Search form

Cindy Merrill


"Young children announce their ages as 7 1/2 or 7 3/4 because they are so excited about their upcoming birthdays," says Cindy Merrill. "They can't wait to grow up! Over the years, I've often had children give me their birthday countdown. 'Only 6 days until my birthday!' And so on. If I can do something easy and quick to make the birthday child feel special, why not? Everyone enjoys being in the limelight and feeling special."

The second grade teacher at King's Grant Elementary School in Virginia Beach (Virginia) affectionately dubs her class Merrill's Merry Mob. When birthdays come along, she reads a birthday poem and the students sing "Happy Birthday to You." A birthday bear and flag are displayed on the child's desk. The bear holds a birthday pencil, which is Merrill's special gift for the child. The pice de rsistance is the popping of a confetti-filled balloon over the child's head.

Cindy Merrill and her students celebrate birthdays with music and confetti!

"While the children sing the happy birthday song, I play the kazoo," explains Merrill. "Although I'm kidding, I claim to be a professional kazoo player with years of experience. I explain that musicians always warm up before playing, so I do silly things to warm up, such as rotate my arm in a circle, push my lips in and out, and so on. I know they love this part because of the laughs and giggles."

Merrill provides kazoos for the children to play as well. After she plays and the children sing, they warm up on their kazoos and play the song together. The kazoos are stored in zip-lock bags in the students' desks. They use the instruments for birthday celebrations, sound-effects in stories, and for organized "brain breaks" like playing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."

"My students absolutely love the confetti-filled balloon, and many wear the confetti in their hair like a badge of honor," Merrill reports. "At the end of the year when I ask the children to draw pictures of their favorite times in second grade, there are often pictures of the balloon. Of course, this year playing the kazoo is also a favorite part. Because they love to play them, I try to find other good kazoo-playing opportunities."

Merrill makes her confetti-filled balloons before the school year begins and stores enough for the entire group and a few extras in a zip-lock bag. Students with summer birthdays are never left out. Merrill purchases her kazoos through, her choice for high-quality kazoos. Reading a birthday poem is part of every birthday party in Merrill's classroom. Once a year, she sends her students on a hunt for appropriate birthday poems to add to her collection.

"I will tell you that it is difficult to convince second graders that 'birthday' does not begin with a capital letter like holidays," Merrill told Education World. "After all, a birthday celebration is their personal holiday. Once I ran into a former student at a convenience mart, and he asked me whether I still popped the confetti-filled balloon. It's the fun things they remember! Putting some pizzazz and fun into the school day whenever possible is my style."

Photo provided by Cindy Merrill.

Coming Soon...

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected].

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World