Winter Cultural Celebration!

This year I was inspired to do something a little different with our winter “party,” that normally comes after our all-school sing-a-long.  Rather than have a sugar-crazed, action-packed time right before I sent them home for two weeks with their parents, I decided that we’d just use our end-of-the-day time to relax together and enjoy a movie (or a book!) together and quietly send them on their way.

That didn’t mean, though, that I didn’t want to include families, or that I didn’t want to celebrate the family that Rm. 202 has become.  As I started to think about who best to do this in a meaningful way, I remembered the stories that families told about our names at the beginning of the year, the stories I’ve heard from kiddos when we read together and the traditions we’d been talking about over the last month or so of school.  I knew that I wanted to take some time to incorporate all that makes each of our families and cultures special and share those things with each other!

I started by sending a survey to everyone, asking some basic things about how our families celebrate winter, holidays, and what some specials traditions/foods/languages/etc. from their cultures that they might like to share with our Rm. 202 community.  My hope was that I would get information that would help me better craft a fun, festive, family time together for our last day together before Winter Break.

I got lots of responses, and these helped me decide how to proceed.  And it was super great timing that our class had just redone our learning zones, because the ideas were then incorporated into each area of our room.  This gave families a great opportunity to come and see them in action!

I didn’t really want the celebration to be too formal or over-planned, so we kept it simple and fun.  Here’s what we decided to do in each zone:

Zero Zone: Mara’s mom shared the story of La Befana (from their Italian culture) and kiddos worked on a coloring sheet featuring La Befana.

Reading Zone: Josh’s and Keira’s mom shared some of their families’ favorite winter/Christmas stories (you know Rm. 202 kids LOVED this part!)

The Kitchen: This area was perfect for cookie decorating (thanks to Callahan’s mom and grandma and Robbie’s grandma, too!) as well as sharing a couple of family traditional snacks.  Ella’s mom brought fudge (yum!) and Aadish’s mom shared an Indian snack called vada, which was spicy and so good!  I shared apples and oranges, partly to add something fresh to the table, but also because oranges are a traditional addition to Christmas stockings in my family!  Needless to say, this was another popular area during our celebration! 🙂

Hands-On Zone: Many families mentioned that they have the tradition of decorating gingerbread houses together, and this was the focus of this area, too.  Kiddos had the choice of many different mediums to create a gingerbread house of their own–they could create it out of Legos, blocks, paper, or using something on their iPads (like Scratch Jr., Educreations, or other drawing app).  The point here was to have fun and be creative!

Partner Zone:  This zone celebrated another family’s culture as Aadish and his mom told a story from a Hindu epic.  It is a collection of 1000 stories (hope I’m getting this right!), and is called Mahabharatha.  They acted out the story of Arjan, the archer, and even had a bow and arrow for everyone to try (it was a NERF one, so no worries!).  The story focused on the importance of focus and concentration and was very interesting!  We were impressed by the traditional Indian clothes they wore, too!

We were in small groups and kiddos rotated through each station, enjoying spending time with their friends and family for a bit after lunch.  We had so much fun and the smiles and energy in the room were amazing!  This is definitely a new Rm. 2o2 tradition that I hope to continue with new families for years to come.  Thanks to this year’s group for making it extra special and being willing to jump in when I have a crazy idea, and thanks to all the families who were able to join us in person to celebrate!  For those who we not able to come, we missed you, but were thinking of you fondly! 🙂

What a great way to end an AMAZING first semester and head into a relaxing Winter Break! Here’s to an even more amazing 2nd half!  Happy New Year!


Is It Your Birthday?

Nope, it’s not mine, either.  But it was Nicky’s birthday today, and something about it today made me think about sharing with you what we do to celebrate birthdays in our room.  Maybe it was the double-decker cookie cake that was so, so yummy that made me think of it.  Who knows? 🙂

So birthdays are a big deal at school–even when you’re in 5th grade and you’re turning 11.  No matter what you’re too cool for when you’re an almost-middle-schooler, birthdays are not one of them.  So in our room, we celebrate.  It’s nothing extravagant, but I hope that it still makes each kiddo feel special.

Of course the celebration begins with a treat.  And of course, because of the rules there are these days in school about what you’re allowed to share, they are store-bought goodies.  Bummer for me when my little man is in school next year and I can’t share any of my yummy goodies like Oreo Balls and Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Cream Cheese icing with his class (oh, well, I can still share them with mine, right? 🙂 ).  Most kids lately have been bringing in cupcakes, today was a double-decker cookie cake ( they sell them at Sam’s if you’re interested in getting one of your own!), and sometimes it’s donuts.  We have a great bakery close by called McArthur’s that has blessed us with these really great smiley-face sugar cookies at a time or two.  Towards the warmer months of the year you might have popsicles or ice cream treats, and once several years ago, someone brought in pirouettes.  You know–those long straw-shaped cookie things with chocolate inside?  Yum.  (Man, did I just write a whole paragraph about food? )

The birthday person chooses two special friends to help him/her organize and pass out the goodies, as the rest of us wash our hands and sit in a circle.  We use this time to teach the simple manner of waiting until everyone is served to start eating, and letting the birthday person have the first bite.  After everyone has a snack, the B.P. calls on three friends to give a birthday compliment–we also have a conversation early on about how to give a meaningful compliment–and then we sing.  Well if they want us to.  B.P. has the choice of whether or not we will serenade them.  Most say yes.

Depending on the time of day it is, what happens next may be different.  When the celebration is at the end of the day, the we spend the next few minutes eating and chatting and sharing a fun time with each other.  If it’s right after lunch–which is a time we’ve found lately that works really well, too–then we read our chapter book while they munch.  I like this time a little better, because we can kill two birds with one stone.  Good food with good friends and a great book–what could be better?

So it’s nothing outrageous, but like I said before, I hope it’s at least a little bit of special in my kiddos’ lives.  I remember how special I felt when I was celebrated for my birthday.  Even as an adult it’s nice to be noticed, right?

How do you celebrate birthdays?  What are your birthday traditions?