Opening up gift-openings: Birthday parties as situated activity systems

Jeffrey S. Good, Wayne A. Beach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We analyze the interactional organization and embodied actions of children and adults involved in gift-opening activities. Attention is drawn to gift-opening as a situated activity system, comprised of gift-opening activities occurring within shifting participation frameworks and intense focus clusters. Talk and embodied actions (the use of objects, body orientations, and the structure of the environment) are revealed as seamlessly conjoined in the midst of a routine birthday party. Attention is further drawn to an extended summons-answer sequence involving initiation of a gift-opening, enthusiastic response cries, positive assessments of the gifts, the offering and prompting of thanks, and related actions. It is revealed that children at the party are not just playing games and opening gifts, but involved in a complex social system where adults model and facilitate the construction and integration of past, present, and future relationships. Implications are raised for understanding how gift-opening activities provide opportunities for examining how language development and childhood socialization are enacted as interactional achievements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-593
Number of pages29
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2005


  • Gift-opening
  • Intense focus clusters
  • Participation frameworks
  • Prompting.
  • Response cries
  • Summons/answer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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