In the past, 1st graders have celebrated their birthdays at school by bringing treats to share with the class...sugar filled, dye infused, character themed confections that put the average 6 year old on a sugar high lasting hours.
So, I must admit that I was not totally disappointed when the decision was made that edible treats would no longer be allowed at school. This was a best health decision made due to a growing number of dietary restrictions and food allergies.
Now, I have worked with 1st graders long enough to know just how important birthdays are! 1st graders begin the countdown months in advance..."You know my birthday is next month!". Then weeks..."One more week 'til my birthday!" Then days..."Not tomorrow, not the next day, but the day after that is my birthday!" Until finally, "Today is my birthday!" My challenge was to find and engaging, meaningful way to celebrate birthdays in the classroom without giving up coveted instructional time.
So, this is how we now celebrate birthdays in our classroom. On the day of the birthday, during Writing Workshop, the birthday person sits in the teacher spot and the other students gather around. The birthday person is interviewed as the class asks questions, generally revolving around 'favorites'. (favorite color, favorite character, favorite food...last week, after our study of landforms, the question, "What's your favorite landform?" popped up! I might have laughed out loud!) I act as the scribe, recording the information on the board. Following the interview, the class goes off to create a personalized birthday card for the birthday person. The cards must include a picture and message on the front and a letter - date, greeting, body, closing and signature - on the inside. The birthday person acts as the teacher walking around, answering questions, issuing feedback and keeping students on task. When all of the cards are complete, they are wrapped up in ribbon and given to the birthday person to keep.
This has turned out to be a beloved activity in our classroom and, by my observation, a much more meaningful and special way to celebrate. The quality of the cards and letters written during these times is superior because the task is authentic - the kids want to create something special for a friend.