This is the second in a two part series. Part two focuses on special days and birthdays in particular. You can do this early on in the school year so you can include as many children as possible. If you have a very large group, actually celebrating everyone's birthday is probably impossible. However this doesn't stop you knowing when their birthdays are and singing happy birthday!

Author: 
Jo Bertrand

The first article focuses on days of the week, months of the year and dates:
https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/my-favourite-day-1

Age: 6-10 years old

Aims:

  • Practise saying months of the year
  • Practise saying the date
  • Learning simple instructions for crafts
  • Creating and singing a song

Materials:

  • A pre-prepared calendar for the school year.
  • White stickers
  • Lots of coloured card and pens
  • A sparkly or bright pen
  • A puppet - if you don't have a puppet use a teddy bear or a sock with wool hair and cardboard cut out eyes
  • A large picture of an animal with parts of their body removed
  • One or two pass the parcel games prepared with forfeits under each layer
  • Blu-tack for Pin the Tail 

Special days

  • Draw attention to the large class calendar which you have prepared prior to the lesson and which you can display for the whole year.
  • Ask them what day it is today. Depending on their age you can get them to give you give more details and they can find the day on the calendar. The younger ones can tell you if it's Monday or Tuesday, etc, and you can show them on the calendar where the day is. Put a circle in pencil around the day as it's not necessarily a special day.
  • Print off some icons which represent some of the more famous special days during the year such as Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's day, New Year's Eve, Easter, etc.
  • Distribute these to the children for them to stick onto the calendar. Check that they can say the day, month, date etc. for the special days. Give a sticker to the children who can say the correct date, or even month for them to stick onto the calendar. Here's a link to a calendar you can print off and enlarge. 

Class puppet
Why not use this subject to introduce a class puppet and have a lesson where you celebrate his/her birthday. This way everything that follows in terms of setting up a birthday party can all be done for the class mascot. You'll find that your mascot will come in handy all through the year for introducing new vocabulary etc. 

  • Introduce the class puppet.
  • Tell everyone when his special day is. ‘Why is it special?' ‘It's his birthday!' Get one of the children to put a sticker onto the calendar for your puppet. You should make his birthday in the next couple of weeks. Calculate it so that you have time to organise a party for him, make a card and practise songs.
  • Then the puppet can ask the children when their birthdays are to practise saying the dates.

My birthday
It's always important to personalise the language you introduce and use in the classroom. It makes it much easier for the children to remember and they will enjoy the lessons more if they feel they are relevant to them.

  • Show everyone your magic birthday pen. If you have a sparkly pen this would be great.
  • You can either distribute plain white stickers for them to write their names on, in which case you need several special pens or get everyone to write in their favourite colour. They could also write them directly onto the calendar.
  • The advantage of using stickers is that you can cover your calendar with cling film - or laminate it if your school has a machine for A3 sheets of paper, and then use the calendar for a second year. You would obviously leave out the days and just put the months and dates in this case.
  • Everyone takes it in turns to add their birthday to the calendar.

They need to be able to say ‘My birthday is on the 4th of November'. Or for the younger ones ‘My birthday is in November'. Or even ‘In November.' 

Making a card
Although primary English lessons should be based primarily around speaking and listening skills primary children can and should learn the real basics of writing a simple card.

  • Draw a large card on the board and write in the words; ‘Dear', ‘Happy Birthday' and ‘Love...'.
  • With a different colour pen fill in the gaps with your name and the mascot's name.
  • Decide on a theme for your mascot's birthday party. This could be around well known characters such as Batman, Spiderman or the Winx. You could use more culturally marked characters such as Bob the Builder, Postman Pat or Fireman Sam for your very young learners.
  • You could decide on a theme such as Pirates, Halloween, magic island... and everything, including the card, should be based on the theme you choose.
  • Distribute card for everyone to make their birthday card with. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce the words ‘fold' and ‘draw' for your first year primary children. 

Singing a song
Everyone knows the classic Happy Birthday song. Why not make up a new, short birthday song for your mascot with your class.

  • You can decide on the tune and framework of the song beforehand and give this to the class.
  • Prepare a list of possible words that they can put into the gaps of the frame so that they really feel like they have created the song themselves.
  • If your students are older primary then you can give them more freedom in the creation of their song while still providing a framework and guiding them.
  • Possible tunes could be ‘Frere Jacques' (Are you sleeping, Brother John?), London's burning...

Happy birthday, happy birthday
Here's a present, here's a present
It's a ___, it's a ___ (book, toy, bag...)
It is ___, it is ___ (red, blue, green, big, small, pretty...)

Party games
Birthday parties are all about having fun so there's no reason why you can't transfer this to the classroom.

Pass the parcel:

  • You can use this game to practise saying please and thank you. They must say thank you every time they receive the parcel as it goes round the circle. When the music stops they have to say ‘Please can I open it.' This is obviously very polite but it provides useful classroom language that they can use in other lessons.
  • Every time they remove a layer of wrapping there is a piece of paper with a forfeit. You will need to read it out for the younger ones.
  • This could be count from 1-10, say the alphabet, sing a song...
  • Get them to start but encourage everyone to join in with them, especially if they are younger primary.
  • You could prepare two of these if you have a large class and do the same game in two groups. You can just repeat the same forfeits for the two different groups. This will enable more children to take part and remove a layer of paper. 

Pin the tail:

  • This is a great game for practising prepositions such as up, down, left, right (for the other children to guide the blindfolded player), and next to (for describing where the tail is once the blindfold has been removed).
  • You can also make a donkey, or other animal, and use several of his body parts to pin back on so that they can practise this vocabulary as well.

Musical faces:

  • This is a passive game linguistically but involves the children understanding a certain amount of adjectives.
  • When the music starts they dance on the spot.
  • When the music stops you should out an adjective and they have to mime the adjective for example ‘sad' or ‘happy'. 

Party crafts
A party isn't a party without hats or dressing up. Depending on the time you have available choose a craft that the children will enjoy but that also allows them to practise their English

Party hat

  • Distribute a piece of coloured card to everyone. As you distribute show them the choice of colours. They should say which colour they would like in English. ‘Red please.' ‘Here you are.'
  • The hat with the easiest instructions is a simple cone onto which you can staple some string.
  • The language you will need to use is ‘Draw a circle.' 'Cut (around) the circle.' ‘Draw a line.' ‘Cut (along) the line.' ‘Fold the card.' ‘Stick the card.'
  • You may want to staple the actual hats as well to speed up the process and guarantee the hats stay together. 

If you have chosen a theme such as witches and wizards you could get the children to make magic wands.

  • Distribute coloured card or paper as above.
  • The language you'll need is ‘roll the card/paper', ‘stick the card/paper'.
  • They can then make an object - it could be a star or similar object to stick on the end of their wand. They can decide on a shape. Draw the shapes on the board and get them to name the shape they want to draw.
  • Once they have decided on their shape they should decorate it with different colours.
  • They should be able to say which colours they have used once they've finished.
  • Then they stick their shape onto the handle of their wand. ‘Stick your square/circle/star onto your wand.'

Further suggestions

  • Once you have made the hat, wand or other object, incorporate it into your lessons to practise colours.
  • The hat could be a magic English hat whereby they can speak English when they put the hat on.
  • The wand could be a magic wand whereby every time they touch an object in the class the rest of the class has to say the word in English.
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