I’m still introducing routines to my students. On Fridays, we make cards for anyone who’s had a birthday that week, and on the first Friday of the year, we try to catch up fast with all the summer birthdays, because those kids won’t ever get a card in the regular year.
I make a big deal out of how valuable these are to kids and how we never want to miss anyone. I’ve seen lockers literally papered with the resulting cards, and one of my visiting kids today said that she has all four years’ worth of cards (because she never got any others from anyone else).
We have developed a system to do the cards.
First of all, there’s process: kids are in charge of the materials. If we have a lot of birthdays, they go on the board in a numbered list, and we count off so that everyone starts at a different number (otherwise everyone makes their cards for the first kid on the list and the last kid ends up with nothing). The cards are made without discussion, and I play Russian music in the background. When students finish the cards, they bring them up to me to be checked. I ask, “What will you say?” and they practice the phrase for “Happy Birthday,” as needed. Then they go to the recipient, say it enthusiastically, and the recipient thanks the giver. The advanced kids say some other phrases that we work on or come up with their own “toast.” Finally, kids are allowed to bring in food for their own birthdays, but they have to organize it all.
The birthday kids don’t make their own cards. If they’re the only one on their day, they get to relax and take a total holiday while others are working.
Then there’s a list of requirements for the card.
Fold (colored copy paper) twice, into quarters.
On the first three pages, there has to be a border of at least two colors.
The front page says, “Happy birthday, ___.” Writing is in Russian.
On the inside pages, there are three compliments and three wishes, followed by a signature.
Everything is in color. No pencil or plain pen writing.
There can be drawings and pop-ups, but those are not required.
I have a notebook page that I put up on the overhead with suggested phrases.
We had seven summer birthdays in one class, five in another, and only four in the Russian 1 class, but everyone looked pretty happy. A kid whose name no one had been able to remember or recognize was on today’s list, and he stayed after to comment to me that he thinks people will remember him now. It’s important!
We won’t have such marathon sessions again, and we can mostly go back to fifteen-minute, end-of-period card making after this, so I think it’s worth it to honor those summer kids.