My Birthday Tradition

Name: Diana Pyatigorsky

Subject: Social Studies/Language Arts/Community Building

Grade: Second

Lesson Title: History of Birthdays


“History of Birthdays” Handout

My Birthday Tradition Handout

Paper, Pen/Pencil and Chart paper

Pre-assessment of Student Knowledge: Students have been immersed in a unit on historical customs and have explored different time periods, people, culture and language. The majority of students are writing and reading fluently. Five students struggle with comprehension.

(B)Students were able to accurately complete a K-W-L Chart on life on Birthdays.


Social Studies

Standard 2:   World History

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.

English Language Arts

Standard 2:   Language for Literary Response and Expression

Students will read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent.


Standard 4:   Understanding the Cultural Contributions of the Arts

Students will develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.


Thinking Objective: Students will recognize that there are different birthday customs unique to many counties.

Mastery Objective: Students will recognize how certain symbols became part of birthday celebrations.


Introduction and Motivation:

Students, I’m sure all of you have had a great birthday celebration at least once so far. Did you dress up? Eat cake? Get present? Blow out candles? Did you ever wonder where these traditions came from? Believe it or not, birthdays were not always celebrated this way. In fact, someone birthday used to be considered the scariest and saddest day of the year. Today, I am going to tell you about the history of the birthdays. I will teach you how they have changes and why we now celebrate them in this happy way.

Direct Teaching:

Teacher and students work together to create a Birthday Concept Web.

Students turn and talk about their favorite birthday experiences and celebrations.

Read aloud of “The History of Birthdays”

Students turn and talk about a new item that they learned about birthdays.

Teacher models personal birthday tradition. In my family, It has been a tradition that on every birthday we receive a silver dollar from my grandfather for each year. Another birthday tradition in our family involves placing a ring from your own finger around one of the candles on the birthday cake and making a wish. If the birthday child blows out the candle with your ring around it then your wish will come true).


Independent Work

Students will return to their seats and complete the “Birthday Tradition” Handout, including a short writing jot about their birthday customs. Students will include illustrations and labels.

Closure: Students share out their “Birthday Tradition” Handout.

Assessment-Teacher will assess student’s knowledge by using the content of the students’ personal birthday Handouts, observations, students’ sharing of their traditions, and answers given in response to discussion questions.

Diversity: This lesson continues the work of opening a window into a past cultural experience through the use of historical texts.  Allowing students to create their own birthday jots brings to life the understanding of their own culture in respect to other cultures throughout history.


Using project-based and creative learning activities, students that struggle with comprehension are able to use their imaginations to show that they understand the content. This lesson also supports concreteness of the topic with the use of pictures and personal narratives.



History of Birthdays Handout

Long ago, before early people had a way of marking time, little attention was paid to person’s birthday. Even though everyone knew that people grew older, they had no way of correctly keeping track of time. It wasn’t until the early people learned more about how time passed that they kept note about time changes and developed a calendar and began to celebrate special events such as birthdays. When birthdays were first starting to be celebrated, they were only held in honor of prominent men in a country. Unlike times of today, “common” people (especially children) rarely celebrated their birthdays during the early days. Today, birthdays are celebrated by young and old alike all around the world. Many countries have different customs from ours for celebrating birthdays but at the same time there are a lot that celebrate their birthdays in quite similar ways as we do. Some of the countries that are very similar to The United States include Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Even though every country has their own special customs, they are not always the same for that entire country. Customs within countries can be affected by things like language, religion, geographic location, and economic status. No matter what the customs are, however, they are always followed by the majority of the people in each country. For instance, not all children in the U.S. have birthday parties, candles or birthday cakes, but the majority of them do.

Aside from the different customs around the world, the reasons why we celebrate birthdays and the different symbols we use are very much the same to everyone. The reason why we have birthday parties goes back to when people believed that good and evil spirits appeared when a child was born and influenced that child for life. These people also believed that it was dangerous for a person to have a change in his or her life. This led people to believe that birthdays were filled with danger since each year marked a change in a person’s life. These beliefs brought about the custom of having birthday parties. They believed that surrounding the birthday person with friends, family and good wishes would scare the evil spirits away. It was an especially good influence if the well-wishers presented gifts along with their wishes. There would also be greater protection from the evil spirits if the gifts and wishes were presented early in the day.

We’ve all heard of putting candles on birthday cake, singing “Happy Birthday to You”, giving birthday cards, but how did all these things come about? Who started them and where did they originate? The custom of putting candles on birthday cake was started by The Greek people who placed candles on the cake because it made the cake look as if it was glowing like the moon. Others believed that the smoke from fires would take their wishes up to heaven. Today many people make silent wishes as they blow out their candles. Then blowing candles became very popular 200 years ago when the. Germans began to make little tiny candles and started the tradition of putting the candles on the cake. It was also decided by these candle makers that it meant good luck if you could blow out all the candles on your cake in one blow. About 100 years ago, Mildred Hill and Patty Hill of America wrote the song, “Happy Birthday to You”. This song was a huge hit all over the world. It is used in many different countries with a few modifications. Have you ever received a card for your birthday? The custom of making birthday cards started in England about 100 years ago. Now people everywhere make birthday cards and send them to friends and family to wish them a happy birthday. They also gave each birthday a color because of the color of the flowers or sky during that month. Birthdays are different all around the world. Everyone celebrates them in their own way. Most people wait all year to celebrate their birthday!

Month / Color / Flower /Birthstone

January /White /Carnation /Garnet

February /Dark Blue /Violet /Amethyst

March /Silver /Jonquil /Aquamarine

April /Yellow /Sweet Pea /Diamond

May /Lilac /Lily of the Valley /Emerald

June /Pink /Rose /Pearl

July /Sky Blue /Larkspur /Ruby

August /Dark Green /Gladiola /Peridot

September /Gold /Aster /Sapphire

October /Brown /Calendula /Opal

November /Purple /Chrysanthemum /Topaz

December /Red /Narcissus /Turquoise

Birthday Worksheet Rubric

Illustration Construction


Illustration is extremely attractive. Many different colors were used


Illustration is attractive. Some different colors were used.


Illustration is attractive. Very few colors were used.


Illustration is poorly made. Almost no color used.

Illustration Theme


Illustration shows important characters, setting and event.


Illustration somewhat shows important characters, setting and event.


You cannot easily understand the scene. Characters, setting and events are not very recognizable.


Illustration does not show a scene.

Written Description


The sentences include a thorough explanation of the scene. Punctuation used correctly


The sentences include a good explanation of the scene. Punctuation is often used correctly


The sentences include a fair explanation of the scene. Punctuation is used correctly sometimes


The sentences include very little information about the scene. Punctuation is not used correctly.

Quality and Effort


Student’s work displays high quality and put forth great effort


Student put forth some effort.


Student puts forth little effort.


No effort put into project and lack of quality.



Student Work: Illustration Rubric

Illustration Concept






Uses 4 or more colors Uses 2 to 3 colors Uses 0 or 1 color No use of color


4 or more things outlined 2 to 3 things outlined 0 or 1 thing outlined No use of outlines


Both ground and sky Either sky or ground No background No background


4 or more additional details 2 to 3 additional details 0 or 1 additional detail No details
Tells the Story Tell and supports the story Tells part of the story Tells little or none of the story No use of the story

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