Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Birthday Traditions in the Classroom

My previous post was all about Emmy turning five and the traditions that we are building in our family to help celebrate her birthday. When I was teaching, I also worked hard on building traditions in the classroom in order to create a community of learners who truly cared for one another. A child's birthday is such a special day and as such should be recognized and honored.

At the beginning of each school year, the children and I would spend time working with two things that meant a lot to them...their names and their birth dates. We would write and build our names with different materials (pencil, marker, yarn, glitter, letter magnets, letter tiles, block letters, etc.) and compare our names to each other. For example, Who had the longest name? The shortest? Which names started the same? Did any of the names rhyme? We would also compare our birth dates by creating a Birthday Graph. Here are three examples:

Using cake die-cuts,
the children wrote
their name and birth
date and decorated
their cake.

Using colored chips,
the children placed

a chip next to their
birth month.

Using Unifix cubes, the children would count out
the number of their birth date by placing the cubes
in pairs to see if the number was odd or even. They
would then add their number in the correct
place on the graph.
The resulting graphs would be used to answer questions such as, Does anyone have the same birthday as someone else? How about the same number or the same month? How many birthdays are in January, February, etc.? Which month has the most birthdays? The least? Are there any months with the same number of birthdays? Do we have more odd numbered birthdays or even? How many more?

Once we established when our birthdays were, we moved on to setting up our birthday traditions. My birthday is at the beginning of the school year so I used my own birthday to show the children what our classroom birthday traditions would be like.

Here is a list of the birthday traditions used in my classroom:

*The birthday child's chair and table top would be decorated for the occasion. The back of the child's chair would be covered with felt. The child would be provided with felt cut out pieces (birthday cakes, candles, crowns, party hats, confetti, balloons) that he or she could use to decorate the chair. We kept our felt pieces in a wrapped birthday box. (Sadly, I couldn't find a photo of this!) The table top had a birthday "place mat" and a birthday sign as well as a cape and a fun hat or crown to wear for the day.

*A birthday gift bag would also be at the child's spot. Inside would be a Birthday Journal, a birthday bear, a fancy pen and a few fun surprises to keep (bottle of bubbles, stickers, colored pencils and pencil sharpener, etc.) This bag would go home with the child and be returned at his or her earliest convenience. The first page of the journal provided directions for the family. The idea was for the birthday child to add photos or drawings and write about his or her special celebration. The bag would be returned and the child would share her page in the journal.

*My classroom had baskets of books sorted by subject, character, or author. One of these baskets was filled with birthday books. The birthday child got to choose one book to borrow from this basket and placed it in the birthday gift bag. Some years I gave a book to the birthday child to keep and other years I asked for parents to donate a book to our library in honor of their child. I attached a book plate to the inside front cover with the child's name and birth date. When not in use, the Birthday Journal would be kept in this basket. It was always a favorite book to read. (See below for a few of our favorite birthday books).

*A large piece of paper would be placed in the Art Center where the children could go throughout the day to draw and write birthday messages to the child. This paper would be rolled up, tied with a bow and presented to the birthday child at the end of the day.

*Our Writing Center was always stocked with a variety of paper and card making was always a favorite activity. Another idea is to create a birthday book full of letters to the birthday child. We always began with a brainstorming session where we created a web of ideas about the birthday child. Each child would then write a letter filled with good wishes. The birthday child decorated the front cover and then the pages were stapled together and presented, along with the "web," at the end of the day.

*Our day always began with Morning Meeting. I had a collection of birthday songs that I slowly introduced to the children so that the birthday child could choose the song sung during the meeting.

*Our day always ended with a Closing Circle. This was the time to present the birthday child with the projects worked on during the day. We also had a variety of birthday poems and the birthday child chose one for us to recite to end the day.
by John Archambault

Glory may
I like today.
Today, today
I like today.
No other day's
quite like today,
Not tomorrow
or yesterday.
I like today
in every way.
Today, today,
My birthday!

All of these traditions were looked forward to by the children as well as by me. It may seem like a lot, but the materials were always prepared ahead of time and the children knew just what to do. I hope these ideas will inspire some fun birthday traditions in your classroom or in your home!

Go Tell it to the Toucan by Colin West (Emmy's favorite!!!)

Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli

Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss

And so many, many more!!!!

For previous posts about birthdays, click here and here and here.

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