement (4)
    Pupil enjoyment (4)
    Pupil meeting learning objectives (4)
    Suitability of tool for content being taught (4)
    How much YOU enjoyed using this technique (4)

  5. Emily15:21

    Collective Memory - Year 5 - Changes of State
    Maps for Memory – 10 minutes to prepare

    I used the Maps for Memory as a Science starter to introduce new vocabulary and concepts in Science. I used pictures/text showing water as a solid, liquid and gas and changes of state: evaporation, condensation, freezing and melting. The children had to draw the diagram in groups by remembering the diagram and labels – key words. This worked really well and children retained the vocabulary over the following lessons. I asked the children what they thought about the activity and they said that they enjoyed it. We discussed what skills they needed to be successful in this activity and the children were able to suggest what they needed to improve on in this group activity. We have tried it again since and the children tackled it as groups more positively. I did not have any adults in the room but if I did, I would encourage them to reinforce key vocabulary with children after the activity.

    Pupil Engagement: 4
    Pupil Enjoyment: 3
    Pupils meeting learning objectives: 3
    Suitability of tool for content being taught: 4
    How much YOU enjoyed this technique: 3

  6. Nicky15:22

    Collective memory Year 2 Fire of London
    15 minutes

    The tool was used in a year 2 class, for the second history lesson on the ‘Fire of London.’

    It was used as a starter to the lesson. Pupils were placed in groups of four and had to take turns to memorise a labelled picture of London during the fire. This led to a discussion about the main events that took place in the fire.

    Pupils were very enthusiastic and gained a lot of information from the image. There was excellent interaction between pupils who were very motivated. Pupils were able to decide on ways in which they could collect maximum information and I was extremely impressed with how detailed their final group pictures were. All pupils said they really enjoyed the activity and would like to do it again.

    Grouping of the children was key to this activity working. Mixed ability groups meant the more able pupils were able to provide good models for how to clearly explain what they had seen.

    5) Rating:
    • Pupil engagement (4)
    • Pupil enjoyment (4)
    • Pupils meeting objectives (4)
    • Suitability of tool for content being taught (3)
    • How much you enjoyed using this technique (4)

  7. Jenny15:23

    Maps from memory
    Time prep 5min

    I use this tool as an introduction for what it was like in Celtic Britain.; What features were there in a Celtic village? Who? What? Why? When?

    We used at the beginning of the lesson to get the children thinking and taking about Celtic life. This fed well into clarifying subject specific vocabulary /misconceptions.

    The learners absolutely loved it. After initial fall outs about who was going first, second and third they worked well as a team.

    To maximise the task I got the children to think what worked well in their group (pulled out a PSHE element), this worked well with my class who sometimes find it difficult to get on.

    Pupil engagement 4
    Enjoyment 4
    Meeting learning obj 4
    Suitability of tool taught 4
    You enjoyed 4

  8. RE plenary

    I used this in RE as a plenary.

    I felt inclined to use a complex picture with lots of detail - this was not necessarily a good idea. One of the classes I used it with got it straight away, the worked well together - there was another class who decided they were all going to do their own drawings, some of them hadn't realised that they were looking at the same picture! anyway it did work out in the end- I think some of them found it difficult to do because they had to describe to the others, some just hadn't listened to the instructions.

    It was really easy to prepare because - due to the printer/copier being broken again I had to improvise but this turned out to my advantage. I froze the white board with the group instructions and then had the picture on the computer screen for the group members to look at.

    I liked the fact that if you did an image on the computer it could be a google image search - and you can find really appropriate pictures which start discussion and lead onto looking at symbols or the importance of something - it is really useful in RE as 1/3 of the exam questions are descriptive.

    Some groups also became quite competitive and they really enjoy working together so an excellent activity I will do this again.

  9. Karen15:25

    As suggested by Nicky, I used this activity in a history session. To begin our Year 4 theme of "Building Britain" I had 5 groups looking at a picture of a Bronze Age settlement. The children had to take turns to visit the image, returning to the group to share what they had seen. There was a real buzz and sense of competition, even though many children had to wait their turn. I used slightly bigger groups of 7, but we paused after the fifth visit to discuss how we could get remaining information.

    The map itself wasn't so important to the learning as the discussion that followed. We discussed memory and the best way we were able to retain information. The children were able to come up with skills of visualisation (picturing a corner of the image or a gap that needed filling), questioning (the group questioning them on what they had seen) and categorisation (looking for all the animals for example). We related these skills to other areas of the curriculum, such as remembering times tables. I asked the children to visualise the "times tables spider" we had used earlier in the day on the IWB and the majority were able to recall the tables I fired at them. We've since tried to picture words from display etc to apply to our writing.

    To follow up the activity we passed around sugar paper with categories to list the information from all our memory maps. The children were not allowed to add anything to the list that another group had already put down. It was an effective way to share all their observations as a class as we tested out anything they may have missed with my support teacher scanning the image as we read the list. The categories allowed an introduction to various areas our theme will cover, such as history and settlement, science and materials and textures in art. I'd definitely use this activity again - it was low maintenance, engaging and led to a reflective discussion.

  10. A colleague of mine told me how this was very successfully used in a dance lesson. The pupils were shown a series of photographs of different poses and had to memorise them, report them back to their group and get the rest of the group to all adopt that pose. The next member of the group then went to view another pose and did the same, and so on until each group of six had adopted all six poses. Finally the group had to develop a dance routine that incorporated all of the poses.

  11. Anonymous23:35

    Sounds like a fun game to play in class. A little less involved than Monopoly but more than Frustration. will make a refreshing change to playing Bingo all the time. Sounds like fun.


(Please post when you have tried this particular tool - thanks!)
How did you adapt this tool for your classroom?
What was the response from your learners?
What advice would you give other teachers about this tool?